This is one of those useful, but rather pointless position comparison pieces before the big game. USF and Florida in this case. You’ve read them before. A writer (me) puts together his thoughts on how each position matches up for each team. A reader (you) takes in the opinions of the writer and agrees with some and vehemently disagrees with others. Once the game comes to an end, we all realize that what was discussed had no impact on the game whatsoever because no one could have predicted some walk-on fifth-stringer would block a field goal in the final seconds.
There you have it. The purpose of this piece and the comparisons it contains. For me to give my opinions. Both surprising and obvious. Take it all in because I’m an expert in the field of athletic analytics. At least someone told me that once. And, yes, that someone was me.
The Quarterbacks: Both teams consider the quarterback position to be a strength. After week one, Gator fans aren’t so sure about that. They love John Brantley and support him, but a shaky first start (for a number of reasons, many of which weren’t necessarily his fault) has some wondering how long it will take him to get into a groove. In the green and gold, B.J. Daniels is the leader and biggest star the Bulls have. He looked every bit of great in his first game of the season and was comfortable in Skip Holtz’s system. Even if it was limited against Stony Brook. Still, Daniels was everything he needed to be. Based on his experience as a starter and Brantley’s less than desirable game one, the verdict is…Advantage: USF
The Running Game: USF’s running game looked solid in week one, but you have to question the opponent. No offense to the Stony Brook fans out there reading this (there aren’t any), but you have to do your best to ignore almost any result against an opponent of that caliber. So the Bulls were solid. Moving on. I’ll get this out of the way, Florida has the advantage. Jeff Demps showed that at any point, he can break one. He’s faster than any other player on the field in any given matchup. That’s fact. If given a slight break in the defense, Demps can and will exploit it and there’s six points. With Mike Gillislee looking like he’s ready to claim the backup spot, that’s two Gators that can take it to the house. Advantage: Florida
The Pass Catchers: Based on talent alone, I’d have to go with Florida. Deonte Thompson, Carl Moore, Omarius Hines, Chris Rainey, Andre Debose. These are all highly capable receivers. Looking across the sideline, you find Dontavia Bogan and a band of individuals just trying to stay healthy. But here’s the thing. USF always seems to find a way to get receivers to perform. If we’re looking at what we know, which is really just what came out of week one, then the gap between the Bulls and Gators doesn’t appear to be all that much. In that case…Advantage: Push
The Offensive Line: I’ve said several times that we’re looking at what could possibly be the best group of offensive linemen the Gators have ever put together. Does anyone still think that after game one? There were snap problems, injuries and suspensions, and players stepping in that weren’t ready. Because of all of that, we have no idea what we’re getting in game two. USF on the other hand looked (and here’s that word to be used against FCS opponents) solid. Advantage: USF
Now Bulls fans don’t get all uppity to the point you start drafting letters to your congressmen, but here’s where it gets a little ugly. The defense.
The Defensive Line: The defensive line has been one of USF’s strengths in recent years and it should be again this year despite losing two NFL draft picks. Terrell McClain is a beast in the middle who loves to get dirty and disrupt any offensive play headed his way, but Florida’s depth wins out. While the Gators might not have a star at defensive end (yet, Ronald Powell is only one game into his Florida career), they have a rotation that goes three deep. Whoever is in is fresh and that can create a serious headache for any offensive line trying to keep defenders out of the backfield. At defensive tackle, the Gators have two great starters, two guys behind those starters that were former starters, and a true freshman who looked superb in his first outing. Advantage: Florida.
The Men in the Middle: During the Stony Book game, USF had a rotation of sorts going on when it came to the linebackers. During the Miami (OH) game, Florida had much of the same. Here’s the difference. The Bulls seemed to do so because they weren’t entirely sure who should be on the field. The Gators were doing it because they have the luxury of depth at the position. Staying fresh on defense is one of the most important aspects to the game. Florida has the ability to field two full units at both DL and LB. Advantage: Florida
The Secondary: I’ll always be nervous when it comes to the USF defensive backfield. Always. Great one game, Pop Warner-ish the next. Even against Stony Brook, there were players grossly missing assignments early in the game. The Bulls have talent. They need consistency. Florida’s secondary, on the other hand, looked good and Janoris Jenkins seemed to make the leap to great in one game. The Gators possess ball hawks and hard hitters all with amazing catch-up speed. Daniels can have a good day, but he’ll have his work cut out for him. Advantage: Florida
The Special Teams: This one should be easy. USF’s punt return unit looked anything but good. Florida has the advantage because of the turnover potential, but that doesn’t mean the Gators were all that much better. The best punter in the world punted only once, but managed a paltry 27 yards. Add to that some questions in the kicking game for both schools and special teams could get ugly. Advantage: Florida
So add it all up and come out with a guaranteed winner, right? HECK NO! Florida scored a five. USF managed two. And the lords of push took home one. Does this mean the Gators will come out victorious? No. Does this equate to a superior advantage for Florida based on the five-to-two margin? Of course not. It only means what I think and what you choose to take from it.
On paper, shaky first week and all, the Gators are the better team. On the field, historically, Florida is still the top program. But who really has any idea what will happen on Saturday? It’s that shaky start that has people giving USF a chance, even if it’s an outside one. The powers that set lines think the Gators hold a two touchdown or more advantage. Could be. My guess would be somewhere around there. But that doesn’t mean you should bet on it either.
All I know is that I’ve been waiting for this game since March 19, 2008 (the date The Bull Gator came to life) and now it’s less than two days away.