Should Florida be the favorite to win the SEC East in 2013?

You know something I didn’t get for the past few seasons?  All those predictions of greatness for Arkansas.  Sure, Petrino is one of college football’s great offensive minds and the Hogs had prolific offenses.  But those defenses weren’t national title caliber – they weren’t even SEC West caliber – and given the neighborhood they were playing in, it was hard to see how they could ever step past Alabama and LSU, or merely play even with them on a consistent basis year in and year out.

So, you know something I don’t get for 2013?  All those predictions of greatness for Florida.  (It’s not just CFN, by the way.  Bruce Feldman liked the Gators’ chances a lot, at least until the Sugar Bowl.  And there are plenty of other pundits out there who think as highly of Florida.)

Don’t get me wrong.  There is a lot to like about the team.  The 2012 defense was excellent, as were the special teams.  But the offense was somewhere between subpar and awful.

The Gators finished with the twelfth-ranked offense in the conference, mainly because they finished dead last in passing.  I’m having a hard time seeing why there are grounds for optimism going into 2013, other than of the “it can’t get any worse” variety.  And even that seems a little misplaced when you consider that last season marked the third straight for Florida in which it finished two spots from the bottom of the conference in total offense.  Bad production with three different offensive coordinators at the helm isn’t the kind of consistency that you want.

As much fun as it’s been to mock Addazio and Weis, the problem would seem to lie elsewhere.  Jeff Driskel was the tenth-rated quarterback in the SEC last season, with a passer rating of 132.18.  Jeff John Brantley finished fifth in 2011, at 140.83, which was a huge step up from his 2010 performance.  The quarterback position hasn’t been getting it done.  How bad is it?  Well, check out the low bar set by this Gator blogger:

Earlier this week, I wrote an article about Driskel needing to step up and show Gator fans that he has what it takes to become that elite quarterback to take this program back to the promise land. After his performance in the Gators 37-26 victory over the Florida State Seminoles, I am now convinced that he will soon join the company with some of this program’s greats.

Driskel only threw 23 passes in the victory, but he was able to complete over 65 percent of those throws for 147 yards and one touchdown.

That translates into a passer rating of 133.25, barely above his season average.  Hardly the stuff of legends.

That may not have been all Driskel’s doing, of course.  The Florida offensive line was inconsistent last season and the Gators only had one receiver who finished in the top twenty in the conference (and he’s left early for the NFL draft).  If anything, though, that would seem to make the Gators’ task on offense this season even more daunting.

Muschamp turned in a good coaching job last season.  Eleven wins masked the reality that his team had a serious structural flaw that left him with a thin margin for error.  How thin?  Consider this:  Florida only had two games last season in which it lost the turnover margin battle.  It lost both games.  If his offense doesn’t show some improvement this season, regression to the mean may come back to bite him in the ass.


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43 responses to “Should Florida be the favorite to win the SEC East in 2013?

  1. Heathbar09

    Been trying to tell delusional Florida fans this. Turnovers, while they are a result of the strengths of an offense or defense, also rely heavily on luck. Just flat out luck. I don’t expect Florida to be bad next year, but 11-1 season seems very unlikely with that inept of an offense.

    • BGD

      As a Florida fan, your stance on turnovers being luck is not one that I heard echoed by most UGA folk after the Cocktail Party this year.

      And Senator, please, it’s “John” Brantley not Je–you know what, screw it, nevermind. He was awful.

      • I don’t know why I keep doing that. Thanks for the catch.

        • BGD

          I know why you keep doing it – because “forgettable” is actually one of the nicer things that could be said of his UF career.

      • Heathbar09

        Of course not. No one likes to call their own team lucky. But if you break down each play, it’s evident some turnovers are luck.

        Driskel sack and fumble: Great play by Swann, just luck that ball landed near Jarvis for him to recover.

        Driskel sack and fumble: Great play by Jarvis. Go figure.

        Pick by Rambo to the half: Great play. Read the pass the whole play.

        Pick by Swann in the 3rd. Driskel got hit, but it was luck that the ball floated straight to Swann. My grandmother could have made that pick.

