If you watched Texas A&M put a hosing on South Carolina Thursday night, then you understand why Kurt Roper was brought in as Florida’s offensive coordinator. The Aggies’ no-huddle, up-tempo offense squeezed off 99 plays, which is a lot even for a Kevin Sumlin-coached team. The Aggies have averaged right around 80 plays per game in the two years Sumlin has been their head coach. The only time the Gators have run 80 plays in the last three years is the 34-17 loss to Vanderbilt last year. In the three previous seasons, the Gators averaged 60.7 plays per game in 2011, 63.6 in 2012 and 66.1 in 2013.
More plays per game should equal more yards per game and that usually translates to more points on the scoreboard. After three years of grind it out offense that struggled to put points on the board, the Gators definitely need a fresh new approach. By making the transition to a tempo offense the Gators will try to cure the scoring problems by putting more pressure on the defense. Instead of walking to the line of scrimmage and draining the play clock, the Gators are going to hustle to the line and get the ball snapped before the opponent has time to make subs or adjustments.
Roper preaches getting the ball out of Jeff Driskel’s hands and into the hands of the skill players in a hurry. He preaches spreading the ball around so the defense can’t key on one guy. Look at what the Aggies did. They ran 60 pass plays and 39 running plays. Twelve different receivers caught the ball while the bulk of the carries were spread among three backs. The Aggies ran just enough deep routes to showcase their speed, which backed the South Carolina corners and safeties off the ball and opened up the underneath routes. Hill averaged a most respectable 8.5 yards per pass attempt. During the past three years, the Gators averaged 7.5 per attempt in 2011 and 6.6 in both 2012 and 2013.
The myth about fast tempo has always been that it puts the defense in a bad situation, but the Aggies shattered that notion. The Aggies had 37 more plays than the Gamecocks and held the ball for 37:38 to South Carolina’s 22:22 and had 39 first downs to South Carolina’s 23. For a coach who has preached ball control, time of possession and moving the chains, Will Muschamp has to like what he saw of the Aggies way of doing things, which isn’t that far off from what Roper brings to the Florida offense. The field will be spread, the quarterback in the shotgun and the tempo will be faster, but at its heart, this is still a ball control offense. Instead of pounding and grinding, the offense is designed to wear down a defense by gassing them with tempo. And if the Gators can squeeze off an additional 14 plays per game, Muschamp’s defense won’t be on the field but on the sideline resting.
Sure, South Carolina’s defense offered up less resistance than the French Army in World War II but any time a quarterback goes 44-60 for 511 yards, three touchdowns and no picks in his first start ever on the road it’s impressive. Kenny Hill might not run the ball like Johnny Manziel and he might not make nearly as many spectacular plays, but he just hung 52 points on South Carolina and directed an offense that gained 680 yards. If this is the Hill that shows up every week, the Aggies are going to be formidable this year and Hill is going to put up some Star Wars numbers. By midyear the folks in College Station might be asking Johnny who?
Other than the fact the Gamecocks couldn’t cover anyone, couldn’t get pressure on the quarterback, couldn’t stop the run and couldn’t tackle, it was a brilliant performance Thursday night. Was it just a day at the office that started bad and got worse or is South Carolina simply that bad on defense? For a team whose defense was supposed to be as good or better than any in the Steve Spurrier era in Columbia, this was an embarrassment. The Gamecocks haven’t looked this bad on defense since they couldn’t stop Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin in Gainesville (56-6 Florida win) back in 2008. The Gamecocks get an East Carolina team that runs the Mike Leach offense next week and then have the unenviable task of trying to tackle Todd Gurley and Nick Marshall of Georgia. Either the Gamecocks have to get better in a hurry or else a year where expectations are so high in Columbia is going to turn into one giant step backward.
Give the SEC Network an A- for its first ever game coverage. Brent Musberger avoided too much hyperbole and did a fairly good job of deferring to Jesse Palmer, who seemed very well prepared and quite concise in his analysis. The halftime segment with analysis by Tim Tebow and Marcus Spears was better than expected. Tebow seemed far less stiff than he was in the network debut and showed the potential to be a very good studio analyst. Spears offers good personality with very good analysis. The people in Charlotte who script this stuff need to figure out what they’re going to do with Paul Finebaum on the set. Paul might be great in the radio studio but he didn’t bring anything to the table during halftime. Why have him as a halftime analyst if he’s not going to add something to the broadcast? He did not belong on the set Thursday night. Either he needs significant improvement or the SEC Network needs to keep him off the set.
#18 Ole Miss made Boise State look very, very ordinary. The Rebels may not have a stud running back, which could hurt them down the road, but there is nothing wrong with that passing game. Bo Wallace might be as good or better than any quarterback in the SEC and the receivers are really outstanding. The defense doesn’t have a lot of depth but the Rebels are very athletic and they really hit. Ole Miss probably doesn’t have a good enough depth chart to stay in the SEC West race bell to bell, but when everybody is healthy, this is a team capable of springing the big upset. Figure at some point this season the Rebels are going to spoil someone’s season.
I would have picked South Carolina over Texas A&M and I would have picked Ole Miss to beat Boise State. At midnight, Vanderbilt was looking inept offensively against Temple. But, there are nine more games this weekend involving SEC teams and here is the forecast.
Florida over Idaho: It’s been a long, long time since the Gators had a dial-a-score game. Anything less than 40 points in this one will be extremely disappointing.
#2 Alabama over West Virginia (in Atlanta): Other than the outcome (Bama will win) there are only two uncertainties about this one: (1) who will start at quarterback (Blake Sims or Jacob Coker) and (2) will there be a quarterback controversy when it’s over.
#6 Auburn over Arkansas: Jesse Palmer says we won’t recognize Arkansas this year. I’ll disagree. At the end of Saturday’s game the Razorbacks will be on the short end of the score, which is what they were in the last nine games last year.
#12 Georgia over Clemson: This is a game the Bulldogs could lose if they were playing at Clemson. It’s in Athens. Georgia should win by two touchdowns.
Kentucky over UT-Martin: They will celebrate a win in Lexington this week. By week three Wildcat fans will be buying Midnight Madness tickets from their friendly neighborhood scalpers. Basketball can’t get here soon enough.
#13 LSU over #14 Wisconsin: Wisconsin can beat up teams in the Big Ten with its offense and it might run the ball fairly well Saturday night. What Wisconsin’s defense can’t do is keep up with all the fast guys LSU will keep throwing into the game.
Mississippi State over Southern Miss: The Bulldogs should get a good enough first quarter lead that Dan Mullen doesn’t have to play Dak Prescott more than one series in the third quarter.
#24 Missouri over South Dakota State: Missouri is at least six touchdowns better than this team from D-1AA. Anything less than a 40-point win should be viewed as a major disappointment.
Tennessee over Utah State: This is a shaky pick. Utah State is quite capable of winning and probably would anywhere but Neyland Stadium.
Are you encouraged about what Florida is trying to do offensively after watching the Aggies run off 99 plays and dominating the tempo of the game against South Carolina?
It’s hard to argue with the many music critics who call the songwriting team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney the best ever. What’s interesting is to listen to McCartney talk about who influenced them the most during their prolific years writing the songs they sang with The Beatles – Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Brian Wilson. My favorite Beatles album was, is and always will be “Revolver” and my favorite song off that album is “Here, There and Everywhere,” a song that Paul McCartney admitted was inspired by Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys. The harmonies are beautiful and the words turn this into one of the great love songs of all time. Both Lennon and McCartney said it was one of the favorite songs ever performed by the band.