Florida Gators 44 – South Carolina Gamecocks 11; Gators Take Control Of SEC East In Big Victory

With a 44-11 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks, the Florida Gators took control of the SEC East. At 7-0 (6-0 SEC), the Gators have two more conference games to get through before a possible trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. It seemed a year away before the 2012 season began, but after seven games, it’s now a very real possibility.

Florida Gators Fans

Watching the first half, you felt that the Gators had control of the game despite a (beyond) subpar offensive performance. It was an odd feeling, but when the Gators entered the locker room leading 21-6, there was a definite aura of victory. While Florida wasn’t moving the ball particularly well, they were winning by two scores and the defense was playing up to its high expectations. If you told me a team with 29 total yards of offense could lead a football game by 15 after 30 minutes of play, I would have told you that you were out of your mind. But you would have been right and that’s all that matters.

The second half was more kind to the Gators offense. Although, after 60 minutes, Florida was still outgained. The Gators scored an unfathomable 44 points on 181 total yards. Turnovers and special teams will do that for you though. And it doesn’t hurt to have a ridiculously unbelievable statline like this one…

Jeff Driskel – 11/16, 93 yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions

Amazed? Well, here were the numbers at the half…

Jeff Driskel – 5/7, 15 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions

The Gators have passed for less than 100 yards in three-straight games for the first time since before Steve Spurrier roamed the home team’s sidelines. They have also won all three of those games and two against top-10 teams. I’ll say that again to be sure you’ve heard me. The Gators have won three-straight games–two against top-10 teams–while passing for less than 100 yards in each.

In this one, they didn’t run it particular well either. That’s saying something for South Carolina’s defense and not necessarily a lack of production from Florida. The Gators had trouble blocking the Gamecocks front four to no surprise to anyone. It’s a talented South Carolina defense, but Florida managed to do enough to win. I would say just enough by looking at the stats, but then I glance at the final score. A 33-point win classifies as much more than “just enough.”

There you have it Gators fans. Another win–the seventh off the season. During Will Muschamp’s first season as head coach, the Gators won a total of seven games and needed the bowl game to hit that mark. This time around, it took seven games to get to seven. If you’re out tonight celebrating the victory, go ahead and order yourself a seven and seven. You deserve it. We all do. But the biggest congrats goes to the Florida Gators; our Florida Gators. 7-0 is so sweet and it’s always great to be a Florida Gator.

Football Preview: Florida Gators Vs. Bowling Green Falcons – September 1, 2012

Football is back. More important, Florida Gators football is back. We were patient – as much so as we could be. We waited and waited and waited until we couldn’t wait anymore. The Gators are finally back in action today, home at The Swamp hosting the Bowling Green Falcons. Pre-outcome, it’s a very good day. A great one. Post-outcome, we hope for the same. College football and our beloved orange and blue are back.

The Facts

Opponent: Bowling Green Falcons
When: Saturday, September 1, 2012 – 3:30 PM (Eastern)
Where: Gainesville, FL
Television/Radio: ESPN2, ESPN3.com, Gator Sports Network, GatorVision
Records: Season opener.
Rankings: Florida: 23/23, Bowling Green: NR
Current Streak: Season opener.
Point Spread: Florida -29
Over/Under: 48
Calculated Score: Florida 38-9/39-10
Points Scored: Oh yeah, season opener.

The Preview

It’s year two for head coach Will Muschamp. This is the one that could make or break his career as the leader of the Florida Gators. Muschamp needs his team to take a step forward from 2011. Most coaches get three seasons these years and that’s the guess with Muschamp, but another rough go of it in 2012 and athletic director Jeremy Foley could begin a new search. The record doesn’t have to be perfect, but the play on the field has to be close. The Gators have stumbled through the last two seasons and that’s more than enough for the school, the coaches, the players and the fans. This is a defining season for more than just Muschamp, but for the entire program.

