Florida Gators 69 – Texas A&M Aggies 36: Win Streak Reaches 13

Is there a sport in which the saying “defense wins championships” doesn’t apply? If so, it’s not college men’s basketball and that’s a good thing for the Florida Gators.

Patric Young, Florida Gators

On Saturday, Florida defeated Texas A&M 69-36. The win was the 13th in a row for No. 3 Florida and that streak could continue for quite some time. The 19-2 (8-0 SEC) Gators only have two games remaining on their regular season schedule against ranked opponents. Both of those contests pit Florida against Kentucky. It could be smooth sailing for the Gators between now and the NCAA Tournament and this team is good enough to make some serious noise come March.

Holding the Aggies to less than a point per minute is impressive; holding Texas A&M to less than 26% from the field may be more so. Not every game will go this way, but the Gators’ defense is an unmatched strength in the SEC. While there is talent elsewhere in the conference, Florida is benefiting from a down year all around. That’s not to take anything away from the Gators, but were at that point that anything less than both a regular season SEC title and conference tourney title would be a disappointment.

Florida was led by sophomore guard Michael Frazier II who led all scorers with 21 points. Only sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith joined Frazier II in the double-digit scoring club, but that didn’t matter much as not a single Aggie scored more than seven points.

Finney-Smith was one rebound away from a double-double, while senior center Patric Young was one point away from the same. Young led all players with 14 rebounds. Senior forward Will Yeguete also had a double-digit rebounding outing with 10.

Despite the big win, head coach Billy Donovan was ever the realist. “We haven’t even played half our league games yet,” Donovan said.

He’s right of course, but it’s exciting to see this team seemingly improve with every game. It’s scary to the rest of the nation that the Gators are about to get even better. On Tuesday, against Missouri, highly-touted freshman forward Chris Walker will finally make his debut.

Florida Gators 2013 Football Schedule Released; Gators Keep LSU, Add Arkansas

The Florida Gators 2013 football schedule has been released and the debates have begun. Although, there weren’t really that many and all remains well in Gator Nation. Without delay, here’s what the Gators will face in 2013:

Will Muschamp - Florida Gators

August 31 – Toledo – Gainesville, FL
September 7 – Miami – Miami, FL
September 21 – Tennessee – Gainesville, FL
September 28 – Kentucky – Lexington, KY
October 5 – Arkansas – Gainesville, FL
October 12 – LSU – Baton Rouge, LA
October 19 – Missouri – Columbia, MO
November 2 – Georgia – Jacksonville, FL
November 9 – Vanderbilt – Gainesville, FL
November 16 – South Carolina – Columbia, SC
November 23 – Georgia Southern – Gainesville, FL
November 30 – Florida State – Gainesville, FL

Not many surprises and there really shouldn’t have been. This is the bridge season. 2012 was the first season of the 14-team SEC. 2013 is the bridge to the future. And 2014 should show us what to actually expect in the future. For now, things remain fairly typical. For example, Tennessee remains in the third-game-of-the-season spot, LSU is still on the schedule and in October, and Florida plays Georgia in Jacksonville right around the same time of year they always do.

There are some points of note though; the first being the bye week. In 2012, the Gators were off the week before facing LSU. At that point, Florida had played four games. That won’t be the case in 2013. The Gators first bye comes after just two games. BUT…there is a second bye in late October between the games against Missouri and Georgia. Thank the calendar for that. 2012 was one of those weird years during which September had five Saturdays. In 2013, that would be November.

For the second season–and for obvious reasons–the Gators get only two SEC West opponents on the schedule. There was wonder whether the annual contest with LSU would stop, but it hasn’t…yet. For 2013, the Tigers are still on the schedule. The Gators also get Arkansas, who will visit Gainesville just one week before the Gators travel to Baton Rouge. So Texas A&M was one and done. They’ll be back, but we won’t know when for a while now.