        Burton fumble. Slippery ball. Jarvis just happened to be right there for the fumble recover. Still a great play by Jarvis to be in position, but he didn’t cause the fumble.

        Fumble by Reed. Great play by Jarvis (again), just luck that the ball bounced toward a UGA player.

        6 turnovers. 2 of which were flat out great plays. 2 other ones were good plays by UGA, but once you cause a fumble, there is no way to predict where it bounces. 2 others that were primarily lucky.

        I’m not discounting what my Dawgs did that day, but to say luck isn’t involved in a turnover (especially a fumble), is just plain wrong.

        • Beer Money

          On the flip side of this argument, the Gators also fumbled and recovered a few of their own in this game. They were very fortunate that the 1st play from mscrimage wasn’t a scoop and score. Luck runs both ways.

        • Dboy

          There is an element of luck; however, there is also an element of performance. I have notice the the better coached team and the team that is the aggressor / dictates the game physically usually wins the turnover battle one way or another

  2. DawgPhan

    Florida is also on pace to lose more players than anyone else in the conference. that has to matter, right?

    • Cojones

      Isn’t LSU remaining in the SEC? They lost 9 on D and 3 on O. FU lost 3 juniors in Jenkins, Lloyd, and Reed on D and had two more to transfer including the backup QB.

      Word is that Brown, an incoming Fr, will push Je- sorry, John for the QB job. With their loss of starters, their chances are less than UGA (by far) to win the SEC East, but what the hell; pundits picked them last year after FU had a worse year than this last one.

      To the media, FU is the ND of the SEC.

      • DawgPhan

        Air Force Dawg has UF losing 28 scholarship players from this year’s team. Most of any team in the SEC. I dont know if he is right or wrong, but he puts up the stats and seems to be well received when he does so.

  3. stoopnagle

    Who does Clowney play for again? I’d make that team the favorite.

  4. PatinDC

    Good. The higher they are the more it is to see them fall.

  5. Otto

    I’ve said it before, I wasn’t a fan a Muschamp or Smart becoming a HC at a top level SEC job from their DC jobs. I’m not sure if Muschamp will make it past year 5. 0-2 to UGA and 1-1 to FSU, what happens if youa re correct in that UF’s regression to the mean does come back to bite him in the ass. Further especially with Muschamp and having a family member that played for Auburn while he was there, I do not see him having the tact for a HC job.

  6. sniffer

    Aren’t preseason polls really about potential? Before that, aren’t preseason polls about selling advertising to a focused group?

  7. TCD

    With USCe’s schedule (and Clowney) I’d probably put them as the favorite. Then UGA, then Florida. Driskel is flat-out awful and didn’t seem to improve from the first game against Bowling Green to the last game against Louisville. And now they’re losing their biggest playmakers on defense as well as Gillislee at running back and Jordan Reed at tight end. I believe that we’re primed for a 3-peat in Jacksonville next season.

  8. Bulldog Joe

    We will learn this season whether it is easier to replace an offense or a defense.

  9. Debby Balcer

    The DAWGS great downgraded for being GA while the Gators great upgraded by phone busts just for being FL.

  10. Orl Dawg

    Remember the Gators got LSU and USCe both at home plus they played TXAM in Johnny footballs first ever collegiate game. Additionally, they could’ve lost to one of the directional teams from LA. A blocked punt saved that one. FSU was overrated and soft. The schedule is much tougher for them next year. They’ll lose at least 3 or 4 games next year

  11. PTC DAWG

    NO, that’s the answer.

  12. Porter Osborne Jr

    The schedules set up nicely for USCe to take the East this year.

  13. Russ

    I’ll say USCe is the favorite, followed by us, and then Florida. Florida’s defense will lose a bit, and I’m not sure the offense will improve. Driskell is just awful and he didn’t improve last season. About the only plus I see for their offense is at least they’ll have the same coordinator for two years straight. Changing coordinators every year for the past three years can’t be good for the team.