The quarterbacks are the biggest topic of discussion. Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will each get a quarter during the first half. The rest of the game will be figured out from there. This game may or may not give us the answer of who will carry the Gators through the rest of the season. It’s a true QB battle and one carrying into the regular season. We aren’t the only ones watching with anticipation. Everyone wants to know how good the Gators will be in 2012 and if both or either of the quarterbacks can bring a spark back to the offense.

Of course, that also means the running game has to improve and the wide receivers need to step up (well, more than step up). There’s talent at running back, wide receiver and tight end, but it’s largely unproven. With plenty of questions, we hope Saturday brings answers. What will Brent Pease’s system bring? Can Mike Gillislee really rush for 1,500 yards and cross the goal line 24 times? Can the Gators find a go-to receiver? Can the converted defensive linemen contribute at tight end? Can the offensive line hold up and stay healthy? So many questions and the answers will soon start pouring in.

Defense could be what gets us all the most excited about this season. Plenty of the “experts” believe the Gators have one of the nation’s best defenses. We like to hear that, but we’d love to see it. The defense was the strength last season and kept the Gators in some games, but when you post a final record of 7-6, it’s hard to be too excited about the play of any unit. Regardless, the defensive talent (and potential) keeps us going. This could be a special season for the Gators on that side of the ball. There are, however, to big musts: LIMIT MISTAKES and CREATE TURNOVERS. The Gators need to do both to truly move to the elite level.

And then there’s special teams. Many think this unit is the best in the country. The Gators have one of the nation’s top kickers in Caleb Sturgis and most dynamic kick returners in Andre Debose. If the punt team can get a feel to it of the Eric Wilbur and Chas Henry days, things could be special. And then there are the blocks. Under Urban Meyer (GASP! I said his name!), the Gators brought the pressure time after time, to great results for the most part. A block can change the entire outcome of a game. We know this. We’ve experienced it.

We’re getting close. The game is mere hours away. Enjoy the day. Enjoy the season. Enjoy the Florida Gators.

Will Muschamp Says Florida Gators Will Rotate Quarterbacks By Quarter In Season Opener

There will be a starting quarterback on Saturday when the Florida Gators host the Bowling Green Falcons in the 2012 season opener for both teams. That QB won’t see the field during the second quarter though.

Will Muschamp has said that whichever quarterback starts the game will play the entire first quarter. The one that doesn’t start will get to show his stuff during the second quarter. At that point, Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease will make the decision of what to do in the second half.

The goal is to see both play and, hopefully, not throw either Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel out of whatever rhythm they may have developed. By rotating during drives, you may take out the hot hand prematurely. This method should at least give each quarterback a few drives to get comfortable and show the world what they can do.

We’re guessing that whoever starts will not get pulled if a drive carries over from the end of the first quarter to the start of the second. That’s just a guess though because no one really knows what Muschamp is thinking.

In theory, this may be the way to go until Muschamp and Pease can determine who their top guy is. Unless they plan on using each in certain situations (which could still happen), they hope to give each a chance to face everything opposing defenses throw at them. This means keeping Brissett in even if it’s third and short and allowing Driskel to remain in during all passing situations.

It sounds like the goal is to find a true number one. I’m sure we’ll all have plenty more to say about that after the first game.

2012 Football Recruiting: Skyler Mornhinweg Switches To Florida; Gators Add Quarterback

The Florida Gators have added a 21st member to their 2012 recruiting class. Number 21 comes in the form of quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg who was previously committed to the Penn State Nittany Lions. Mornhinweg began to look into other options when PSU began recruiting other quarterbacks. It didn’t hurt that the Gators new offense coordinator – Brent Pease – began the hunt for a passer as well. The match was made and the 6’3″, 215-pound Mornhinweg – son of Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg – chose Florida.

