If you go strictly by the numbers, then this Florida offense isn’t much better than the one that had everything to do with Will Muschamp getting fired. Kurt Roper called the plays last year and Florida’s 30.3 points, 367.6 yards per game and 5.25 yards per play was the best showing in four years but it wasn’t enough to save Muschamp’s job. The 2014 Gators were, at best, quite dull and ever so predictable.
So here are the numbers through seven games under Jim McElwain – 31.6 points, 376.3 yards per game and 5.55 yards per play. It’s only a difference of 1.3 points, 8.7 yards per game and .30 yards per play yet it seems like night and day. McElwain’s offense has been anything but predictable and when you mix in the number of big plays and fourth down gambles, it’s certainly been entertaining.
Florida’s running game was better last year but even so you would think an O-line with four future NFL players and Matt Jones (Washington Redskins) sharing the load with Kelvin Taylor would produce more than 4.36 yards per carry and 187.7 yards per game. With that kind of help up front, you would also think the Gators would throw the ball better – only 6.7 per pass attempt and 179.9 yards per game.
This year’s running game numbers – 3.51 yards per carry and only 126.7 yards per game – are rather anemic, but take into account Kelvin Taylor is running behind one of the three youngest O-lines in the country and the fact that you can’t always measure a good running game by the yards per carry or yards per game. Sometimes you have to measure the effectiveness of the running game by what happens in the red zone and how much does the threat of the run affect the passing game, particularly on third and short. Taylor is a terrific goal line runner, enough of a threat that whenever Will Grier or Treon Harris use a play fake on third and short, it freezes the defense enough that someone gets open (see Jake McGee) in the passing game.
Through seven games, the Gators have thrown for 1,747 yards and 14 touchdowns while averaging 7.9 per pass attempt and 30 passes per game. The Gators average 249.6 yards per game. In 12 games last year, the Gators threw the ball 27 times a game for 2,159 yards and 18 touchdowns.
It is the passing game that makes this year’s offense better. McElwain has the Gators running more vertical and crossing routes, which are conducive to big plays and the quarterbacks are protecting the football. Last year Florida QBs threw 14 interceptions. This year they’ve thrown only three. Treon Harris, who will navigate the Gators through the last half of the season, still hasn’t thrown a pick and he’s averaging 9.2 yards per pass attempt so the lack of interceptions isn’t simply the result of a ton of safe passes.
Another factor in the success of the passing game has been the infrequency of drops. You could count on the Gators dropping at least 2-3 balls every game last year. This year, the receivers make tough catches and usually come down with the ball even when they take a shot from a DB.
We wouldn’t dare call this a great offense, but it is efficient, it isn’t predictable and you can count on far more explosive plays than we saw last year. Imagine what we’ll see when the offensive line has some experience.
Last Week: 4-2
#5 LSU 35, Western Kentucky 20: WKU has given up more than 200 yards three times this year and none of those teams had a back anywhere close to Leonard Fournette … or Derrius Guice … or Darrel Williams. This is a nice tuneup game before the open date that the Tigers will use to prep for Alabama on November 7. Les Miles has to avoid the temptation to ground and pound and allow Brandon Harris to air it out a few times because LSU is definitely going to need a passing game in two weeks.
#8 Alabama 35, Tennessee 24: Tennessee comes into this game feeling rather chippy. The Vols have had a week to savor a come from behind win over Georgia and to prep for mighty Bama. Vol fans like to think they’ve got Alabama right where they want them. Yawn. It will be Derrick Henry right, Derrick Henry left and Jake Coker to Calvin Ridley deep. The over-under for Alabama sacks is five.
#15 Texas A&M 38, #24 Ole Miss 35: There will be at least 10 future NFL wide receivers on the field in this one. Neither team runs the ball all that well so it will be pitch and catch from bell to bell and the last team with the ball probably wins the game. If there is an edge, the Aggies are a great road team – 17-4 away from home since 2012.
Arkansas 28, Auburn 20: If Bret Bielema is smart – there are those who would question – then the Hogs will line up and dare Auburn to stop Alex Collins. Auburn is giving up 197 rushing yards a game and 5.1 yards per carry. Collins has four games with at least 127 yards on the ground. He might have that many by halftime.
Mississippi State 31, Kentucky 21: The dilemma for Kentucky is Dak Prescott. If the Wildcats drop seven to try to stop him from throwing the ball, Prescott probably runs wild. Stack against the run and he’ll slice and dice passing it. The Bulldogs need only one more win to become bowl eligible for a school record sixth straight year and they’ll get it Saturday night.
Missouri 17, Vanderbilt 14: This could be as boring a game as you will ever want to see. Vandy is a turnover machine but its defense will look world class against Missouri’s inept offense. MIzzou has a world class defense that will stop the Commodores cold and somehow, the Tigers will figure out a way to score enough to win.
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY: WEEK 8 EDITION
EXTINCT SPECIES LIST
1. Tim Beckman, Illinois
2. Dan McCarney, North Texas
3. Randy Edsall, Maryland
4. Steve Sarkisian, Southern Cal
ON LIFE SUPPORT
1. George O’Leary, UCF (0-7): Up above buzzards are circling the football offices. Down below the wagons are circling because a firing is inevitable. The only thing standing between O’Leary and an 0-12 season is the UCF administration, which might choose to put him out of his misery before the end of the season.
2. Darrell Hazell, Purdue (1-6): Hazell’s job is safe for at least one more week. Purdon’t has an open date this week so there’s no way the Boilers are going to lose. Purdue just announced it’s investing $60 million for facilities updates. The school isn’t going to put that kind of money into losing football, so a new coach is inevitable. Soon.
3. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State (2-4): When you’re a coach who feels like there is a blowtorch under his seat, the last thing in the world you want to do is take a road trip to Baylor, whose worst scoring game all year was 56 in game one against SMU. Since then five straight opponents have given up at least 60. It will take great restraint by the I-State administration to let Rhoads coach beyond Saturday.
4. Mike London, Virginia (2-4): Okay, so the Cadavers pulled off a win last week, which was somewhat of a shock. Now all London has to do is go 4-2 or 5-1 the rest of the way and he will be gainfully employed at UVa another year.
5. Trent Miles, Georgia State (2-4): This week’s open date means another seven days to celebrate last week’s most unexpected win over Ball State. It’s going to take 3-4 more wins for Miles to get another year.
6. Kyle Flood, Rutgers (3-3): Last week’s miracle comeback win over Indiana notwithstanding, the program is a train wreck. The next three games are Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan so the giddiness will end and folks will start recalling that Flood tried to intimidate a professor to change the grade of a player in a modern dance class. How do you flunk modern dance?
7. Norm Chow, Hawaii (2-5): The administration at Hawaii is made up of sadists who refuse to put Norm out of his misery now by firing him. Instead, they’re going to make him coach out the rest of the season before they show any mercy.
8. Kevin Wilson, Indiana (4-3): All the Hoosiers had to do was hold on to a 26-point lead and Wilson would be within one game of bowl eligible. Losing the lead and the game to Rutgers isn’t the last straw, but it’s very close.
9. Todd Berry, Louisiana-Monroe (1-5): It’s one thing to take a blowout for a paycheck, which ULM has done twice this year, but when you give up 51 points to Georgia Southern and 59 to Appalachian State, the natives get restless and start asking why? There are winnable games remaining with Idaho, Troy, Hawaii and New Mexico State. A loss in any one of those games will probably throw a can of gasoline onto the Fire Todd Berry bonfire.
ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST
1. Al Golden, Miami (4-2): Big Al could do himself a solid by knocking off 6th-ranked Clemson this weekend. No pressure, none at all. If Al loses all he has to do is go 5-0 the rest of the season and he’ll have a job next year.
2. Chuck Martin, Miami Ohio (1-6): This is the school that has churned out head coaches such as Sid Gillman, Col. Earl “Red” Blaik, Paul Brown, Weeb Ewbank, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Paul Dietzel, Carmen Cozza, Ara Parseghian, Bill Mallory and John Harbaugh. With that kind of history you have to wonder how is it the program has fallen on such hard times?
3. Doug Martin, New Mexico State (0-6): The bad news is the Aggies have yet to win a game and they’ve given up 50 or more points four times. The good news is not only are the next two games – Troy and Idaho – winnable but neither one of those teams is capable of scoring 50 points.
4. Paul Petrino, Idaho (2-5): The fans are still basking in the glow of a road win over Troy last week. They might go on a 10-day bender if the Vandals make it two in a row with a win over Louisiana-Monroe this week. The Kibbie Dome will be a rocking place Saturday night where 14,000 fans will do their best to sound like 20,000.
5. Paul Haynes, Kent State (3-4): The easy part of the schedule yielded three wins. The tough part might yield one more. Haynes will probably get to four wins but he needs 5-6 at a minimum to keep his job.
6. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado (3-4): He really needs three more wins, but there is a really good chance he will be saved by the buyout. The schedule says 3-9 or 4-8.
VERY WEAK PULSE
1. Curtis Johnson, Tulane (2-4): The Greenies have given up 91 points in the last two games and 102 in the other two losses. If Johnson could somehow go 3-3 the rest of the way without any 50-60 point blowouts, he probably could come back for another year.
2. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt (2-4): Everybody says the Commodores are better, but can they match last year’s 4-win total? Firing coaches makes everyone at Vandy uncomfortable, but people still remember that James Franklin went to three straight bowl games. Mason probably survives, but
3. Willie Taggart, USF (3-3): Two straight wins have eased the pressure somewhat, but Taggart still has to win six games to stay on the job next year. The only surefire win on the remaining schedule is UCF. The combination of a losing season that included a loss to UCF would be disastrous.
1. Mike Leach, Washington State (4-2): Wazzoo has already exceeded last year’s win total (3). Two more wins, the Cougs are bowl eligible and folks will forget they lost to a D1AA team in the season opener.
2. Butch Jones, Tennessee (3-3, 1-2 SEC): The Vols probably get whomped this week in Tuscaloosa but there is a real chance they can win their last five and go 8-4. Of course, there is a chance they could blow some fourth quarter leads and finish 5-7 or 6-6, too.
3. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech (3-4): Beamer really needs to go 4-1 in the next five games to stop the whining in Blacksburg. A win over #23 Duke this week would temporarily stop the grumbling.
Whether it’s injuries, attitude or forgetting to take his meds, Percy Harvin has worn out his NFL welcome in three places and he’s about to make it 4-4. It’s bad enough that he’s contemplating retirement from the NFL. There are probably quite a few NFL players who read that and said, “Don’t let the door hit you on the butt on your way out.” Percy is an incredible talent but he’s never gone a full season without injury, his attitude stinks and he’s never taken his meds on a consistent basis.
File this one under You Don’t Spit Into the Wind. Sheldon Richardson of the New York Jets has guaranteed the if the Jets execute they will upset the New England Patriots Sunday. Challenging Tom Brady in the media is not exactly one of the smartest things one can do.
Temple is 7-0 for the first time in school history after the Owls knocked off East Carolina 24-14 Thursday night. You’re going to hear the name Matt Rhule on a lot of coaching search short lists from here on out.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
What are your picks for Tennessee at Alabama and Texas A&M at Ole Miss?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Driving today, I heard “Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight” by the Atlanta Rhythm Section and it reminded me just how good these guys used to be. Today’s music is their “Champagne Jam” album from 1978.