    • Cojones

      Same goes for FU’s D. Quinn is gone and they promoted from the ranks, but there will be a difference plus some recruits may go elsewhere. Two already did. FU is a Tenn in progress (downward).

    • jryuuu

      just curious–aside from clowney, who else does USCe have?

      lattimore and devin taylor are gone, along with sanders so they lost their TD leaders in both rushing and receiving. seems like they have a lot of holes to fill as well.. maybe just not as much as us and florida?

      • Biggest question mark for us is LB. We graduate the entire two-deep, and one of the projected 2013 starters tore his ACL during bowl practices. He should be back at some point, but maybe not for UGA.

        The players you mentioned, especially Lattimore, are all excellent, but we have experienced, proven depth ready to step in at each of those positions.

        • I should note that I think losing Sanders hurts us more at PR than WR.

          • jryuuu

            yeah, he was pretty sick at PR (as the uga game can attest to…….)

            so RB + Dline should be good to go for you guys? ugh… coupled with (two) returning qb’s + clowney on one end of the line, that’s gonna be tough for us.

            idk if you heard recently but we got some linebackers to replace as well…..🙂

            • Don’t get me wrong, I do think it’s a definite drop-off at RB without Lattimore. But we’ve got some good players to plug in there, and if the OL improves, it may be a wash. I don’t think there will be a dropoff on DL. Chaz Sutton was about as productive as Taylor last year, and we have some other good players who are ready to play bigger roles.

              I think you guys lost a bit more overall, but you also recruit better than us and have more able bodies ready to go. We’re going to be hurting at LB next year. The hope is that Clowney is so dominant that it doesn’t matter, but I’m not sure if anyone is that good.

  14. UFTimmy

    I came on here at one point this season and argued that turnovers were mostly luck, at least on the receiving end. I still stand by that statement, and I assume UF will have less favorable luck next year.

    And I agree that UF’s margin for error is extremely thin. I’ve said that all year.

    That being said, we lost the two games where we turned it over. We won games where we failed to get a lot of turnovers, but in those games we held onto the ball. We lost the two games where we could not hold onto the ball. Driskel threw a couple of interceptions all year, save two games, where he got careless.

    I am not sure i’d predict UF to win the East next year, but…

    1. Even without our bad offense and razor thin margin of error, we came really close to winning it this year. Obviously ifs and all that, but we narrowly lost the division to a really good team. Had we won that game, or had the losses among UF, Georgia, and South Carolina fallen a different way, UF would have won the division.

    2. UF is seen as a team on the rise. We had two bad years, and then a good year, so the media assumes that will continue. We will see.

    3. Our offensive line should improve. They were better in year 1 under our new S&C and Oline coach, so there is hope they will continue to improve. We lost players, but they were not our strongest, and we got some help with transfers and JC players to help provide depth. And it appears Driskel needs a lot of time to make reads.

    Like I said, I haven’t looked at you guys and South Carolina enough to know who I would peg for first in the East next year, but I don’t think it’s far fetched to go that route.

    • Cojones

      Yeah, a lot of that upward mobility given by the pundits this year(where they soared you to 2nd before losing to UGA, then sent you to 3rd where you could play ((and lose to Louisville)) in the Sugar Bowl) is based on Jarvis going pro. Now all you have to worry about is sorryass Jonathan Jenkins, his replacement.

      Look closely at both teams, but especially UGA because we aren’t the recipient of ESPN’s beneficence and you don’t learn about our players until they meet the QB face-to-face. Don’t worry, the pundits will Dawgpoll you up as soon as possible.

  15. If you are going to talk about your skepticism about Arkansas, you might want to acknowledge that you played the “why are they rated ahead of Georgia?” card before the 2010 season.

  16. Macallanlover

    Specifically naming an outright favorite for the East now is as silly as assigning specific numbers in pre-season polls in May. We haven’t gotten past NSD yet, much less Spring practice and Fall drills, and don’t even have the depth charts for any school. Then there are injuries, weather. etc., but there are 40-50 practices between now and then. Sheesh, I know it is the off season and people are going to speculate about next fall but can’t we be a little more general?