We knew about the out-of-conference schedule, so there are no surprises there. No surprises overall really. 2013 will come and go and the schedule will look similar to those of the past (or at least the one 14-team SEC schedule we have to compare it to). Now we wait for the 2014 one to be released…a year from now.

Florida Gators Rise To No. 14 In Both Polls; We Just Might Have Something Here

The Florida Gators have moved up to No. 14 in both major polls. The Gators can attribute the move to a second half against the Tennessee Volunteers that was a thing of beauty. Starting the season at No. 23, the Gators have showed enough improvement over the first three games to warrant a top-15 ranking by the voters. Is this rise a sign of things to come? Or simply a matter of an early schedule that doesn’t scare many?

This time around, let’s plant ourselves firmly in the glass-half-full camp. Over the first three games, the Florida Gators have shown the world enough to lead us to believe this train is headed in the right direction. Jeff Driskel’s passer efficiency rating is 30 points higher than John Brantley’s was last season. Mike Gillislee has lived up to his lofty goals. Jordan Reed is starting to look like he could be an NFL tight end. And the defense is playing the final 30 minutes of games like it’s the last time they’ll ever set foot on a field. Things aren’t perfect, otherwise we wouldn’t have to marvel at halftime adjustments, but they may just be better than we thought they would be two weeks ago.

Take Driskel for example. Heading into the season opener against Bowling Green, the Gators were a joke to many because they hadn’t chosen a starting quarterback. Driskel got the nod (sort of, there was that whole first play thing) in the first quarter and came out for the second half as the Gators’ quarterback. He was named the starter for game two and there are few out there now questioning that decision. We’ll play the numbers game quickly:

143.0 – 166.3 – 195.0

That’s the progression of Driskel’s efficiency rating over the first three games. Even that 143.0 against Bowling Green is higher than Brantley’s 2011 (140.8). Driskel currently settles in at 170.2 on the season. He’s completing 71.2% of his passes and has yet to throw an interception. Sure, he’s been sacked nine times, but one of those three games was against the team that lead the nation in sacks in 2011 – Texas A&M. Even in that aspect, he’s improving. Driskel appeared much more aware of the defense, the sidelines, of everything against Tennessee.

The Gators need more than a solid to good to great quarterback to lead them to more wins; they need an entire team. There are improvements to be made and penalties to disappear. There are coverages to improve and penalties to disappear. There are blocking schemes to get down to a science and penalties to disappear. There are crucial third downs to stop and penalties to disappear. And then there are the penalties that need to disappear.

It’s easy to get overly positive after a quick string of victories early in the season. Let’s not kid ourselves though, we aren’t thinking national championship or even SEC title at this point. We’re thinking of Kentucky and for a few days at least smiling about the future. There’s promise in this team and hope of renewed fire. The second half against Tennessee was one that allowed those of us fans to sit back and enjoy Florida football. The tile in front of my television thanked me as, for even just a few minutes, the pacing stopped. There’s plenty of season left, but, for now, there’s a little more excitement back in the air.

Football Recap: Florida Gators 20 – Texas A&M Aggies 17

We here at The Bull Gator propose the Florida Gators, their coaches, and their many fans adopt what has become our motto of sorts around here the last few seasons: just win. As we said last week, style points be damned; the current state of the program is one of which winning is of the utmost importance. It may not be pretty. It may not even rank as ugly at times. It may be downright rotten, but a win is a win is a win. It’s not the best way to think, but it has become what we lean toward. Florida Gators Football – Just Win! I think t-shirts are in order.

The first quarter wasn’t bad. Not really at all. Maybe that’s a positive, glass-half-full outlook that’s a little too optimistic than realistic, but I’ll go with it. The defense played tentative and looked like it had trouble figuring out exactly what the Texas A&M Aggies were going to do on offense, but it wasn’t time to sound the alarm. The offense put together a good drive during which Jeff Driskel looked improved and Mike Gillislee was Mike Gillislee. Yes, I’m basing that quote off of one game, but now we can put another game into it. Gillislee scored both of the Gators touchdowns in the 20-17 win and was again the offensive star.

