The numbers don’t lie.
When you look at the stats of the last 10 years you don’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics to figure out which years the Gators were contenders and which they were pretenders. In the four years the Gators have held opponents to 15 or fewer points and less than 290 yards per game, they’ve won at least 11 games. In the other six years there have been two 9-win seasons, one 8-win season, 2 7-win seasons and one 4-8 record.
Other than 2007 when the Gators played mostly freshmen and sophomores on the defensive side and had to score nearly every possession to win, Florida spent the last 10 years playing a very good brand of defense. When the defense has been great it has reflected in the win totals.
The Gators have the personnel to field one of the better defenses in the country this year. Given the youth and inexperience of the offense, Geoff Collins stop troopers can’t afford to have a bad day at the office. That’s a lot of pressure to perform, but it’s not like Collins lacks the talent to come up big. His Mississippi State defense was one of the best in the country in the red zone last year. If the Bulldogs had been blessed with Florida’s personnel last year, they might have won the national championship.
Coaching defense gets tougher every year because there are plenty of innovative coaches with fancy schemes and the rulebook favors the offenses, but if Collins and his staff can go through the season relatively injury-free and Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier can figure a way to put 25-27 points a game on the scoreboard, the Gators will be the surprise of the SEC.
2005: 18.8 points per game; 299.8 yards per game (94.9 rushing; 204.9 passing)
2006: 13.5 points per game; 255.4 yards per game (72.5 rushing; 182.9 passing)
2007: 25.5 points per game; 361.8 yards per game (103.3 rushing; 258.5 passing)
2008: 12.9 points per game; 285.3 yards per game (105.4 rushing; 179.8 passing)
2009: 12.4 points per game; 252.5 yards per game (99.8 rushing; 152.8 passing)
2010: 21.3 points per game; 306.5 yards per game (130.6 rushing; 175.9 passing)
2011: 20.3 points per game; 299.5 yards per game (132.7 rushing; 166.8 passing)
2012: 14.5 points per game; 287.5 yards per game (94.9 rushing; 192.5 passing)
2013: 21.1 points per game; 314.3 yards per game (142.4 rushing; 171.8 passing)
2014: 19.5 points per game; 329.8 yards per game (116.2 rushing; 213.6 passing)
Best 5 defensive players 2005-14
1. Brandon Spikes
2. Reggie Nelson
3. Vernon Hargreaves III
4. Brandon Siler
5. Derrick Harvey
Florida 41, LSU 9; October 7, 2000
When the season began, the pecking order at quarterback was supposed to be senior Jesse Palmer, true freshman rock Berlin and redshirt freshman Rex Grossman. Palmer was the senior who had patiently done his duty as Doug Johnson’s caddy for three years while waiting for his moment to step into the limelight and Berlin, who came to UF as the nation’s top high school quarterback, was the prince awaiting coronation as the next king. When Palmer sprained his ankle in a 47-35 loss to Mississippi State in Starkville, Grossman and Palmer both took all the second half snaps. Although Palmer was healthy the following week, Spurrier went with his gut and gave the start to Grossman who responded by throwing for 276 yards and three touchdowns, all of them to Jabar Gaffney, whose 8-catch, 128-yard day included scoring passes of 26, 9 and 59 yards. Grossman caught fire late in the first quarter when he led the Gators on a 5-play, 99-yard scoring drive that ended with the first TD pass to Gaffney. Grossman went 5-5 on the drive but it was the last three throws that really showed his command of the offense – a 33-yard strike to Taylor Jacobs that split the two-deep coverage, a 22-yard hookup with Robert Gillespie, the fourth option because the LSU defense took all the other options away, and the scoring pass to Gaffney on a crossing pattern. Any question that this was Grossman’s job to keep were ended with 36 seconds remaining in the first half and the Gators leading, 10-3. On third and goal from the nine, center David Jorgenson snapped what would have been a perfect alley-oop to Shaquille O’Neal over Grossman’s head. Grossman never panicked, just turned and ran back to the 20 where he picked the ball up off one hop, then turned and threw without hesitation to Gaffney, who never broke his pattern and made the catch in the end zone. With that kind of momentum at the half, the Gators were just too much for first year coach Nick Saban and the Tigers the rest of the way. On Florida’s first possession of the third quarter, a 4-play, 85-yard drive that consumed 1:49 off the clock, Grossman and Gaffney connected on a crossing pattern for 59 yards and their third TD hookup of the day. Spurrier sat Grossman and replaced him with Palmer in the fourth quarter with the Gators leading, 34-9. Palmer took the Gators 34 yards in five plays, hitting 3-3 passes for 22 yards with Earnest Graham taking the ball in from the five for the final score of the game. When this game was over, Rex Grossman was the QB and there was no controversy.
