# Predicting The 2012 SEC Football Season Game By Game (If Each Team Played 1,200 Games)

I guess it’s not that weird, but it is different. We here at The Bull Gator started this last season and figured we might as well continue. (We’re still not sure where our inspiration came from, but we’ve seen similar things done elsewhere, so thanks to anyone that may be doing something like this.) This is our way of predicting the 2012 SEC football season. It’s more than just win vs. loss. Instead, it’s how many times a particular team might beat another. Averages, if you will.

Instead of picking Team A over Team B, we tried to determine how many times we thought Team A would beat Team B if they played each other 100 times. While Team A may be heavily favored over Team B, there’s always that chance of an upset and we try to take that into account. Need an example? Here you go:

If the Florida Gators and Bowling Green Falcons played 100 times, you think the Gators would win 75 of those games. You feel the same way for each of the remaining 11 games on Florida’s schedule. That’s 12 matchups and 75 wins per game. 12 multiplied by 75 is 900; 900 divided by 100 (because in reality, the Gators don’t play each team 100 times; they play each team once) is 9. Therefore, based on your win number for each game, you believe Florida will end up with 9 victories in 2012 for a record of 9-3. Yes, you have technically predicted the Gators to win every game, but a 75% chance of winning each time out is far from perfect.

We set two rules for this exercise. One rule is obvious: A single game must have consistent results. If you believe Florida would beat Texas A&M 75 times, then you also believe Texas A&M would beat Florida 25 times. The other was set to force each of us to pick an overall winner: No matchup can be 50-50. You have to go one way or another even if your chosen mark is 51-49. Ultimately, we’re attempting to predict outcomes and there are no longer ties in college football.

Now that the lengthy (although much shorter than last year’s) explanation is over, here are the results. Discuss, agree with, argue against below.

A few notes:

• The highlighted numbers under the SEC East standings are there to show the only place in the entire standings where we disagreed with each other. Although Vanderbilt ends up fourth overall, individually Willy had them fifth behind Missouri.

• The highlighted schools under the SEC West standings are for the two national title contenders. We both ended up with Alabama ahead of LSU in the SEC West standings; however, if you look at just our picks, that’s not necessarily true. I give the edge to Bama in every game they play, while Willy has LSU beating Bama 55-45. The reason the Tide still come out on top for him is because of greater average confidence in their 11 wins than the Tigers’ 12.

• Finally, the highlighted numbers in the individual team schedules show the games we disagreed on from a win-loss standpoint. Last year, we didn’t disagree on a single game! That’s right, not one. This year there were six, four of which involved Tennessee. I’m not proud to say that in all four of those, I have the Vols coming out on top, but that doesn’t change the fact that we both think their probably a 6-6 team.

There you have it, our long-winded way of predicting the SEC in 2012.

# Baseball Recap: Florida Gators Win Series Over Mississippi State Bulldogs

The No. 5 Florida Gators baseball team only scored six runs over their three-game weekend series with the Mississippi State Bulldogs, but they were enough to propel the Gators to two victories to take the series. It’s not often that you score six runs in three games and outscore your opponent, but that’s just what happened as Florida’s six beat out Mississippi State’s four.

If six runs scored over two games can net you two victories, so be it, but it’s that other game that has you concerned. The weekend series went like this: 4-1 win (with seven hits), 2-0 loss (three hits), 2-1 win (three hits). Yes, that’s six total hits over the final two games. The curious case of the missing bats has continued and is a serious threat for any hope of advancing far into the postseason. Not that Mississippi State fared better over the course of the weekend series, but Florida needs to find offense sooner or later (read: sooner; later isn’t a realistic option).

Fortunately, pitching remains solid. While the Gators have faced many good pitchers in recent weeks, they’ve also put together some great performances of their own. If the staff continues to perform well, postseason success can be had. If it doesn’t, the offense is no longer a reliable option to fall back on. The talent is present to get out of the funk, but with each passing game, it seems more unlikely it will happen. If there was ever a time for the offense to come to life, now is that time.

The Gators now head to the state of Alabama for the final week of the regular season. Florida faces Samford on Tuesday and visits Auburn for a three-game series later in the week.

Baseball previews and recaps are sponsored by Ben Versnik and Advocare – a world-class nutrition company specializing in health and wellness, weight management, vibrant energy and sports performance.

# 2012 College Football Strength Of Schedules; Battles Ahead For The Florida Gators

With recruiting officially in the books, the beginning of spring football just around corner, and March Madness rapidly approaching, it will be only a matter of days/weeks until college football fans officially shift their focus to the upcoming 2012 season. And given the way that the Florida Gators’ 2011 football season turned out, you can’t blame us here at Hail Florida Hail for “jumping the gun” just a bit. So with that in mind, I bring you my way too early look at the 2012 college football strength of schedules (SOS).