Let’s just skip right over the second quarter. This was the tweet at the time: “FDALJFKDAFUINCEPAEPEUAHFENEUPHCIPEJAI…beer.” I stand by that comment. Just a whole big bucket of yuck.

The defense looked better during the second half. Better to the point that they didn’t allow a single point and allowed the offense the chance to get back into the game. The Aggies got their yards, but the Gators’ defense didn’t let them get their points. There are the same concerns – tackling, tentative play, allowing the run game to thrive in the middle of the field (especially on quarterback draws) – but right now for a number of reasons including beer (mentioned above) let’s go ahead and take zero points allowed over the final 30 minutes.

The offense wasn’t perfect in the second half. 10 points pretty much indicates that. But it did enough. Enough that helped get the win and push the Gators to 2-0 (1-0 SEC). That 1-0 SEC is enormously important. I’m not remotely thinking ahead to Atlanta – that would be crazy – but I will take comfort in 1-0 in conference play for now. I have an entire week before I have to start worrying about my poor heart again.

And finally there are the thanks that need to be given. I thank fake field goals, Jordan Reed, Caleb Sturgis’s foot, Jeff Driskel’s pass to Omarius Hines and, of course, Mike Gillislee. I thank the Florida Gators for pulling out a win that didn’t look like it was going to be a win. It didn’t resemble anything close to it at points. I won’t thank Will Muschamp though; that’s going to take a lot more. But I thank the rest and I move forward with my weekend with a deep sigh of relief. Go Gators! Just Win!

Football Preview: Florida Gators @ Texas A&M Aggies – September 8, 2012

Road games this early in the season aren’t common for the Florida Gators. It’s not that we haven’t seen them, but there’s an infrequency to traveling this early in the season. This time around it’s different. It’s Welcome to the SEC Weekend. The conference’s newest members are hosting two of its most storied programs. Florida travels to College Station to face the Texas A&M Aggies while the Missouri Tigers host the Georgia Bulldogs.

The Facts

Opponent: Texas A&M Aggies
When: Saturday, September 8, 2012 – 3:30 PM (Eastern)
Where: College Station, TX
Television/Radio: ESPN
Records: Florida: 1-0, Texas A&M: –
Rankings: Florida: 24/23, Texas A&M: –
Current Streak: Florida: W1, Texas A&M: –
Point Spread:
Over/Under: 49.5
Calculated Score: There are no ties in college football anymore.
Points Scored: Florida: 27, Texas A&M: –
Points Allowed: Florida: 14, Texas A&M: –

The Preview

The Gators have a starting quarterback, which shouldn’t be something we have to say two games into a season, but they didn’t have one for week one. At least, they’d like us to believe they didn’t have a starting quarterback. Plenty has come out following the season opening win that suggests that Jeff Driskel had the upper hand over Jacoby Brissett going into week one and it would have taken a disastrous performance for him to not get the ball in the second half.

So the Gators have their man, for now, and move forward to SEC play with a quarterback that has plenty to work on, but gave us one thing that makes us smile. That one thing? Confidence. If you had to pick one big difference between Driskel and Brissett during the 2011 season, it was confidence. Neither played well and they weren’t really expected to right out of the gate, but Brissett looked composed as Driskel looked scared. In week one, Driskel had his confidence under control. The Gators never got much of that from John Brantley during his two years as a starter, but desperately need it from whoever holds on to this job for the long-term. Driskel can get better, but game one was an improvement and that’s what we want to see.

If Driskel hasn’t made that game one to game two leap we all hope for (or maybe we don’t; it really depends if you were pulling for him or Brissett from the beginning, doesn’t it?), it will be a heavy dose of Mike Gillislee and the run game. That’s not necessarily a horrible thing. The Gators ran the ball 42 times in the win over Bowling Green. On those 42 carries, they totaled 220 yards, which was good for 5.2 yards per carry. An effective passing game needs to complement that, but it was good to see the senior running back take control and lead the unit to success. If Gillislee even gets close to his week one performance, he’ll set career highs in carries and yards some time during game three. The challenge presented to him is keeping it up.

