It was a win but even with the infusion of energy from Treon Harris that got the Gators over the hump in the fourth quarter, Saturday’s 10-9 victory over Tennessee in Knoxville had that old familiar feeling to it. As in 2012 all over again.
Did this not feel like you had been time machined back to 2012 when the Gators made a living out of running the ball and relying on their defense to win a game? While Harris came off the bench to ignite the Florida offense to score on consecutive possessions, enabling the Gators to get just enough points to escape with a win, this game was won by the defense, which totally smothered Tennessee.
The optimistic Gator will see this as a turning point victory, one that will have a snowball effect on the rest of the season. The pessimistic Gator will say it’s just one win and a fortunate one at that.
Whether you fall into the optimist or pessimist category, however, the same three questions have to be answered:
1. Is Treon Harris going to become a regular part of the offense – perhaps even a starter – or will he be a desperation quarterback, brought on only when Jeff Driskel has one of those what is becoming all too familiar days to forget?
2. Was Saturday’s drastically improved defensive effort simply a matter of shuffling the pieces to the puzzle to get the personnel right or did it have more to do with the fact that Tennessee’s all-too-young and way-too-inexperienced offensive line chose this particular day to audition for a thrilling career in the bull ring as matadors?
3. Due to the similarity in this game and the way the Gators played things in 2012, is there a mindset to revert back to the formula that won 11 games that year?
There is the possibility that Harris isn’t quite ready to be a starter, but he showed Saturday that he belongs on the field and whatever packages that have been developed for him should be expanded and his role increased. The kid has an “it” factor about him which was evident from the moment he took the field. But he’s a rookie and Driskel has been there and done that. Has he earned the right to at least split time? Will Muschamp said after the game that he’s not opposed to playing two quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper was comfortable playing two when he was at Duke. From what we’ve seen of Driskel these last two games, Harris should at least get a decent portion of the snaps when the ball goes live.
The defense was vastly improved from what we saw against Kentucky and Alabama. Brian Poole certainly looked more comfy at the nickel, Duke Dawson played safety like a veteran and Jalen Tabor played corner well enough to make the defensive play of the game. Bryan Cox Jr. got half of Florida’s six sacks but it must be noted that he was going against a true freshman left tackle who spent his day looking like the original lost ball in the tall weeds. The rest of the UT offensive line was only slightly better. While the jury is still out on the defense, the effort was better and the communication at all levels was much improved. There is reason to believe the defense turned a corner but how much of a corner won’t be known until Saturday when the Gators face an LSU team with vastly superior speed and athletes and a more complicated scheme.
The last question is the toughest to answer because if we’ve learned anything from Muschamp the past three years it is that he has a stubborn streak, which could lead him to revert back to basics. Can he overcome the instinct to try to win with the 2012 formula or will he focus on making sure the defense continues to improve while letting Roper either turn the offense over completely to Harris or at worst, go with a two-quarterback system?
In a perfect world, Muschamp would deal with these questions during a bye week or else when he’s got someone like Idaho or Eastern Michigan on the Saturday calendar. There is no bye week and LSU and Missouri will both come to Gainesville feeling there is something to prove. Can the Gators win those two games playing like it’s 2012 all over again? Or will Muschamp have to bend a little, cut Roper and the offense loose while focusing on what he does best – coaching the defense?
We’ll know in five days.
1. Auburn (5-0, 2-0 SEC): The defense is for real and the offense shook off the cobwebs and burned LSU for 566 yards. Nick Marshall played like a Heisman contender against LSU, running for 119 yards and two touchdowns and throwing for 207 (9.4 per attempt) and two more. The defense held LSU to 280 and most of that came in garbage time.
2. Ole Miss (5-0, 2-0 SEC): The Rebels still can’t run the ball but as long as the defense plays ferocious and Bo (Knows) Wallace can hit some passes, they’re a very dangerous team and a legitimate contender on the national stage. Hugh Freeze showed Bama in the second half that he’s one of the brighter offensive minds in the country.
3. Mississippi State (5-0, 2-0 SEC): Dak Prescott is the best quarterback in the SEC and he’s got help, which makes the Bulldogs scary. Josh Robinson gives MSU a legitimate 1-2 running punch and Prescott can throw laser beams. Just ask the Aggies. Even though the Bulldogs intercepted three Kenny Hill passes, the secondary is still suspect and that’s a concern moving forward.
4. ALABAMA (4-1, 1-1 SEC): The offensive line isn’t nearly as good as we thought it was and Ole Miss exposed some holes in the secondary. We know that Blake Sims might not lose a game but he’s not going to win one for you, either. All that said, Nick Saban is the best coach in the business at correcting mistakes and manipulating his personnel.
5. Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1 SEC): The Aggies can throw the ball on anyone. There isn’t a team out there that can’t throw the ball on the Aggies and that’s the problem. The defense, while improved, still isn’t the kind you need to win a championship. The Aggies are going to have to win shootouts.
6. LSU (4-2, 0-2 SEC): The Tigers are 0-2. Shed no tears for Les Miles. He’s playing 17 freshmen in prominent roles. They will take their lumps this year. Next year is when everyone better sweat when it comes to facing LSU.
7. Arkansas (3-2, 0-2 SEC): Can Big Ten Lite pound away at Alabama’s midsection and come away with a win? We’ll find out Saturday. The Hogs have to be able to run the ball because even though Brandon Allen is improved he’s not a guy who can win games with his arm.
8. Georgia (4-1, 2-1 SEC): The secondary can’t cover anyone and if anyone figures out how to bottle up Todd Gurley, the offense isn’t going anywhere. Georgia could conceivably lose the next three (at Missouri, at Arkansas, Florida in Jacksonville) but if the Bulldogs win the next three they’re going to Atlanta in December.