For those of you who have visited this site (and its predecessor site) before, you know that I love numbers. That’s probably why I majored in Finance while at UF and am now in the investment banking industry. Given this fact, I have decided that the easiest way to analyze one’s SOS when teams have yet to even take the practice field is to look at how each team’s opponents finished the 2011 season. The simplest way to do this was to take an average end of the year ranking for each team’s 12 upcoming opponents. Sound complicated? Well, it’s not really. In fact, the hardest part was trying to find a complete ranking for all 120 teams after the bowl games had taken place. In the end, I decided to go with the College Football News Top 120 (in association with Scout.com and FoxSports.com) as it seemed fairly accurate and reliable. With that in mind, let’s look at the Gators’ 2012 SOS:

As you can see, the average 2011 BCS ranking for the 12 teams that Florida will face in the upcoming football season is 46.2. One thing to note is that I had to assign some sort of BCS ranking to FCS (Division I-AA) teams. I chose to assign them a BCS ranking just below the lowest ranked FBS (Division I-A) team, therefore they were all assigned a ranking of 121. We could argue the legitimacy of this assumption for hours, but honestly that wouldn’t be much fun, so let’s just go with it for these purposes.

Using this methodology for all 14 teams in the SEC (it still seems weird to say 14 teams in the SEC!), I came up with the following SOS for the conference members:

Some interesting thoughts based on these results:

• At first glance, I was somewhat surprised that Ole Miss had the toughest 2012 schedule on paper out of any of the SEC teams. But upon further review, it actually makes quite a bit of sense. First and foremost, they play in the SEC West which guarantees that they will play teams that finished #1 (Alabama), #2 (LSU), #7 (Arkansas), #27 (Auburn), #29 (Texas A&M) and #41 (Mississippi State) in 2011. In addition, their two SEC East opponents are #11 Georgia and much improved #46 Vanderbilt. Finally, Ole Miss has a mid-season out-of-conference matchup with #24 Texas, a team which most SEC schools frankly wouldn’t schedule as an out of conference opponent even if they had to. That means that 9 of Ole Miss’s 12 opponents in 2012 finished ranked in the top 50 in 2011. Not exactly what you want to hear if you are a Rebels’ fan who just suffered through a dreadful 2-10 season.

• Missouri’s SOS seems pretty high as well considering they are playing in the water-downed SEC East. But SEC West opponents of #1 Alabama and #29 Texas A&M strengthen their SOS considerably. Plus, Missouri plays two out-of-conference games against decent competition in #61 UCF and #66 Arizona State. It should be noted that Missouri has yet to finalize its final game of the season and should they pick up a FCS school, the Tigers’ SOS would drop significantly down to 50.4.

• The two teams that battled in the BCS National Championship have the exact same SOS leading into the 2012 college football season. Both Alabama and LSU play against teams that had an average ranking of 51.91667 in 2011. Seems almost too coincidental to be true, but it is.

• And then there are the Bulldogs (both Georgia and Mississippi State). First looking at UGA, their 2012 SOS certainly isn’t helped out by the fact that the SEC East was down last year and only resulted in one team (besides Georgia) being ranked in the top 25 at the end of 2011 (#14 South Carolina). In addition to this, Georgia plays three games against teams which ended near the bottom of the rankings last year (#89 Ole Miss, #113 Buffalo and #119 FAU) and an additional game against a FCS team (Georgia Southern). All-in-all, the Bulldogs certainly can’t blame the schedule makers if people are once again calling for Coach Mark Richt’s head by mid-season.

• Mississippi State’s schedule though is simply the worst in the conference. Although these Bulldogs play in the SEC West which is no laughing matter, they counteract those difficult intra-division games with games against the two worst teams in the SEC East (#53 Kentucky and #54 Tennessee) and out-of-conference games against #112 Troy, #115 Middle Tennessee and two FCS schools (Jackson State and South Alabama). Mississippi State finished 7-6 last year. If they don’t at least duplicate that record in 2012 given the schedule they have, fans may start wondering whether Dan Mullen really is the answer.

# Men’s Basketball Recap: Florida 69 – Mississippi State 57; Gators Perfect At Home

Another home victory is in the books for the Florida Gators. On Saturday afternoon, the Gators defeated the Mississippi State Bulldogs 69-57 to move to 12-0 this season at the O’Connell Center. The victory pushed Florida’s overall record to 17-4 (5-1 SEC) and gave the Gators an impressive win over a ranked opponent. The Bulldogs entered the game at No. 18/16 before falling to the No. 14/13 Gators.