You won’t find Mornhinweg at or near the top of many quarterback lists, but he has a strong arm and could be somewhat of a project. He won’t be asked to play for a few years and that will be beneficial for his development as he learns the system and adjusts to the college game. He is a solid addition and not a bad one considered Pease looked to add a quarterback late. Fortunately, Pease seems to be of the mindset that you should always be looking for a passer regardless of who is on the roster. I’ve said many times I share that belief and excited to see a depth chart that consistently includes more than just a starter and backup on scholarship.

Be sure to check out the updated commitment list. More links will be added to that page – and hopefully more names – in the upcoming days.

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Week 14 BlogPoll Top 25: Alabama, Take Your Seat At The Table

We have one team set to play in the national championship game and another needing one final victory. At this point, you better get used to the idea of a rematch if you haven’t already, because the LSU Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide are on their way to one. Additional comments below.

There you have it. One half of the national championship game has been all but determined. It will take a BCS miracle – or debacle depending on how you look at it – to knock Alabama out of the no. 2 spot, so that’s where they sit in my poll as well.

No. 3 is up for debate. Both the BCS Standings and AP Top 25 put the Oklahoma State Cowboys in that spot, but I’m in line with the USA Today Poll and have them at no. 5. Look, I was all for the Cowboys playing for the title, but then they lost to the Iowa State Cyclones in a game they were leading 17-7 early and turned over the ball five times. If they can rebound against the rival Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday, then we can discuss their ranking again, but for now, they have the harder climb in my opinion.

Not that no. 3 really matters. It all may be said and done for anyone other than LSU and Bama. The risers of the week – the Virginia Tech Hokies – are in that spot in my poll and, like Oklahoma State and the Stanford Cardinal, will be cheering for the Georgia Bulldogs this Saturday. Cheer all you want; I don’t see an upset happenining.

The Arkansas Razorbacks were tied for the drop of the week, but win the honor outright because of what they may have lost. It’s all over for Arkansas, but you can be proud of a season in which you only lost to no. 1 and no. 2. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but the SEC West gave no free passes this season.

On to conference championship weekend and one final BlogPoll before the bowl games are decided.

Week 13 BlogPoll Top 25: Where The SEC Rules

This week’s SB Nation BlogPoll takes an AP Top 25 approach to it by ranking the USC Trojans. And not only ranking those probationary warriors, but putting them just outside the top 10 looking in. More hard-hitting analysis follows the ballot.

What do you do when you find yourself very late in the college football season with three teams from not only one conference, but one division in that conference, in the top three? You give up. You come to the realization that sometimes it is okay to quit and you give up. There’s no shame in that; chaos can have that effect on things. So you give up and move on, but before doing so, you beat the discussion to death.

The LSU Tigers are the no. 1 team in the nation and rightfully so, but their path to keeping that spot isn’t easy. A game against the no. 3 Arkansas Razorbacks is followed up by (if the Tigers win) a matchup with the no. 13 Georgia Bulldogs. LSU may still be no. 1 in two weeks, or they may be hoping to find a way to back into the BCS National Championship Game. If the Tigers do win out, who they play is anyone’s guess. If the season were to end today it would be the Alabama Crimson Tide, again, but it doesn’t end today. Or tomorrow. Or next week. Let’s move on from this before our headache intensifies.

The Michigan State Spartans are this week’s big climber, up five spots from last week, but the most important jumper may be the Virginia Tech Hokies. The no. 6 Hokies have only one loss – to the no. 16 Clemson Tigers – and are doing everything in their power to make a push for a title game appearance. If voters rule out the possibility of a rematch, Virginia Tech might look like a good alternative when all is said and done.

The biggest losers of the week are the Southern Miss Golden Eagles, which were of course the team I told you to keep an eye on only a week earlier. Although Southern Miss takes home the title by falling 13 spots, the Oklahoma State Cowboys’ drop was the most painful. The Cowboys all but eliminated themselves from championship contention and their instate rivals – the Oklahoma Sooners – did so as well (even if their odds of making it were unbelievably slim). The Oregon Ducks? Well, their right there as well as another team that fell out of the discussion.