1. Texas A&M: 305.5 yards per game; 7.7 per pass attempt; 39 TDs; 15 INTs in 2014
Experienced quarterbacks: Kyle Allen (1,322 yards; 6.9 per attempt, 16 TDs, 7 INTs as a freshman)
Experienced receivers: WR Josh Reynolds (52 catches, 842 yards 13 TDs as a sophomore); WR Speedy Noil (46 catches, 583 yards, 5 TDs as a freshman); WR Ricky Seals-Jones (49 catches, 465 yards, 4 TDs as a freshman); WR Edward Pope (30 catches, 454 yards, 4 TDs as a sophomore); WR Boone Niederhofer (29 catches, 293 yards, 1 TD as a sophomore)
The future: QB Kyler Murray; WR Christian Kirk; WR Damion Rattley
Analysis: The new O-line coach, more emphasis on the running game and a year of experience for all those youngsters should actually make the Aggies’ passing scary good.
2. Mississippi State: 280.7 yards per game; 8.6 per pass attempt; 31 touchdowns; 12 INTs in 2014
Experienced quarterbacks: Dak Prescott (3,449 yards. 8.7 per attempt; 27 TDs; 11 INTs as a junior; 5,583 yards; 8.1 per attempt; 41 TDs, 18 INTs career); Damian Williams (434 yards; 6.2 per attempt; 3 TDs, 2 INTs career)
Receivers: WR De’Runnya Wilson (47 catches, 680 yards, 9 TDs as a sophomore; 73 catches; 1,031 yards, 12 TDs career); WR Fred Ross (30 catches 489 yards, 5 TDs as a sophomore); WR Joe Morrow (17 catches, 344 yards; 4 TDs as a junior); WR Gabe Myles 22 catches, 178 yards as a freshman)
The future: QB Nick Fitzgerald; WR Donald Gray
Analysis: Prescott has improved each year as a passer and the Bulldogs have enormous talent and speed at wide receiver.
3. Auburn: 230.1 yards per game; 9.0 per attempt; 23 TDs, 7 INTs in 2014
Experienced quarterbacks: Jeremy Johnson (436 yards, 11.8 per attempt, 3 TDs as a sophomore
Experienced receivers: WR Duke Williams (45 catches, 730 yards, 5 TDs as a junior); WR Ricardo Louis (21 catches, 261 yards, 3 TDs as a junior; 52 catches, 622 yards, 5 TDs career)
The future: QB Tyler Queen; WR Jason Smith; WR Darius Slayton
Analysis: The Tigers averaged 9.0 per attempt last year with a running quarterback. Imagine what they’ll do with a pinpoint passer like Johnson.
4. Ole Miss: 263.6 yards per game; 8.0 per attempt; 24 TDs, 15 INTs in 2014
Experienced quarterbacks: DeVante Kincaid (127 yards, 1 TD as a freshman); Ryan Buchanan (75 yards as a freshman)
Experienced receivers: WR Laquon Treadwell (48 catches, 632 yards, 5 TDs as a sophomore; 120 catches, 1,240 yards, 10 TDs career); TE Evan Engram (38 catches, 662 yards, 2 TDs as a sophomore; 59 catches, 930 yards, 5 TDs career); WR Cody Core (41 catches, 558 yards, 6 TDs as a junior); WR Quincy Adeboyejo (26 catches, 313 yards, 2 TDs as a sophomore)
The future: QB Chad Kelly; WR DeMarkus Lodge; WR Van Jefferson
Analysis: There are plenty of talented guys to catch the ball. Can the Rebels find a QB who can throw it?