Florida was led by freshman guard Bradley Beal who had 19 points on 6-for-9 shooting. Beal went 3-for-4 from behind the three-point line and made all four of this free-throw attempts. The 19 points was a high for Beal in over a month since he scored 21 against the Florida State Seminoles in December. It also marked the third-straight game Beal shot at least .500 from the floor and the fourth time in the last five contests he has done so. With Beal heating up, the Gators are likely to have a good finish to the regular season.

Sophomore forward Will Yeguete started in place of sophomore forward/center Patric Young again, but Young’s big second half helped propel the Gators to victory. He finished with 12 points in 24 minutes and had his share of vicious dunks. As I’m sure I’ve said before and will say again, when Young is on his game the rest of the SEC needs to look out. A healthy Young is a dangerous Young.

Junior forward Erik Murphy (14) and senior guard Erving Walker (10) also scored in double digits and Yeguete led Florida with seven rebounds. Perhaps most impressive was the minimal turnovers by the Gators. Florida had 15 assists to only five turnovers on the day.

Next up, the Gators host the South Carolina Gamecocks on Thursday, February 2 at 9:00 PM.

# Men’s Basketball Preview: Florida Gators Vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs – January 28, 2012

Saturday brings us a ranked matchup. The No. 14/13 Florida Gators host the No. 18/16 Mississippi State Bulldogs in a third-place game of sorts. The 16-4 (4-1) Gators sit one spot behind the Vanderbilt Commodores – currently in second place in the SEC – and the 17-4 (4-2) Bulldogs are one spot behind that. Sure, those standings don’t mean a whole lot, but we can reach for more meaning behind every game, can’t we?

The Facts

Opponent: Mississippi State Rebels
When: Saturday, January 28, 2012 – 1:30 PM
Where: Gainesville, FL
Television/Radio: SEC Network, GatorVision, Sirius 220, XM 199
Records: Florida: 16-4 (4-1 SEC, 11-0 Home), Mississippi State: 17-4 (4-2 SEC, 2-2 Away)
Rankings: Florida: 14/13, Mississippi State: 18/16
Current Streak: Florida: W4, Mississippi State: W2
Over/Under: 146
Calculated Score: Florida 77-68/78-69
Points Scored: Florida: 81.3, Mississippi State: 73.8
Points Allowed: Florida: 65.4, Mississippi State: 65.6
Last Meeting: Mississippi State 71-64 (January 29, 2011)

The Preview

The Gators are good at home. Very good at home; to the tune of 11-0 with wins coming easily for the most part. The Bulldogs have played a number of close games recently, but are still a team worthy of their rankings and that’s why I wonder about the nine-point spread. Not that Florida can’t get another big win at the O’Connell Center, but I question nine points. With that said, that means the Gators will easily cover the spread. That’s just the sort of thing that happens when I attempt to make predictions. On to the rest of the preview…

The Bulldogs are coming off of a close win over LSU and before that a thrilling overtime victory over Vanderbilt. Mississippi State has a team that can play with anyone, but at the moment doesn’t have any marquee wins to speak of. They beat both Texas A&M and Arizona when the two were ranked (much like Florida, although the Wildcats were out of the top 25 at the time), but both have fallen off. Their best win may just be that recent victory over the Commodores, but that would be wiped out with an upset of the Gators. In fact, this may be the best win for whichever team comes out of top (Florida’s blowout of Florida State aside).

The Gators will need another big game from sophomore forward/center Patric Young; and on both ends of the court. The Bulldogs are led by junior forward Arnett Moultrie who averages 17.1 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. He topped both of those averages in Mississippi State’s last two wins with 21 and 14 and 28 and 12. He will get his points and will be sure to pull down some rebounds, but exactly how many may be impacted by Young. Whether starting or coming off the bench, Young needs to be dominant on both ends of the court.

It’s an early Saturday matchup between two ranked teams. Watch it and cheer accordingly then find a way to enjoy your weekend one way or the other. Hopefully you’ll be enjoy it with a Gators’ victory.