Given how early it is in the season (it’s ridiculously early people; please just realize that), we won’t get too critical when discussing the wide receivers just yet. Frankie Hammond Jr. showed some burst and we might be okay if Quinton Dunbar can get multiple passes thrown his way each week. The issue is the player wearing No. 4. Kick returner extraordinaire he is, but reliable wide receiver he needs to be (sorry for sounding like Yoda there for a second). Andre Debose needs to be put into the passing game, but he needs to prove he should be on a consistent basis. We’ll reserve full judgement for a few more games, but Debose needs to make the offensive leap.

The defense was expected to be the strength and they were. There were first-game wrinkles, such as a few tackling issues and not enough aggressiveness in the run game, but it was an overall serviceable performance that showed us this side of the ball can be something special. Allowing 327 yards in your opener to Bowling Green is far from ideal, but, again, it was game one and Will Muschamp appeared to be figuring out his personnel rotation. We learned that no one can take plays off, the defensive backs need to wrap up, and the line needs to bring pressure whether it’s a running down or a passing down. The defense needs to be as great as everyone predicted. The offense is figuring itself out and it will be rough at times. That’s where the defense needs to step up.

And then there are the penalties. We’ve already covered penalties and the problem they present. Our main thought: fix it.

The Gators welcome the Aggies to the SEC and the Aggies welcome the Gators to College Station. It’s the beginning of a new era for the Southeastern Conference. Exciting for all of us that are fans of SEC football, but as fans of the orange and blue first, we just want to win. Go Gators!

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.

Florida Gators Men’s Track & Field Win 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championship

On Saturday, the Florida Gators’ Men’s track and field team completed their dream season winning the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championship. It’s the first outdoor championship in school history. The title also marks the third of the season for Florida athletics and when added to the men’s NCAA Indoor Championship is a remarkable feat.

The Gators beat out the LSU Tigers and Texas A&M Aggies for the title. It marks the first time since 2003 that one program won both the outdoor and indoor championships (that was Arkansas; they also did it in 2005, but the NCAA no longer acknowledges their outdoor title from that season).

After winning the indoor championship for the past three seasons, the outdoor one always seemed just out of reach. Finishing in the top three in 2009, 2010 and 2011 was impressive, but not what the Gators wanted. It all came together this year and Florida became only the sixth program ever to win both championships in one academic year.

Congrats to the Gators’ third national championship squad of the 2011-12 season.

First Kevin Sumlin, Now Les Miles; Disagreeing With Will Muschamp Becoming The Norm

Although mild by comparison, LSU Tigers’ head coach Les Miles has joined the ranks of those disagreeing with Florida Gators’ head coach Will Muschamp. It’s not an argument of Texas A&M levels (even though that wasn’t much of an argument either), but a difference of opinion between the two regarding the annual game between their teams.

Last week, Muschamp voiced his support of keeping the game between the Gators and Tigers on the schedule every season. The stature of the teams coupled with the rivalry that has been created is reason enough for many to want to see the game on an annual basis. With the changing landscape of the SEC and the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M, Miles doesn’t feel the same way. At least, that’s what we’re devising from this:

“This is all based on some vague tradition that is not considering that you’re adding teams to the conference.” – Les Miles, LSU Tigers’ Head Coach

Miles went on to say that Florida isn’t in the same state as LSU (a true fact) and that the rivalry is only there because of the enjoyment of playing each other (uh, okay). The LSU head coach has never been easy to understand when it comes to attempting to read into his words, but this much seems obvious: he doesn’t value the rivalry that has been created over the past 41 years as much as Muschamp does.