We now move to another week of games and what will almost surely be more of that unwanted (but secretly desired) chaos.

The Bull Gator Week 12 BlogPoll Top 25

The TBG entry in the BlogPoll in all its glory with expanded commentary below…

LSU and Oklahoma State hold the inside track to play for the national title, but you already knew that. Houston keeps winning, but is as much of a long shot as Boise State is year after year. The Broncos and Stanford did make the picture a little clearer though by bowing out of the race. Where things will get interesting is if the Tigers or Cowboys lose.

If LSU does lose a game, can you realistically take Alabama or Oregon – two teams the Tigers beat – over them? No you can’t, but as we’ve seen in the past, losing late in the season hurts more than losing early. The Ducks’ loss to the Tigers has almost reached out of site, out of mind status.

If Oklahoma State drops one, is the possibility of a LSU-Bama rematch restored? The Crimson Tide would be the most attractive team to play for the title with only one very close loss to the nation’s top team, but they also wouldn’t have won their own conference. Of course, the alternative isn’t much better. The Ducks could win the Pac-12, but like Bama, Oregon has already lost to LSU.

All of that and it boils down to this, the picture is only clear if the Tigers and Cowboys win out. If one, or both, don’t, enjoy the chaos.

The big climbers of the week are Georgia (up four spots) and Michigan (up five). The Bulldogs are in the driver’s seat to win the SEC East, which is almost laughable considering none of us expected that before the season. It wouldn’t be the first time the “experts” crowned a champion too early. The Wolverines are part of a Big Ten contingent at 8-2 that makes that conference about as easy to figure out as all the scandal surrounding it.

The biggest losers of the week are Cincinnati (falling 10 spots) and Penn State (a 12-spot drop and a season that will be difficult to salvage due to one of the darkest clouds hanging over it we’ve ever seen). The Bearcats still have the inside track to the Big East while the Nittany Lions 5-1 Big Ten record could quickly become 5-3 with visits to Ohio State and Wisconsin to close the regular season.

One team to keep an eye on is Southern Miss who could quietly move into the top 10 before all is said and done.

The Bull Gator Week 11 BlogPoll Top 25

Plenty more to come on this Monday, but we start with this week’s TBG entry into the SB Nation BlogPoll. A three-loss team enters the poll for the first time and while the undefeateds rule, Alabama still has the upper hand over Boise State and Houston.

Quick Look: South Carolina Gamecocks @ Arkansas Razorbacks

Quickly racing through the SEC. Well, part of it. Not all of it.

So what if the number one team in the nation is taking on the number two team in the nation? So what I say. That’s because there’s another top-10 SEC matchup on Saturday, even if no. 7 Arkansas and no. 9 South Carolina don’t always look like it. That’s not to say the Razorbacks and Gamecocks don’t deserve their rankings, but they’ve both taken their lumps while getting to identical 7-1 records.

This game is being overshadowed by what you could call its big brother. It has a 45-minute start time advantage that will allow us all to give it our full attention for exactly that much time. Then at 8:00 it will go to the small television (hypothetically, I’ll be watching them both at a bar in Gainesville and won’t have control over which TV shows what, but I can guess how it’ll go).

A win is important for both schools, but more so for South Carolina. Arkansas is the higher ranked team, but regardless of their ranking could be on the outside looking in when it comes to BCS bowl games thanks to SEC West rivals Alabama and LSU. With a win, the Razorbacks could also find themselves in the top five in a week or so depending on what occurs above them, but for the Gamecocks, it’s another positive step toward Atlanta. South Carolina already holds the tiebreaker over Georgia after beating the Bulldogs in September, but a loss would see them fall to second place in the division. Basically, the Gamecocks need to just keep winning as opposed to falling into a position that would require a Bulldogs’ loss as well.