# Predicting The 2011 SEC Football Season Game By Game

There are a number of different ways to predict how a season will go for a particular team. You could throw out a record, which may be the simplest way and the one we see the most: Florida? New coaching staff, new offense, new defense, tough October…let’s see. 8-4.” You could go one step further, truly look at the team and the schedule, and come up with an educated guess: “Will Muschamp definitely brings something new to the team, but the Gators will still lose to Alabama, LSU, South Carolina and FSU. Even Auburn and Georgia are in question. I’ll say 7-5 as a floor, 8-4 is a definite possibility, and 9-3 at the best.” Or you could do what One Eyed Willy and I did…

It’s easy to look at a team’s schedule and say “the Gators will lose to the Crimson Tide,” but can you be sure of it? Of course not; it’s all a guess. Based on what we know, it seems likely that Alabama will beat Florida in 2011; so likely that most would pencil in a loss for the Gators. But would the Tide win both times if they played each other twice? What about five times? 10? 100? Upsets happen and in college football they happen a lot, so much so that sometimes they may not even truly be upsets. Due to that, if that particular game was played 100 times, you might think Florida could come out on top 20 or 30 or even 40 times. You might not be so sure of that “definite” Alabama win. So that’s what we did.
Willy and I looked at the entire SEC schedule for 2011 and picked how many times out of 100 we thought each game would turn out. For each SEC team, we looked at all 12 of their games and separately came up with a number of wins out of 100 we thought that team would get. We totaled those wins over the entire schedule up, divided that number by 100, and got the number of wins the team was likely to end up with based on our predictions. Confused? Here’s a basic example:
Let’s say you think if Florida and FAU played 100 times, the Gators would win 75 of those matchups. Now let’s say you felt the same way for each of the remaining 11 games on Florida’s schedule. That’s 12 matchups and 75 wins per game. 12 multiplied by 75 is 900; 900 divided by 100 (because in reality, the Gators don’t play each team 100 times; they play each team once) is nine. Therefore, based on your win number for each game, you believe Florida will end up with nine victories in 2011 or have a record of 9-3. Why does our convoluted mathematical exercise work (we think)? Well, in that example, you have given the Gators a 75% chance to win each game. 75% of 12 games played is nine. 9-3. It works (again, we think)!
With that, I won’t take complete credit (or blame) for coming up with this. I’ve seen similar prediction methods before. I’m not sure if any are exactly the same, but they may be out there and I’ll apologize for not linking to any because I can’t for the life of me remember where or when I might have stumbled across other ways to predict wins and losses. If you’ve ever done one, thank you; a piece of what you’ve done may have found its way into this somehow.
With this exercise, we did set two rules and discussed a couple of others. One rule is obvious: A single game must have consistent results. If you believe Florida would beat Alabama 20 times, then you also believe Alabama would beat Florida 80 times. The other was set to force each of us to pick an overall winner: No matchup can be 50-50. You have to go one way or another even if your chosen mark is 51-49. Ultimately, we’re attempting to predict outcomes and there are no longer ties in college football.
We also discussed a maximum number of wins and while we both ended up using the same maximum, we didn’t make it so it had to be that way. You’ll notice below that neither of us gave out a 100-win score. Again, upsets happened. They may be incredibly unlikely in a number of situations, but neither of us was confident enough in any game to say “100 times out of 100 that team will win.” A number of unforeseen circumstances could occur. Do I believe Florida is an overwhelming favorite over FAU? Yes, I do. Do I think the Gators could win that game 100 times in a row? I’m not positive.
For the most part, you’ll notice we went in five-point increments. There probably isn’t that much of a difference between a 73 and a 75 and we both have day jobs, so time can be limited. You will see some 51-49 situations, some where we went 99-1, and one where I landed on 98-2 (I explain this one below), but most of the picks are done by fives or tens.
Now that you’ve read through the muck (assuming you didn’t just jump ahead to the graphics), here it is. Team by team, game by game, our picks and averages, and some added thoughts.
• Eight wins is reasonable for the Gators. We predict wins over FAU, UAB, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Furman as near sure things.
• I’m a little more confident in Florida over Tennessee than Willy, but he believes the Gators stand a better chance against the Tide than I do.
• We are exactly flipped on Auburn and Georgia.
• Overall, we were very close on our Florida prediction. I was very surprised I actually came out below Willy as I’m usually the optimist of the group when it comes to the Gators. The difference is easy to see: Willy has just a slightly higher confidence in Florida over South Carolina and FSU than I do.
• Despite starting the season with back-to-back losses, we both have Georgia rebounding to have a decent season, but with an interesting observation. I come in at 8.62 wins above and Willy ends up at 8.12, but we both have the Bulldogs favored in nine games. Georgia’s difference is small, but someone below has a much larger separation.
• I have the Bulldogs with a better chance to win than Willy in six games. Willy has them with a better chance than I do in only one. The biggest difference comes against the Volunteers.
• For me, Georgia goes as does Aaron Murray. I gave them the benefit of the doubt in more than a few situations because in almost all of their games, the Bulldogs will have the best quarterback on the field.
• Georgia is the first team where, if you rounded up or down, we would have different final records. TBG: 9-3. OEW: 8-4.
• The closest of the bunch, we were only separated by 0.01. Whatever the difference, neither of us has the Wildcats bowling.
• Making things more difficult for Kentucky, one of their wins – Ole Miss – comes in at a 51. This could be a rough season for the Wildcats.
• Now here’s the wildcard. Look at the rundown again. We each have South Carolina as the favorite in every single game. When we compared results, we both said if pressed we would favor the Gamecocks in every game. Then we asked each other “will they go 12-0?” The answer was no. I don’t see South Carolina going undefeated and neither does Willy. I don’t know anyone that does, but we both would probably take them in every game if we had to.
