Florida Gators: Florida

SEC lunchtime links

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
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We hope you're grabbing a late lunch and can catch up on the goings on around the SEC. Unfortunately we slept in a bit -- we blame the weekend's fantastic college basketball action -- and we're running just a touch behind. So without further delay, here's some reading material for your day.

SEC lunchtime links

January, 21, 2014
Jan 21
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So this is the new College Football Playoff? On Monday, tickets to the first-ever title game under the new format became available for purchase. But the cheapest premium seats -- sounds like something of an oxymoron, doesn't it? -- come at the hefty price of $2,000.

SEC lunchtime links

December, 20, 2013
12/20/13
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After a few weeks of waiting, the bowl season begins in earnest this weekend with four games on the schedule for Saturday.

SEC lunchtime links

December, 18, 2013
12/18/13
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And we've got an early leader in the clubhouse for the best rant of the college basketball season. Southern Illinois coach Barry Hinson found another gear during a post-game press conference, calling out his players, claiming there was a sniper in the gym and even mixing in a few hilarious notes about his marriage. It's a good one and it's only a few minutes, so give it a listen.

SEC Friday mailbag: Week 11

November, 15, 2013
11/15/13
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Jared Moore (@TheJaredMoore): Why isn't Ole Miss getting any respect in the polls? Beat LSU and Texas, both of whom are ranked.

Hugh Freeze's Rebels are only a win away from getting back into the top 25, I think. Right now they're the top team receiving votes in the AP poll, and it's likely that someone will get knocked out of the rankings with a loss this weekend. But as to why Ole Miss isn't ranked today, I'm not sure. You raise a good point about its wins over LSU and Texas, though you could argue that neither is an elite team this season. That streak of three straight losses to Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M killed the Rebels in the polls. Had Ole Miss found a way to hang on against the Aggies late, we could be having a much different conversation. But it's all about momentum. A victory Saturday over Troy would give Ole Miss three consecutive wins and set it up for a nice close with Missouri and Mississippi State to end the regular season. Win both of those games and the bowl-game scenarios start looking very good for the Rebels.


Chris Flynn (@Chris_Flynn1): Do you think Auburn's ineffective passing game will finally catch up to them against Georgia and Alabama's defense?

Against Georgia? No, I think the Gus Bus will continue to roll this weekend. Mark Richt's defense has gotten better since the beginning of the season, but there are still a bunch of holes on that side of the ball. I can't get out of my head what Vanderbilt and Florida's offenses were able to do against them the last few weeks. As far as Alabama's chances of stopping Auburn's running game, I think there's a possibility of that happening. Nick Saban's chief goal is to make an offense one-dimensional and Auburn's offense is already just that. While I think calling Nick Marshall an ineffective passer is a tad unfair because he simply hasn't had to throw the ball much lately, I think it is reasonable to question his ability to drive the ball downfield through the air consistently. I know Auburn fans will point to the Texas A&M game, but let's face facts and recognize just how bad a defense the Aggies have. When you look at Marshall's Pass EPA -- his clutch-weighted expected points added on plays with pass attempts -- he ranks an uninspiring 84th nationally at 15.6.


Billy (@CuzzinBailey): 'Obligatory Gators offense 2014 question'

That's a nice way of putting it, though I'd argue you didn't really ask a question there. I could go on and on about Florida's offense but I'll try to keep this short and sweet: The Gators have zero identity on offense and that's only their second-biggest problem. Watching Florida try to move the ball on offense is painful. I don't know if they're a control-the-clock power running team or if they want to spread you out and throw the football around. It changes by possession sometimes. I understand Will Muschamp wants to run a pro style, but he doesn't have the tools to do that. He doesn't have a quarterback who can execute throws down the field and he certainly doesn't have the receivers to create separation. He had some good running backs and a decent offensive line, but we saw what injuries did there. And that, to me, is the biggest concern. Florida needs to pick an identity, stick with it and find the right guys for the system. That's a lot to ask in one offseason, even with UF's impressive recruiting class. It's really a two-year project, and nobody in Gainesville seems willing to allow that much time.


Just Me (@JustMe227): When are you hacks going to go a full year without writing about your hope that Auburn loses the Iron Bowl?

Oh, please. I wrote a few weeks ago about how Auburn's rise has reinvigorated the Iron Bowl. No one here hopes either team loses. The only thing I look for is that it's a good game because the last few haven't been. And the way things are shaping up, I think it will be a fair contest. Gus Malzahn is quickly becoming my favorite play-caller in the country. He has a feel for it and he doesn't worry about the run-pass ratio, which I like. The game being at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, it could go either way. But, hey, why don't we let a few weeks pass before we start getting too far into the matchup? I'm sure by the time Nov. 30 rolls around, both sides of the rivalry will be asking the same question you just did. If you don't think so, check out this editorial from The Wall Street Journal.