5. Arkansas: 188 yards per game; 6.8 per pass attempt; 21 TDs; 6 INTs in 2014
Experienced quarterbacks: Brandon Allen (2,285 yards, 20 TDs as a junior; 4,023 yards, 34 TDs career); Austin Allen (153 yards as a freshman)
Experienced receivers: WR Keon Hatcher (43 catches, 558 yards, 6 TDs as a junior; 73 catches, 925 yards, 9 TDs career); TE Hunter Henry (37 catches, 513 yards, 2 TDs as a sophomore; 65 catches, 922 yards, 6 TDs career); WR Jared Cornelius (18 catches, 212 yards, 2 TDs as a freshman)
The future: QB Ty Storey; WR Dominique Reed
Analysis: New coordinator Dan Enos was brought in to spread the field and throw effectively to keep defenses from going eight in the box.
6. LSU: 182.9 yards per game; 7.7 per pass attempt; 17 TDs; 9 INTs in 2014
Experienced quarterbacks: Anthony Jennings (1,611 yards, 7.1 per attempt; 11 TDs, 7 INTs as a sophomore); Brandon Harris (452 yards, 10.0 per attempt, 6 TDs, 2 INTs as a freshman)
Experienced receivers: WR Travin Dural (37 catches, 758 yards, 7 TDs as a sophomore; 44 catches, 903 yards, 9 TDs career); WR Malachi Dupre (14 catches, 318 yards, 5 TDs as a freshman); WR John Diarse (15 catches, 275 yards, 3 TDs as a freshman); WR Trey Quinn (17 catches, 193 yards as a freshman)
The future: WR Derrick Dillon; WR Jazz Ferguson
Analysis: Nobody has faster receivers than LSU. All the questions in the passing game are with the quarterbacks.
7. Alabama: 277.9 yards per game; 8.6 per attempt; 32 TDs, 10 INTs in 2014
Experienced quarterbacks: Jacob Coker (403 yards, 4 TDs as a junior)
Experienced receivers: TD O.J. Howard (17 catches, 260 yards as a sophomore); WR Chris Black (15 catches, 188 yards)
The future: QB Blake Barnett; WR Calvin Ridley
Analysis: This rating will be higher by midseason. Bama has talent just no experience for now.
8. Tennessee: 224.2 yards; 6.4 per attempt; 23 TDs, 14 INTs in 2014
Experienced quarterbacks: Josh Dobbs (1,206 yards; 6.8 per attempt; 9 TDs, 6 INTs as a sophomore; 1,906 yards, 6.4 per attempt; 11 TDs, 12 INTs career)
Experienced receivers: WR Pig Howard (54 catches, 618 yards, 1 TD as a junior; 98 catches, 1,006 yards, 4 TDs career); WR Marquez North (30 catches, 320 yards, 4 TDs as a sophomore; 68 catches, 816 yards, 5 TDs career); WR Von Pearson (38 catches, 393 yards, 5 TDs as a junior); WR Josh Malone (23 catches, 231 yards, 1 TD as a freshman); TE Ethan Wolf (23 catches, 212 yards as a freshman)
The future: QB Quinten Dormady; WR Preston Williams
Analysis: For the Vols to improve, they’ve got to start throwing something more than a 5-yard route.
9. Missouri: 189.1 yards per game; 6.4 per attempt; 25 TDs, 13 INTs in 2014
Experienced quarterbacks: Maty Mauk (2,648 yards; 6.4 per attempt; 25 TDs, 13 INTs as a sophomore; 3,719 yards; 6.8 per attempt; 36 TDs, 15 INTs career)
Experienced receivers: TE Sean Culkin (20 catches, 174 yards, 1 TD)
The future: QB Drew Lock
Analysis: The Tigers have a QB who can throw it but who will catch the football?
10. Kentucky: 231.2 yards per game; 6.8 per attempt; 14 TDs; 11 INTs in 2014
Experienced quarterbacks: Patrick Towles (2,718 yards; 6.9 per attempt; 14 TDs; 9 INTs as a sophomore); Reese Phillips (45 yards as a freshman)
Experienced receivers: WR Ryan Timmons (45 catches, 536 yards, 2 TDs as a sophomore; 77 catches, 874 yards, 4 TDs career); WR Garrett Johnson (22 catches, 271 yards, 2 TDs as a freshman); WR Dorian Baker (19 catches, 199 yards, 1 TD as a freshman); Blake Bone (14 catches, 194 yards, 2 TDs as a freshman)
The future: QB Drew Barker
Analysis: New offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson believes Towles can be an elite QB.