• It’s also noteworthy that while we do have the Gamecocks favored in each of their games, the wins number doesn’t come close to reflecting that. We would have expected at least 10 wins from a situation like this, but I’m the high and I only came in at 9.29.
• South Carolina’s schedule is what does it. A relatively worry-free non-conference slate and avoiding Alabama and LSU in from the SEC West and it does make sense.
Derek Dooley may be building something at Tennessee, but it’ll take a season or two more. The schedule doesn’t help the Vols in 2011 and they should find themselves bowling, but barely.
• You never want to see a season ahead of you when you’re only favored in the following six matchups: the four non-conference games, Vandy and Kentucky.
• There are opportunities for Tennessee to score the upset or two and make a move forward, but it will be an uphill climb. Of the “losses,” we only went above 35 once when Willy gave the Vols a 40 against Georgia.
• And here’s the bottom of the SEC East, and not just because we went through the division in alphabetic order. Willy came in at 2.40 wins for the Commodores, while I went a little higher with 3.11.
• Similar to South Carolina, but in the other direction, Vandy is only favored by each of us in one game, but comes out higher in the chart.
• If the season does turn out this way for the Commodores, the win over Elon may be the only reason to celebrate. While Vandy doesn’t come out on top in the other 11, they’ll have to take every advantage they can to find wins.
• And here’s where I explain my 98-2. There have been a number of 99s handed out already. Alabama could be given a 99 against Vandy and I wouldn’t argue with you, but I gave the Commodores one more point for the SEC factor. Teams play just a little harder in conference games. They give just a little more. The Tide are the overwhelming favorite, but I have no problem given the Commodores that one extra win.
• I only dip below 75 for Alabama once and that’s when the Tide take on LSU. Willy only dips below 70 once, for the same matchup. Despite that, we don’t project Alabama to go 12-0 and play for a national championship. Or do we?
• The Tide, like the Gamecocks above, are favored in every game by both of us. I have them as stronger favorites than Willy against Penn State, Arkansas, Florida, Vandy, Ole Miss, Tennessee, LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn. That’s a big list. Willy doesn’t have them favored more than I do once. Seems I’m on the Bama bandwagon in 2011, although I’m not sure I am.
• It’s odd seeing a team most have in their top three come in at 10.50 and 9.87, but there are uncertainties on the Tide squad that could lead to an “upset” or two at the hands of SEC opponents.
• Arkansas is in the top 15 of both major polls and the SB Nation BlogPoll Top 25, but I had them down at no. 22 in my preseason poll. This chart reflects my thinking. I have the Razorbacks sixth in the SEC in terms of wins.
• However, Arkansas has a few close ones and with some swings could end up with a better record. They come in between 45 and 60 for both of us for the following matchups: Texas A&M, Auburn, South Carolina and Mississippi State.
• It’s all on the defense. The offense will be able to score, but the defense will have to keep the Razorbacks in games.
• The defending national champs and we both have Auburn ended the regular season somewhere in the 7-5 ballpark? Losing someone like Cam Newton will do that to a team.
• It’s not all bad for the Tigers; they come in between 40 and 49 for four matchups. Split those games, win the ones they’re supposed to, and score an upset and seven wins quickly becomes eight or possibly nine.
• It all depends on those first four. If Auburn can head into the South Carolina game 4-0, things may be looking up.
• Another surprise is LSU. The Tigers are no. 4 in both major polls, but further down the lists of most fans. I ranked them no. 8 and the overall SB Nation poll had them at no. 6. Suspensions will and uncertainty at quarterback will do that.
• In terms of favored status, we both have LSU going 10-2. In terms of the wins exercise, 9-3 seems more likely, with 8-4 a possibility.
• The Tigers’ schedule won’t be easy. Adding Oregon to an SEC schedule and having to play the Ducks without some of your key players will make the road rough for LSU.
• I found it extremely hard to get through the Bulldogs’ schedule. I like Dan Mullen and think he has a great future at Mississippi State and beyond. Nine wins seems like a possibility every season, but then I look at the schedule: Auburn, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, and even Ole Miss to close it out. When all is said and done, we only have the Bulldogs favored in seven games.
• Of those five where we consider Mississippi State to be the underdog, only one could be considered to be by a large margin: Alabama. So they’ve got that going for them.
• Neither of us was really sure what to think of Ole Miss this season. Although the Rebels get Vandy and Kentucky out of the SEC East, the West should role them over. It could be a long one.
• Look at it this way: I had Ole Miss at 15 or below for five games and Willy had them in that margin for four. Although I do have to question Willy’s 30 against Georgia.
Overall Observations
• SEC East order of finish: South Carolina – 9.02, Georgia – 8.41, Florida – 8.08, Tennessee – 6.57, Kentucky – 5.35, Vanderbilt – 2.76.
• SEC West order of finish: Alabama – 10.19, LSU – 8.68, Arkansas – 8.04, Mississippi State – 7.91, Auburn – 7.14, Ole Miss – 4.62.
• Those are based on averages. We actually had one order difference if you look at it individually. I have Arkansas third in the SEC West and Willy has Mississippi State in that position.
• If our math is correct (and this is a big if), there are 96 total games played. We didn’t differ on a single one. Let me rephrase that: we differed in the number of wins given out, but there wasn’t a single game in which I said win and Willy said loss and vice versa. That’s eerily creepy and means we spend much too much time talking college football with each other.
• None of the records we ended up with seem that unreasonable. Alabama at 10-2? It could happen. The Gators ending up 8-4? I could see it. The Tide and Gamecocks heading to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game? Sure.
• Willy had higher win totals for seven of the 12 teams, which might as well be a wash.
• What we project to be the bottom of the SEC East was also where we were the closest with each other and farthest apart. Kentucky was only separated by 0.01, while Vandy had a difference of 0.71.
• We were very close – within 0.17 of each other with five teams: Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and LSU.
So there you have it. Our predictions for the 2011 SEC schedule. It’s mathematic because we used adding and such. It may not be accurate, but those are our picks. Of course, they’ll all change the first time we see one of these teams play, but for now, we’re comfortable where we stand.