SEC lunchtime links

November, 15, 2013
11/15/13
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It's Friday, which means it's time for the SEC Mailbag. Submit your questions or comments about everything from the battle in the East to the Heisman Trophy race to whether or not Alabama will repeat as national champions. Anything you want to talk about, it's easy: get on Twitter and use the hashtag #SECMailbag or tweet directly at me to have your questions answered on the blog later today.

SEC lunchtime links

November, 13, 2013
11/13/13
12:00
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More football? Yes, please. A pair of nine-win teams go head-to-head tonight as Ball State travels to 15th-ranked Northern Illinois.

SEC lunchtime links

November, 12, 2013
11/12/13
12:00
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Hungry for football already? Remember that Ohio takes on Bowling Green and Buffalo goes toe-to-toe with Toledo tonight.

SEC Week 11: Did you know?

November, 8, 2013
11/08/13
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Did you know it's already Week 11 of the college football season? Of course you did.

But were you aware that Saturday might be the last time Johnny Manziel plays in front of the home crowd in College Station, Texas? If you didn't, don't worry. That's what we're here for.

Here's a look at some notes from ESPN Stats & Info to get you ready for Week 11:
  • Since allowing 42 points and 628 yards to Texas A&M on Sept. 14, Alabama has allowed just 4.3 points per game and two offensive touchdowns in its last six games.
  • The SEC West race could become a lot more clear depending upon the winner of LSU-Alabama. The Tide has a one-game lead on Auburn in the standings and a win Saturday could set up a monumental Iron Bowl on November 30.
  • Don’t read too much into both teams having a bye entering this game. Alabama has lost three games under Saban when coming off regular season bye week -- all vs. LSU, though LSU also had bye weeks in those matchups.
  • Zach Mettenberger has gone one direction of late and AJ McCarron has gone another. Mettenberger has seen his completion percentage and QBR drop noticeably in his last two games. He threw for 15 touchdowns and two interceptions in his first two games, but four touchdowns and five interceptions in his last two contests. McCarron, meanwhile, has improved his completion percentage and QBR in his last four games. He threw six touchdowns and three interceptions in his first four games, but 10 touchdowns and no picks in his last four contests.
  • Something's got to give. Missouri leads the SEC in turnovers forced (24) and turnover margin plus-15. Missouri also has a streak of 39 straight games with a takeaway, the longest active streak in FBS. Kentucky, however, has turned the ball over just six times all season, fewest among AQ teams.
  • Missouri also leads the SEC in sacks with 27. Defensive end Michael Sam is tied for the FBS lead with 10 sacks and is second in tackles for loss (16).
  • Kentucky has lost 14 straight games against AP-ranked opponents, including all four matchups this season. Its last victory over an AP-ranked team came over No. 10 South Carolina in 2010.
  • Auburn hasn’t been good at avoiding turnovers, but they have been excellent at preventing opponents from scoring points off turnovers. Auburn has committed 13 turnovers this season and is plus-2 in turnover margin, both middle of the pack in the SEC. But Auburn has only allowed just 10 points off turnover all season, tied with Washington for fewest in the FBS.
  • Auburn leads the SEC in rushing yards per game and yards per rush. They are tied for first in rushing touchdowns and, through nine games, they already have 20 more runs of 10 yards or more and 12 more rushing touchdowns than they had all of last season.
  • This is the fourth ranked opponent in four weeks for Tennessee and the seventh ranked opponent in an eight-game stretch. Tennessee snapped its 19-game losing streak against AP-ranked teams three weeks ago by beating then-No. 11 South Carolina. But the Vols are now 1-21 in their last 22 games against AP-ranked opponents.
  • Hard to believe, but this could be Johnny Manziel’s last home game. After this week, Texas A&M has an idle week before finishing with LSU and at Missouri. Manziel is only a sophomore but since he redshirted, he will be three years removed from high school and eligible for the NFL.
  • Texas A&M has reeled off eight straight games with 500 yards of total offense. It would be nine straight, but the Aggies finished with just 486 yards in a season-opening win against Rice. Among all FBS teams in the last 10 seasons, Texas A&M’s streak is tied for the fourth-longest and is the longest by an SEC team.
  • Dan Mullen is in his fifth season with Mississippi State and has a winning record overall (33-26) but has struggled in games against ranked opponents. Mississippi State is 2-19 vs. AP-ranked opponents under Mullen. The last ranked win came in 2010 against Florida and Mississippi State is 0-13 vs. ranked opponent since.
  • Florida has won the last 22 meetings against Vanderbilt. The Commodore's last win came in 1988.
  • With a loss Florida would be below .500 for the first time since it started 1-2 in 1992. Florida has not been below .500 this late in the season (as of Nov. 9) since 1979, when the Gators finished winless. A loss would also give Florida its first four-game losing streak since 2011.
  • Florida’s offense is last in the SEC in both yards per game (334.6) and yards per play (4.9). During Florida’s three-game losing streak, it has averaged just 236.7 yards per game and managed just three offensive touchdowns.
  • Vanderbilt is one of the slowest starting teams in FBS, being outscored 85-24 in the first quarter. That’s the second-worst point differential among BCS-AQ teams. Of the eight worst teams in first-quarter point differential, Vanderbilt is the only school with more than one win. In SEC games, Vanderbilt has been outscored 82-7 in the first quarter.