11. Florida: 179.9 yards per game; 6.7 per attempt; 18 TDs, 14 INTs in 2014
Experienced quarterbacks: Treon Harris (1,019 yards; 9.2 per attempt, 9 TDs, 4 INTs as a freshman)
Experienced receivers: Demarcus Robinson (54 catches, 821 yards, 7 TDs as a sophomore); Latroy Pittman (15 catches, 164 yards as a junior); Brandon Powell (15 catches, 147 yards, 1 TD as a freshman); Ahmad Fullwood (12 catches, 199 yards, 1 TD as a sophomore)
The future: QB Will Grier; WR Antonio Calloway
Analysis: Based on last year, the Gators rank this low. That should change quickly because of Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier.
12. Georgia: 199.9 yards per game; 8.1 per attempt; 24 TDs, 6 INTs in 2014
Experienced quarterbacks: Brice Ramsey (333 yards; 8.5 per attempt; 3 TDs, 2 INT as a freshman); Faton Bauta (48 yards as a sophomore); Grayson Lambert (1,632 yards; 6.3 per attempt; 10 TDs, 11 INT as a sophomore at Virginia in 2014; 1,972 yards; 5.8 per attempt; 11 TDs, 13 INTs career)
Experienced receivers: WR Malcolm Mitchell (31 catches, 248 yards, 3 TDs as a junior); TE Jeb Blazevich (18 catches, 269 yards, 2 TDs as a freshman); TE Jay Rome (30 catches, 310 yards, 3 TDs career)
The future: WR Terry Godwin; TE Jackson Harris
Analysis: New coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has his work cut out for him. This is the worst collection of quarterbacks and receivers at Georgia in years.
13. South Carolina: 282.4 yards; 7.8 per attempt; 28 touchdowns, 11 INTs in 2014
Experienced quarterbacks: Connor Mitch (19 yards)
Experienced receivers: WR Pharoh Cooper (69 catches, 1,136 yards, 9 TDs as a sophomore; 72 catches, 1,190 yards, 10 TDs career); TE Jerrell Adams (21 catches, 279 yards, 1 TD as a junior
The future: QB Lorenzo Nunez;
Analysis: It’s back to square one for the Gamecocks, who have no experience at QB and only one proven WR in Pharoh Cooper.
14. Vanderbilt: 179.1 yards per game; 6.0 per attempt; 13 TDs, 19 INTs in 2014
Experienced quarterbacks: Johnny McCrary (985 yards; 6.5 per attempt; 9 TDs, 8 INTs as a freshman); Wade Freebeck (376 yards, 5.2 per attempt; 1 TD, 5 INT as a freshman)
Experienced receivers: TE Steven Scheu (39 catches, 525 yards, 4 TD as a junior; 56 catches, 693 yards, 6 TDs career); WR Latevius Rayford (36 catches, 350 yards, 1 TD as a sophomore)
The future: QB Kyle Shurmur
Analysis: McCrary and Freedbeck couldn’t have thrown it in the ocean if they were standing on the end of the pier last year. They can’t be worse this year, can they?
If the NFL and Tom Brady can’t agree on the terms of a settlement, they’ll be in court in New York on August 31. Both the NFL and Brady have asked for a ruling from Judge Richard Berman by September 4. Judge Berman is pushing for a settlement, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wants Brady to admit guilt in the Deflate-Gate affair while Brady refuses to admit he had anything to do with it.
Jalen Mills, LSU’s All-America safety candidate, has a fractured fibula that will sideline him for 4-6 weeks. Juniors Rickey Jefferson and Corey Thompson will step in for Mills.
Adam “Pacman” Jones thinks he would have made at least $100 million playing professional football if he hadn’t gone brain dead so many times in the past. Jones is nearly 32 years old and it’s taken him this long to figure out there are consequences to stupidity? Go figure.
Dennis Dodd of CBS says Notre Dame is losing financial ground as an independent and needs to finally make a decision to join a conference. The Irish are already members of the ACC in all sports but football. Joining the ACC in football would make good sense, not just for Notre Dame but for the league. Adding the Irish to the ACC would help the league get a television contract that could compete with the likes of the SEC and Big Ten networks.
Who are your top five Florida defensive players of the last decade (2005-14)?
Janis Joplin was at her best during the three years (1966-68) she spent fronting for Big Brother and the Holding Company. The band did two albums with Janis on lead vocals. “Cheap Thrills” came out in 1968 and reached #1 on the Billboard US charts. “Nothing but the Blues Week” would not be complete without this album.