If you feel like doing your own, and bless you if you do, let us know the results. We’re sure there are plenty out there that won’t come as close to our picks as we did.

# Could Chris Martin Be The Next Cam Newton?

The easy and correct answer would be no, but that won’t stop Florida fans from thinking it every time a player who was all-everything in high school comes to the Gators with all the potential in the world only to transfer to a junior college.

Cam Newton did it and we all saw what happened. The only possible things making Florida fans feel better about the entire situation was the fact that Newton never beat the Gators and he was constantly under criticism for how he ended up where he did – Auburn – and where he didn’t – Mississippi State.
Now it’s Chris Martin’s turn. We don’t know where Martin will ultimately end up, but we know where he’ll play out the 2011 season. Martin will surface at Navarro College, which just happens to be the defending NJCAA champion. Again think of Newton who went on to win a title at Blinn College before going to the Tigers and winning the big boy title. There was also that Heisman Trophy and then the NFL Draft.
Martin won’t win a Heisman and he might never end up as the no. 1 overall pick in the draft, but we’ll keep asking the question. We – that’s Gator fans – saw it happen once and dread it happening again. Newton didn’t contribute much at Florida, but he did so much elsewhere. What Martin does anywhere remains to be seen, but we all might be a little sick to our stomachs if we one day see him hoisting the crystal ball. Sure we wish luck to anyone who looks for a different situation somewhere else, but the fan in fanatical in us doesn’t wish too much.

# Grand Slam Powers Gators to Win

If you collected baseball cards in the 1980s or 1990s, you probably remember the Donruss Grand Slammers. Right around the time the collecting scene blew up thanks to entries into the hobby by a number of new card makers, Donruss was doing everything they could to separate themselves from the pack. It did not work very well and most probably remember them as one of the weaker card makers of the time. But they gave us Grand Slammers – cards that highlighted baseball’s version of the slam dunk.
That was a long way of getting to what Florida did last night in the first round of the SEC Tournament. Down 5-2 to Mississippi State in the seventh inning, Gators sophomore Brian Johnson hit a grand slam to bring Florida back. The Gators would go on to win 7-5, advancing them to the second round where they will face Alabama on Thursday. The grand slam was the third of Johnson’s career.

# Mississippi State Bulldogs 10 – Florida Gators 7

Read the title again.  17 total points.  Florida had seven of them.  That’s right.  The Gators scored seven points in a loss at home to an unranked team.  Why?  Because it was late in the game before the offense finally woke up.  And unfortunately two players who are far from any fault will be blamed.