Florida and LSU have faced each other 57 times (and each of those last 41 years) and have each won six of the last 12 meetings. Whether Miles wants to admit it’s a true rivalry or not, it has become one and should continue long after these two coaches have moved on. It should be preserved over attempts to create new rivalries with the new SEC members. Those will come over time, but this rivalry has already flourished.

Muschamp reiterated his point again. He believes the game is good for both programs, for college football, and for the conference. He’s right. Sure, the SEC doesn’t need much help when it comes to big games and national prominence, but there’s no need to start to eliminate valuable rivalries now.

Kevin Sumlin Tells Will Muschamp To Mind His Own Business; September 8 Just Got Better

On September 8, the Florida Gators will play their first SEC game of the 2012 season. On September 8, the Texas A&M Aggies will play their first SEC game EVER. There’s enough hype for the game as it is, but we could always use more when it comes to college football’s top conference. The head coaches of both programs are helping out by filling up our glasses.

There was this:

“You ever been to College Station? It’ll be the only time you go.” – Will Muschamp, Florida Gators’ Head Coach

And then there was this:

“He needs to worry about his own team.” – Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M Aggies’ Head Coach

I can’t tell you if Muschamp is right – I’ve never been to College Station – and I will say that Sumlin is somewhat correct, but oh the fun.

We follow college football to be entertained. Those of us that aren’t paid to do so enjoy the sport immensely and want to be entertained by it (those that are paid surely feel the same way). Because of that, we enjoy the acceleration of a rivalry through trash talk. Because we also want our teams to focus on winning, we can also agree with Sumlin’s response to Muschamp’s comment. However, both men may be right in their approach.

Like I said, I don’t know if Muschamp’s statement is factual, but I do know it served its purpose. It entertained fans and added fuel to the fire of a new rivalry. Sumlin’s approach was correct too in the perception that the comments weren’t important to him and that the Gators have plenty of work to do and Muschamp should be leading that charge.

We don’t know how either coach truly feels, but with more than three months remaining until the start of the 2012 season, we’ve been sufficiently entertained. Thank you fellas.

Will Muschamp Wants LSU To Remain On Florida’s Schedule

With the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC, many discussions have centered around what schedules will look like in the upcoming years. Will the league go to a nine-game conference schedule? Will the divisions remain as is? Will annual cross-division rivals be scrapped? We don’t know which direction commissioner Mike Slive and the SEC will take, but we do know that head coaches are in support of some possibilities and against others.

Will Muschamp has his opinions and isn’t one to shy away from them and one of those opinions involves keeping LSU on the Florida Gators’ schedule.

“I like the every year playing LSU. I think that’s good. I think that’s good for the league. It’s two national programs with the recent success we’ve both had.” – Will Muschamp, Florida Gators’ Head Coach

Muschamp is also in favor of the current eight-game conference schedule and hopes the SEC sticks with it. Regardless, he wants LSU on the schedule. The rivalry that has developed in recent years coupled with the prominence of the game is just too much to throw away and turn into a twice-every-six-years affair.

There wasn’t long ago that I may not have agreed with this. I felt that the other Tigers – Auburn – presented a stronger rivalry and should be the permanent game. It could have just been a fan’s perspective, but that was the game I wanted to see continue. Over time, that feeling has lessened and I’m more than comfortable having Florida play LSU year after year. In fact, I look forward to it with increasing anticipation. The rivalry has intensified and the fanbases have recognized that.

I don’t hate LSU with the passion a diehard Florida fan hates Florida State or Georgia or Tennessee, but I don’t have that deepdown hatred for Auburn either. It’s more of a rival’s respect of sorts and the desire to experience good football. The game has developed an aura about it over the years and is something I look forward to annually. While I still feel a rise of sorts during the seasons Florida plays Auburn, the annually contest with LSU has climbed the charts.

My vote doesn’t count, but I’m with Muschamp on this. The eight-game vs. nine-game schedule is a different argument, but keep playing LSU. The coaches want it, the players want it, and the fans want it. The SEC should want it too.