SEC Friday mailbag: Week 8

October, 18, 2013
10/18/13
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From John Miklos (@John_Miklos21): What are South Carolina's chances of winning the East now?

Alex Scarborough: Missouri is in the driver's seat of the SEC East, for now. A loss at home to Florida on Saturday -- something that's not out of the realm of possibility with James Franklin out -- could shake things up, though. I'm still not sold on Missouri's title hopes, but we'll get to that later in the post. Who I do like to win the East, to answer your question, is South Carolina. The Gamecocks weathered the early storm of the season and are well positioned to make a run at a division title with Connor Shaw and the offense humming along. Even if Missouri wins this weekend, South Carolina will have its chance to go head-to-head with the Tigers on Oct. 26. And outside of a home date with Florida, the rest of South Carolina's conference slate consists of Tennessee and Mississippi State.


From E5 (@e5usa): Best matchup in the SEC this week?

Alex Scarborough: Since I already took a few minutes discussing Missouri-Florida in the "SEC Game of the Week" post earlier, I'll take a shot at Auburn-Texas A&M. That game is interesting for so many reasons. For one, you have to wonder whether the Aggies defense will show up at all this season. With Nick Marshall back under center, Auburn could run up and down the field on offense at Kyle Field. But the Tigers will have to find a way to stop Johnny Manziel, and I just don't see that happening. Auburn's best shot of pulling off the upset is a quick score and a few turnovers to stay in the game. If not, look for Texas A&M to light up the scoreboard and run away with this one as the Aggies quietly gain momentum and positioning in the polls.


From Char B (@TheRealChar1): Do you think Alabama will win big this weekend?

Alex Scarborough: I do. While I like what Bret Bielema is building at Arkansas by focusing on winning the line of scrimmage and running the football, it's still at least a year away from working against the top competition in the SEC. And frankly, what Arkansas does best is what Alabama does even better. Coach Nick Saban built Alabama to stop the run. After weeks and weeks of spread offenses, players such as Vinnie Sunseri and Jarrick Williams are licking their chops to play near the line of scrimmage and put a hat on a hat. Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams will struggle to find many running lanes and I expect AJ McCarron and Alabama's offense to have its way against a shaky Razorbacks defense.


From C W Mahr (@drswmahr): Why are there so many doubters of Mizzou? Mauk's history and competition vs. Franklin this fall speaks highly of his ability!

Alex Scarborough: The same people questioning Missouri's legitimacy are the same ones who picked it to finish near the bottom of the SEC, myself included. I certainly didn't see this turnaround coming, even though I should have looked at that early season schedule and known it was possible. Beating Georgia, though, showed me something. While I didn't see it as the upset many did because of Georgia's injuries, beating the Bulldogs by two touchdowns made a statement. Losing James Franklin, though, is killer. That doesn't mean I doubt Maty Mauk's ability. I don't. What concerns me is the loss of continuity. The timing with receivers and the communication with the offensive line won't be the same. You simply can't replace a three-year starter under center and expect no drop-off. It simply doesn't work that way. Florida's defense is among the best in the country. Expect Will Muschamp and his staff to throw everything but the kitchen sink at Mauk on Saturday.

SEC lunchtime links

October, 17, 2013
10/17/13
12:00
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The government shutdown is over. Now we can get back to the business of helping government workers on their lunch hours.