What does this matchup come down to? Why offense and defense of course. South Carolina’s defense is playing well and hasn’t given up more than 16 points since the middle of September. Of course, the Gamecocks’ also haven’t scored more than 21 themselves in that same time period. Then there’s Arkansas. The Razorbacks scored only 14 in their loss to the Tide at the end of September. In their other seven games, they scored 51, 52, 38, 42, 38, 29 and 31. That’s a lot of points. Arkansas also gives up a lot. 33rd in the nation in scoring defense isn’t bad; allowing 24 or more in five of the last six isn’t great. Luckily for the Razorbacks, their offense can more than keep up. And that takes us to the prediction…

I like South Carolina’s defense, but I think I have convinced myself that I like Arkansas’ offense more. The Razorbacks may have a hard time keeping their 36.9 points per game pace, but the Gamecocks’ recent scoring woes (with the exception of the blowout win over Kentucky) means Arkansas won’t have to. 27-20 Razorbacks is my pick. It might not be right, it might not even be close, but there it is.

Quick Look: LSU Tigers @ Alabama Crimson Tide

Quick Look has gone beyond just Florida and into the expanse of the SEC schedule. That could be a good or bad thing depending on your following of college football, but get excited because it also now includes predictions from someone who is generally regarded as the garbage garbage throws away in terms of picking games.

Rarely does it seem the game of the year/decade/century lives up to the hype. I haven’t done the statistical research to back that up, but take a game played by our very own Gators as an example. The 2009 SEC Championship Game was thought to be a special moment in the making. It was, for the other team playing in it. It’s easy to get excited for this Saturday’s matchup between the nation’s top ranked teams – Alabama and LSU – but it’s also just as easy to blow it off, believing there’s no way it will live up to its hype as the true national championship game. I have decided to get excited for a number of reasons that I now present to you in numbered, but not ordered, list fashion because we all like lists. They’re clean and tidy and we can follow along relatively easily.

1. I truly like watching Trent Richardson play the game of football. Some fans will say it’s blasphemous to enjoy the field exploits of a player on a rival squad. I say call me a blasphemer. Richardson is the type of player that makes me enjoy watching football. Me likes the talent and power; Richardson possesses plenty of both. Regardless of the uniform one may wear, I can’t dismiss good play and I won’t dismiss Richardson.

2. Games full of defense can be boring if it’s because they also include inept offenses. The Tide and Tigers possess some darn good defenses that are also enjoyable to watch. I see big plays, hits and moments in everyone’s future.

3. There’s a slight hope that Les Miles will pull off a fake punt allowing a certain punter that won’t be named to take off down the sidelines toward the end zone. If said punter decides it’s a good idea to spread his wings again, one can only hope an Alabama defender is within utter destruction distance. (TBG does not condone violence in football games, but can get onboard with the idea of “he had it coming.”)

4. I’ll be so hyped after Florida’s blowout of SEC East fellow Vanderbilt that I’ll still be in the clouds when this game kicks off. Yes? No?

5. There’s talk that if this game is close enough and both teams have a good showing, there could be national title game rematch implications. I find that hard to believe if someone like Oklahoma State or Stanford remains undefeated, but the scenarios will be dissected ad nauseam over the weeks leading up to the selection special (or whatever that thing is called). Think you’ve seen the media go crazy over something like, let’s say, Tim Tebow? Just wait until an undefeated BCS conference team is passed by a one-loss SEC team that lost that one game to the team they are set to play for the title.

Being excited for an event is good thing. I’ll enjoy watching this game one way or another and the outcome can only enhance that. As for that outcome, I might as well get to my prediction…

There’s that old saying that to win football games you have to do two things well – run the ball and stop the run. In my humble and typically incorrect opinion, Alabama does both just slightly better than LSU. Therefore, I’m going with the Crimson Tide and a score of 24-21. I came up with that score using a mathematical equation that’s far too complicated for your feeble minds and would only cause my email box to fill up with praise and job offers if I posted it here. Or I took a few minutes and guessed. Take your pick and enjoy what should at least be the game of the moment.