    I am comfortable with saying the winner will come from one of UGA.SC. and Fla, with Florida being ther longer shot at this point based on past performance of returning talent. I don’t see any of the other SEC East schools being a contender, I am just happy to be a legit contender and hope things break our way, we are definitiely the nicest and most deserving of the group. Don’t have a clue yet about the UGA/SC matchup except that I feel we will find a way (s) to neutralize Clowney. That isn’t taking anything away from him, I thought he was the best defensive player in CFB this season, and expect him to be the same next year barring injury. But there was no excuse for us to not have a plan to address JC going into Columbia this past October, and there was certainly no reason to not make better/quicker adjustments than we did. That was the football game, period. Sure there were other problems along the OL that game but not scheming adequate help on those DEs was just awful. As good as Clowney is, we had options with better blocking backs, and plays to curb his aggressiveness early on. Once they found success early and stoked that crowd it was like a shark in bloody waters.

    I know that seems too simplistic just to state, but I never saw an answer, it was like we lined up and played the hand we were dealt. That game still makes me angry, I know they were over the top as a crowd/team that night and would have been difficult to beat but we did not look even close to being battle ready. And this from a team that we gave the 2011 game to and then listened to them run their mouths all 13 months between games. I don’t like smack talkers, even UGA fans/players, but this year they at least have a case.

    • I actually think this is pretty spot on. This game was a paradigm case for why the first few series are so important, particularly in a big night game with a rowdy crowd. Georgia had a bad plan for the opening of the game, Spurrier went for the jugular and got some great individual plays that made a big difference (that play where Byrd stole the interception from Rambo was huge), and once USC got a lead, Georgia had to pass a lot and USC was able to run a conservative offense, both of which played into USC’s hands. Plus, the crowd was going apeshit the whole time. You’re right. That was pretty much the game in a nutshell.

      • Macallanlover

        Good point about Byrd’s huge pass reception. Rambo winning that battle might have changed the entire complexion of that game simply by taking some air out of the fans, instead it threw gas on the fire. Not saying it would have been enough because Lattimore and the SC line looked to be enough offensively to give us fits, and our OL blocking would still have been in question, but I think it might have been a good, back and forth, SEC contest more like what was expected. I am glad CBS won’t be televising the game in Athens, good chance that will be a night game so our fans might return the favor of playing a key role.

  17. Mike

    UFTimmy makes a lot of good points. Florida will be good on defense next year, even with the losses to the NFL. Muschmap will see to that. And like he says, even though getting TOs on defense might have an element of luck, the offense can by in large control its own TOs.

    Now, will the Florida offense be any better? Maybe, but the indicators say probably not. Driskel had a few good games last year. But he often regressed in many late season games. The question on the table is can he play well more than once or twice? If he can, then Florida has a chance to do very well. If he can’t, then next fall will require that Florida win the same way Florida won in 2012. As the Senator points out, that will be tough to accomplish. But let me make another point; if not Florida, then who?

    As far as Florida’s opponents go, UGA obviously has a lot of talent coming back on offense. One could make a case they will have the most prolific offense in the SEC next year, if not the nation. However, even though I know all UGA fans are gaga over Grantham, that was not a dominating Georgia defense we saw last year. Great defensive talent, not a dominating defense. With that level of talent, UGA should have had a much better defense imo, especially against the run. And correct me if I am wrong, something like 100% of the defensive starters are gone?

    So given that, UGA might next that offense next year to win games by scores like 34-31. That means a lot of fun, exciting wins. But it also means that if the offense has an bad day, then it might be a long day for UGA.

    In either case, should be a fun year.

    • Macallanlover

      I have hope that our defense will be better this year, hardly could be much worse, We made some big plays on defense but only controlled two games last year, Vandy and Auburn. Agree with your comment, we may have to win some shootouts if they aren’t in the Top 20 defensively, but we may be capable of that. We may look like a Big 12/PAC 12 team in 2013; got my nitroglycerin on order for August delivery.