SEC lunchtime links

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
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No, I'm not going to stand up here and scream, "Hump Day!" like that lazy camel. Instead, I'll simply point out that since it is Wednesday we're only some 24 merciful hours away from a quality college football game between No. 10 Miami and North Carolina. And I think we can all agree that watching football is much more enjoyable than watching an animal sell us insurance.
  • ESPN's Mark May and Lou Holtz debated whether Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron was the most valuable player in college football this past weekend. What was McCarron's response? Pretty much what you'd expect: "It's an honor but I'd be the first one to tell you I'm nothing without these guys."
  • Nick Marshall will start at quarterback for Auburn against Texas A&M this weekend, but Jeremy Johnson is supposed to play too. It will be interesting to see how he's used. As coach Gus Malzahn put it, "We don't want to give all our secrets away."
  • Arkansas is standing by its struggling quarterback with a road trip to Alabama coming this Saturday. Brandon Allen hasn't played well of late, but coach Bret Bielema insists, "There's no doubt in my mind that he gives us the best option, 100 percent."
  • Steve Spurrier did what any good coach should when he stood up and vouched for his quarterback. South Carolina's Connor Shaw isn't viewed as an NFL prospect, but Spurrier believes he should be.
  • "How does he exert control on me?" Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease responded when asked whether coach Will Muschamp, a defensive guy at heart, was handcuffing his play-calling. After struggling offensively, it's easy to see why people are trying to connect the dots as to why.
  • A roster decimated by injuries has left Ole Miss with few options.
  • "It's really not anything magical," Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham explained. There are reasons why the defense has struggled, but it all comes down to execution.
  • Texas A&M senior wide receiver Travis Labhart took the long road to College Station. When teammates kidded him about acting like he'd been in the endzone before, his response was classic: "And I was just like 'I haven't.' Not in five years."
  • It's easy to look at Johnny Manziel and the wealth of talent in College Station and ask how much coach Kevin Sumlin really has to do with Texas A&M success. When answering that question, though, you come to the conclusion that he's an elite coach.
  • Tennessee offensive tackle Antonio Richardson is ready for his rematch with South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney.
  • The circumstances are irrelevant. The fact that there were any empty seats in Tigers Stadium when Florida came to town reflected poorly on LSU football.
  • In following Missouri's blueprint, Vanderbilt hopes to turn up the pressure on Georgia and quarterback Aaron Murray.
  • As reports of his injury status circulated Saturday, Missouri quarterback James Franklin was totally in the dark. His phone dead, he focused solely on what would come next. While he heals, he says he's looking to help Maty Mauk under center.

SEC lunchtime links

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
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The artist renderings and graphics of what the "Battle at Bristol" between Virginia Tech and Tennessee will look like are spectacular. The idea of hosting the largest crowd in the history of college football is definitely something to get excited about.

But the view? Maybe not so much. As a reporter, I've avoided buying binoculars for years. Those who know me would say "frugal" is too kind of a descriptor for my thriftiness. But if I covered that game, I might have to finally give in and purchase a pair to see the field.

Five things: Florida at LSU

October, 12, 2013
10/12/13
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It will be a battle of wills when LSU and Florida meet in Death Valley at 3:30 p.m. ET. The Tigers have a powerhouse offense while the Gators sport one of the top defenses in the country. So who gives? We'll find out soon, and in the meantime, here are five things to watch in Baton Rouge, La.:

1. Revenge factor: LSU watched its hope of an undefeated season end swiftly and soundly last year, when it lost a heartbreaker to Florida on the road. Mike Gillislee ran for 146 yards and two touchdowns and Zach Mettenberger barely moved the needle at quarterback for LSU, throwing for 158 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. But that offense seems like a distant memory now as offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has breathed new life into LSU's passing game. With largely the same personnel on offense as a year ago, it's safe to assume that Mettenberger & Co. will look at this game as a statement of just how far they've come.

2. Slowing LSU's offense: Will Muschamp and the Florida staff have an unenviable task ahead of them. Do you double team Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry and risk not having a safety near the line of scrimmage? Or do you play man, pull down an extra defender in the box and try to stop Jeremy Hill? Truthfully, there may not be a right answer, not while Zach Mettenberger is throwing the ball like he is. But Florida might have the best chance to solve the riddle of LSU's offense thanks to its depth at cornerback with Loucheiz Purifoy, Vernon Hargreaves and Marcus Roberson.

3. Time for Tyler: Tyler Murphy wasn't supposed to be in this situation, but here he is. When Jeff Driskel went down, it looked like Florida's hopes went down with him. The offense was already stagnant and Murphy was so green under the collar. But Murphy has played well since taking the reins. He's completed 77.5 percent of his passes and has thrown four touchdowns and just one interception in his last two games. But those defenses he's faced, Kentucky and Arkansas, don't have the talent of LSU's. On the road, the challenge will be even greater.