9. FLORIDA (3-1, 2-1 SEC): Two weeks ago it was all doom and gloom. Now the defense has had a rebirth. If the defense can play like it did at Tennessee and Treon Harris is the quarterback the rest of the way, then the Gators have a legitimate chance.
10. MISSOURI (4-1, 1-0 SEC): The loss to Indiana is incomprehensible and the comeback win over South Carolina isn’t nearly as impressive after watching Kentucky come back from a two-touchdown deficit on the Gamecocks. This team is still a mystery. Their season could go either way.
11. KENTUCKY (4-1, 2-1 SEC): Okay, it was South Carolina, not like Kentucky beat a team that actually has a defense, but it was still impressive to see the Wildcats rally from 14 down to win. And here’s a thought for you: with a win over Louisiana-Monroe (Sun Belt Conference) Saturday, Kentucky will need only one more win to become bowl eligible.
12. TENNESSEE (2-3, 0-2 SEC): The Vols are way too young on the offensive line so wins are going to be hard to come by the rest of the year. They get Chattanooga in a get well game Saturday then they have Ole Miss and Alabama on consecutive weeks.
13. SOUTH CAROLINA (3-3, 2-3 SEC): The Gamecocks have blown 14-point leads in the fourth quarter on consecutive weeks. They are in a heap of trouble. Steve Spurrier needs to put an ad in the classifieds for a new defensive coordinator.
14. Vanderbilt (1-5, 0-4 SEC): Charleston Southern comes to town Saturday which means the Dores have a chance to pick up their second win. They could win against Old Dominion on November 1, too. They aren’t going to win an SEC game. Count on it.
Florida State’s first place margin took a huge hit. Only two points separate the Seminoles and #2 Auburn. On a weekend in which eight previously unbeaten teams tasted defeat for the first time, the State of Mississippi was the biggest gainer with Mississippi State and Ole Miss moving up to a third place tie with their big wins. Seven SEC teams remain in the top 25.
(1) Florida State; (2) Auburn; (3, Tie) Mississippi State; (3, Tie) Ole Miss; (5); Baylor; (6) Notre Dame; (7) Alabama; (8) Michigan State; (9) TCU; (10) Arizona; (11) Oklahoma; (12) Oregon; (13) Georgia; (14) Texas A&M; (15) Ohio State; (16) Oklahoma State; (17) Kansas State; (18) UCLA; (19) East Carolina; (20) Arizona State; (21) Nebraska; (22) Georgia Tech; (23) Missouri; (24) Utah; (25) Stanford.
Once again, I don’t think Florida State is the best team in the country but they are the reigning champs and nobody has beaten them yet. I don’t think there is a Pac-12 team worthy of the top ten and I think Michigan State and anyone from the Big Ten is vastly overrated.
(1) Florida State; (2) Auburn; (3) Ole Miss; (4) Mississippi State; (5) Alabama; (6) Baylor; (7) Notre Dame; (8) Texas A&M; (9) Georgia; (10) TCU; (11) Arizona; (12) Oklahoma; (13) Kansas State; (14) Oregon; (15) Michigan State; (16) Oklahoma State; (17) Ohio State; (18) East Carolina; (19) Missouri; (20) Georgia Tech; (21) UCLA; (22) LSU; (23) Clemson; (24) Stanford; (25) Marshall.
The Pac-12 continues to prove it’s all fluff and no substance. Right now Arizona looks like the best team in the league but does anyone think Zona can go through a season without losing a couple of games? Oregon and UCLA both have serious offensive line issues. Stanford plays great defense but has problems moving the football. There isn’t a top ten team in the league.1. SEC
2. Big 12
3. Notre Dame
5. Big Ten
The in crowd:
1. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia: Gurley’s Heisman run could be decided in the next three games. If he comes up big on the road against Missouri and Arkansas and then slices and dices against Florida, he could win it. If he lays an egg and Georgia loses one or more of those games, he will be out. For the season he’s run for 773 yards (8.2 per carry) and eight touchdowns.
2. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: That was a very Heisman-like performance against the Aggies. For the season he has thrown for 1,223 yards and 13 touchdowns and has run for 455 yards and six more while directing a lethal offensive attack almost flawlessly.
4. Marcus Mariota, Oregon: He laid an egg against Arizona and it could cost him the Heisman. For the season he’s thrown for 1,411 yards and 15 touchdowns and he has run for 215 yards and three more scores.
5. Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn: He actually has the best resume of any of the contenders. Nobody else has come up big against two ranked opponents. He was brilliant against LSU with 207 passing yards and two TDPs and 119 rushing yards and two more TDs. For the season he has 755 passing yards and eight touchdowns and has run for 392 yards four more TDs.
The out crowd:1. Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska 2. Everett Golson, Notre Dame 3. Bryce Petty, Baylor 4. Brett Hundley, UCLA 5. Kenny Hill, Texas A&M
Will Muschamp at least give the order to split the snaps between Driskel and Harris or will he stick with Driskel as his starting QB?
Lyle Lovett absolutely kills, and if you’ve ever caught him in concert when Francine Reed is singing with his Large Band then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Lovett always understood the connection with Texas swing country music and the big band jazz of the 30s and 40s and he’s spent his musical career mixing the music he grew up with in Klein, Texas with blues, gospel and a little bit of rock and roll. Today’s music is “What Do You Do” from his 1990 album “Lyle Lovett and His Large Band” with Francine Reed joining him on the vocals. Saturday Reed will be inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.