Someone out there will put this on Jeff Demps and/or Chas Henry.  Someone will say Florida had a chance to go ahead until Demps fumbled.  Someone will say the Gators could have pulled it out if Henry, a punter, had connected on his field goal attempts.  Someone will put all of Florida’s troubles in the loss to Mississippi State on those two players.  Someone will be oh so very wrong.
There are a number of things that could be said or guessed to explain why the Gators only managed to score seven points.  You’ve already heard most of them.  There’s no real point in getting into all of them, but there are a few that standout that seem to be repeating from game to game.  There’s a definite pattern that’s having an effect on the outcome and therefore Florida’s overall record.  The first of which is John Brantley.
I don’t envy Brantley.  Well, that’s not true.  I do to a point.  He’s the quarterback for the Florida Gators.  I’m a few years past fulfilling that dream, but it’s still a sweet gig if you can get it.  But I don’t envy Brantley’s position in the line of Gator QBs.  He’s the man replacing THE MAN.  Brantley’s also a legacy which means some expect him to just be good as soon as he puts on the uniform.  And he’s in the middle of an offensive meltdown being blamed on just about everyone including him.  I won’t speak to Brantley’s abilities or guess if he can or can’t get it don’t (I’m sure that’s a post all on its own), but I will talk about his confidence.
We now have seven games to base assumptions on.  Through those seven games, Brantley still doesn’t appear to have found that confidence.  He continues to look nervous throughout the game.  He appears to be putting too much pressure on himself and is living and dying with each throw he makes.
Brantley does have a lot of pressure on his shoulders.  There’s no denying that.  He’s the Florida quarterback and at the moment is the only option.  It’s him and that’s really it when it comes to the passing game (Those of you calling for Trey Burton to take over need to take a step back.  Burton is a special talent.  He’s also not ready to be a full-time SEC quarterback.  He’s best suited in his slash role right now.  The Kentucky game was a performance for the ages, sort of.  Burton scored touchdowns, but he didn’t take over the world with his passing abilities.  This isn’t a knock on the freshman, it’s just a reality.  Even Tim Tebow wasn’t ready right away.), but Brantley needs to get that out of his head.  He needs to realize that sometimes it doesn’t work out on first down and the best thing he can do is quickly move on to second down.  He has to have the shortest memory on the team.
And he needs to be a leader.  Brantley made several comments over the summer and leading into the season about how he would be a different type of leader than Tebow.  That’s fine, but he needs to be a leader one way or another.  The offense needs it.  The entire team needs it.  With five games left in the regular season (and, yes, the SEC Championship Game still within reach), it’s time for #12 to make this his team.  Against MSU, he didn’t do that and going forward he may be sharing it with #8, but it’s his time.  Calm down, take control, and speak up whether you want to or not.  Certain players at certain positions don’t need to do that.  The quarterback is not at one of those positions.
Beyond Brantley, the bye week couldn’t come at a better time.  The defense played a solid game that was marred by a final MSU drive that took too much time off the clock and an inability to force turnovers (again, something that I’m sure could be an entire post all on its own).  The special teams need help with a punter being forced into field goal duties and Andre Debose possibly lost for the foreseeable future.  And the offense, oh the offense.
Whether you want to blame Steve Addazio or not, the fact of the matter is that the offense has scored seven or less points in two of the last three games and sputtered all season and he is the offensive coordinator.  It’s not a role he’s suited for.  An in-season change might not occur, but if it were to, now is the time.  What do you have to lose?  Pull out the Sugar Bowl playbook and open it up.  While that game was mostly a “f___ you” to Tebow’s critics, it also showed what the Florida offense is capable of when running on all cylinders (in case you don’t remember, the Gators rolled up 659 yards of offense in that game).
Most of those cylinders have gone unused this season and everyone is frustrated.  And I’m not talking fans.  I’m talking coaches and players.  You may lose a game here and there to a Mississippi State.  It does happen.  What shouldn’t happen is 10-7.

# A Preview: Mississippi State Bulldogs at Florida Gators

We’ll start off with a quote from contributor and frequent commenter One Eyed Willy, which puts an interesting perspective into the Steve AddazioDan Mullen dynamic and more than likely echoes the thoughts many Florida fans currently have.