4. But who will he throw the football to?: The Gators' lack of playmakers at wide receiver has been well documented. And if Florida is hoping to change that narrative, it will have to come today against an LSU secondary that has shown some vulnerability. Trey Burton has seen time at almost every position on offense, yet he still leads the team with 22 catches. But he'll need help from speedsters such as Solomon Patton, who has a team-high 348 yards and four touchdowns receiving.

5. Will LSU's defense finally arrive?: LSU coach Les Miles can hang his hat on a three-point second half against Mississippi State all he wants, but it's impossible to ignore the nearly 500 yards of offense the Bulldogs picked up on his defense. While nobody is questioning the talent of LSU's defense, led by tackles Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson, the unit as a whole is showing too many of the tell-tale signs of youth. Missed assignments and poor execution have plagued the Tigers, who are allowing an average of 367 yards and 24.7 points per game.

What we learned in the SEC: Week 5

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
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It was another wild weekend in the SEC. Here are five things we learned around the conference in Week 5.

Georgia and LSU are title contenders: Everything about the game lived up to the hype. Well, except maybe the defenses, but we'll get to that later. LSU and Georgia nonetheless played a game for the ages Saturday afternoon, with quarterbacks Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray trading blows seemingly every time their teams got the football. Georgia ultimately prevailed, of course, but it's impossible to walk away not feeling like both teams are well positioned to make a run at an SEC championship. It's only LSU's first loss, and we've seen how that's no deterrent to making a run at the postseason. The Tigers will get their shot at No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 9. And Georgia, by winning, avoided a dreaded second loss on its resume. The Bulldogs seasoning-opening loss to Clemson actually might end up adding some style points in the end. With Florida's offense struggling and South Carolina playing inconsistent football, Mark Richt has to feel good about his program's position in the East.

[+] EnlargeMike Davis
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesMike Davis helped South Carolina salvage a win at UCF with 150 rushing yards in the second half.
Get used to high scoring games: Calm down all you doomsday sayers: The SEC isn't imploding before your very eyes. Yes, it is very unusual to see this many shootouts in a league that's long prided itself on dominating defense. Georgia and LSU used to win in knockdown drag-outs, but Saturday was so much different as the schools combined for 943 yards and 85 points. But what happened in Athens, Ga., wasn't the final nail in the coffin of SEC defenses. Let the season progress. Mettenberger and Murray are two of the best passers in the country, and the LSU and Georgia defenses are very young. They're talented. They'll learn. And they're not going to be happy with what happened, neither one of them. Alabama pitched a shutout against a high powered Ole Miss offense, and Florida gave up just one touchdown to Kentucky. When it comes to defense, maybe not all is lost. Not yet.

Alabama showed why its No. 1: The week was all about questioning Alabama -- everything from the secondary to the offensive line to whether the Tide was actually worthy of being ranked No. 1. Nick Saban asked for positivity from his fan base and warned against playing to expectations. Alabama's head coach wasn't worried about answering any one question in particular, just the simple matter of whether his team could beat No. 21 Ole Miss. As it turns out, his team won and answered most of the questions in the process. The Tide's defense was dominant once again, pitching a shutout against Ole Miss' high powered offense, and the offense, which couldn't move the ball consistently or effectively on the ground before, suddenly rediscovered both. Alabama ran for a season-high 254 yards against the Rebels and moved the chains, converting on 8 of 17 third-downs. In short, Alabama looked like itself again, thumping a ranked team at home.

Mike Davis belongs in the conversation: He doesn't usually come up much when discussing the league's top tailbacks. T.J. Yeldon and Todd Gurley usually dominate that conversation. But Mike Davis' name belongs in that group. The South Carolina sophomore has earned his stripes through four games this season, rushing for 508 yards and six touchdowns. The Gamecocks needed every one of his 167 yards Saturday afternoon against UCF, 150 of which came in the second half of the 3-point win on the road in Orlando.

Tennessee is a ways off: This was supposed to be the much needed breather before returning to its gauntlet of a schedule. The Vols, fresh off beatings at the hands of Oregon and Florida in consecutive weeks, couldn't get out of their own way against lowly South Alabama at home on Saturday, winning by the skin of their teeth, 31-24. Maybe they were looking ahead to Georgia and South Carolina, which come to town the following two weeks. Whatever the reason, Butch Jones shouldn't be happy. Tennessee wasted a 24-point lead before holding on with a late interception on fourth-and-goal. Justin Worley and the Vols offense turned the ball over three times and were just 4 of 11 on third downs.

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