“I feel like Addazio is Mullen’s little brother who he taught how to play basketball back in the day.  Mullen taught him his signature sky hook and his behind the back dribble.  Problem is that when Addazio tries to use those moves against Mullen, big brother is already two steps ahead.  But maybe Addazio’s stupidity pays off.  Maybe Mullen thinks ‘well, if they were smart they would run a play action pass here since they have been setting it up all day long.’  And since Addazio isn’t smart he runs an option to the short side of the field that happens to work because the entire defense is thinking play action pass.  One can only wish.”
One of the biggest concerns heading into Florida’s matchup with Mississippi State is that Mullen knows the Gators.  He was there.  He helped create the offense and he is also aware of what can stop it.  Addazio was the replacement.  The next choice.  He learned it from Mullen and very rarely does the student become the teacher.
Could the Bulldogs hold the upper hand because of what they know of the way the Gators play?  It’s a valid possibility and one that has fans worried.  They aren’t confident in Addazio’s abilities – just take a look at the quote again – and are hoping that sheer luck and Mullen overthinking is what saves the day for them and gives Florida the victory.  Ah the ups and downs of being a Gator fan in 2010.
What pulls the whole thing together is how Willy ends it: “One can only wish.”  That might as well be the theme for the rest of the season for Florida.  No one is exactly sure what was expected out of the 2010 season, but for Gator fans whatever it was wasn’t enough.  A step back due to a number of new players at key positions sounds fine and reasonable, but when it actually happens fans hit the panic button.  Now Florida faces something it hasn’t had to deal with since 1999: back-to-back-to-back losses.
Breathe.  It’s okay.  Breathe.  We’ll get through this together.  That hasn’t happened yet and the Gators still have to be considered the favorites in this matchup.  The Bulldogs are an improving team and have the Mullen factor going for them, but before you grab a paper bag and have to put your head between your knees look a little deeper.
MSU has looked great in three big wins against lesser opponents.  In their last outing, they rushed for over 400 yards.  They held the ball for 39:02 of the game.  That’s scary good, especially when you consider the fact that the Gators haven’t played a linebacker for a single down for two straight games (okay, so that’s a little much, they’ve played, but they’ve been invisible).  The Bulldogs have scored 47 or more against the likes of Memphis, Alcorn State, and a Case Keenum-less Houston team.
Now look at their SEC games.  The games MSU is 1-2 in.  In losses to Auburn and LSU, the Bulldog offense only managed one touchdown in each.  In a win over Georgia, they put 24 points on the board.  Not bad in that final game, but overall the offense is averaging 12.7 points per game against SEC opponents (yes, there was another TD in there against Auburn, but the defense scored it).
So what you really have to wonder is which MSU we’ll see.  The one that is a well-oiled machine?  Or the one that struggles to put points on the board?  And then you have to ask the same question about Florida.  Do we get the Gators who looked like they had put it all together against Kentucky?  Or the Gators with a frustratingly confusing offense and a leave-the-middle-of-the-field-open defense?
If there ever was a trap game for Florida, this is it.  You see, the Gators still control their destiny in the SEC East.  Florida has two conference losses and the only teams without three already are South Carolina and Vanderbilt.  Both have one SEC loss and both still face the Gators.  But this is the game.  The game where Florida can’t experience a letdown.  It’s too hard to say if they’ll bounce back after losses to Alabama and LSU or if they’ll still experience the same issues they did for 120 minutes.
You’ve heard it a million times.  This is a good football team.  And that’s true.  This team has as much talent as any team in the country.  The problem is the utilization of that talent.  Sure John Brantley doesn’t fit perfectly into the offense, but what happened to “we tailor our offense and play calling to the personnel we have?”  Really?  You do?  Then why is Jeff Demps constantly running the ball inside the tackles and Emmanuel Moody is getting plays called that take him to the outside.  And, oh yeah, screens only work if you set them up effectively.  You can’t just keep going to them over and over and hope for them to eventually work.  Well, maybe Urban Meyer and Steve Addazio can hope, but something is not clicking and it may have to do with that fact that Percy Harvin isn’t the one catching those screen passes anymore.
There are problems and MSU knows that.  They have some of the same problems when it comes to facing the tougher teams.  Because of that, this one could really go in either direction.  The average fan doesn’t like to think a program like Florida could lose to one like Mississippi State, but the have-nots have closed the gap between them and the haves.  They have athletes as well.  Players that can step up in big moments.  Florida may be nervous going into every game the rest of this season.  They have to worry about this one first.
Get the play calling issues figured out (because if you think the yelling for Addazio’s head is loud now, just wait).  Utilize the talent you have (PLEASE!).  Occasionally simplify things (blocking schemes don’t always have to be this guy pulling here and this guy moving there, they can be just “block”).  Stretch the field (the occasional incomplete deep pass is okay as long as you’re taking a shot).  Pressure the opposing quarterback (and don’t stop).  Get the linebackers involved (they can be great).  Force turnovers (this is a big one).
It all seems awfully simple.  On paper.  In the past two games though, there have been issues with some or all of those things.  If it’s not fixed against Mississippi State, it’s anyone’s guess what the rest of the season will bring.  We’re only halfway through and I’m already out of “ughs.”
Who Do You Have?