Posted on: September 29, 2011 1:22 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 3:32 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
In which we break down the SEC's biggest games. This week: Gators and Crimson Tide, 8 p.m. ET Saturday on CBS.
AT STAKE: Nothing less than the winner's continued presence in the national championship race. Yes, Alabama could potentially lose and still work their way back in via a victory over LSU, but the way teams like Oklahoma and Wisconsin are playing, we wouldn't risk it if we were them. And no, Florida isn't widely viewed as a national title contender at the moment--but a win over the Tide would change that in the biggest of hurries.
WHEN ALABAMA HAS THE BALL, THEY MUST: Give AJ McCarron time to throw. The Tide's pass protection hasn't exactly been an Achilles heel so far this 2011 season, but it hasn't been a strength, either; the Tide have given up eight sacks in their four games, ranking them 77th in the FBS in that department, and that's with the offense heavily favoring the run game and North Texas and Kent State on the schedule.
Now tackles Barrett Jones and D.J. Fluker will have to deal with the most fearsome pass rush they've faced yet. The Gators have collected seven sacks the past two weeks alone, and it's not the result of just one superstar player; Will Muschamp's blitz packages have resulted in six different Gators collecting at least one sack, with linebacker Jonathan Bostic and defensive end Ronald Powell tying for the team lead with two. Tackles Jaye Howard, Dominique Easley and Sharrif Floyd mean the Gator pass rush is just as strong inside as it is outside, too. In short: the Tide offensive line is going to have its hands full.
But the rewards for keeping McCarron clean should be lavish. The Gator secondary is athletic and has been highly productive to date (four interceptions in the last two games, 4.7 yards per-attempt allowed for the season), but they're also young, mistake-prone (as the avalanche of penalties vs Tennessee showed) and no doubt highly concerned with the Tide rushing attack. Keeping McCarron upright likely also means the handful of big plays that would keep the Gators defense honest ... and honesty is no way to deal with Trent Richardson.
WHEN FLORIDA HAS THE BALL, THEY MUST: break Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey free for big plays--and we mean really big plays, plays of the 60-, 70-yard touchdown variety the Gators have already enjoyed vs. Tennessee and Kentucky.
Against the Tide, that's easier said than done, of course. But that's also the Gators' best hope. The Tide have allowed only four plays all season longer than 20 yards (second-fewest in the nation), and yielded just one to Arkansas. Result? Being forced to drive the length of the field, neither the Razorbacks nor Penn State before them were able to muster more than one serious drive before the game was well out of reach.
And it's not as if the Gators are any better built for pounding out long, methodical possessions; for all their brilliance neither Demps nor Rainey is the sort of back to move a pile of Crimson Tide defenders on 3rd-and-2, and while much improved, John Brantley still only completed 59 percent of his passes in the Gators' two SEC contests to date. Charlie Weis must figure out a way to get Demps and Rainey into space -- we suggest a heavy dose of the screen passes and check-downs that so damaged the Vols -- and hope they can work their magic. Otherwise, first-year punter David Lerner is going to get an awful lot of work.
WHAT ALABAMA CAN'T ACCOUNT FOR: The Florida Field crowd. The Swamp hasn't always been The Swamp as of late -- it was just last year the Gators conspired to lose an unthinkable three consecutive home games -- but with the 4-0 start, the burst of energy from Muschamp, the primetime start, and no less an opponent than Nick Saban's Alabama, the atmosphere in Gainesville promises to be as hostile as any college football will see this year.
On the whole, a veteran team like the Tide should be able to handle it. But can McCarron? And if the Tide fall behind, will he be alone in feeling the pressure?
WHAT FLORIDA CAN'T ACCOUNT FOR: The inevitable deflation of that crowd. At some point, Alabama will connect for a big play, whether it's Marquis Maze on special teams, Richardson breaking loose on a screen pass or Eddie Lacy coming off the bench to thunder for 40 yards or so. While Florida has any number of upperclassmen leaders, this remains a young team on the whole, with a first-year coaching staff, that's enjoyed nothing but prosperity so far in 2011. When Alabama socks them in the mouth and the crowd loses its buzz momentarily, there's no guaranteeing how the Gators will respond.
AND IN THE END: Buoyed by the home crowd, Florida's defense holds up much better in the face of the Tide running game than Arkansas's did. But there's not enough weapons in the Gator passing game to keep Demps and Rainey from being swarmed under, and the Tide seizes control early in the second half. Alabama 27, Florida 16.
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Tags: AJ McCarron, Alabama, Arkansas, Barrett Jones, Charlie Weis, Chas Henry, Chris Rainey, D.J. Fluker, Dominique Easley, Eddie Lacy, Florida, Florida Field, Jaye Howard, Jeff Demps, Jerry Hinnen, John Brantley, Jonathan Bostic, Kent State, Kentucky, LSU, Marquis Maze, Nick Saban, North Texas, Oklahoma, Penn State, Ray Guy Award, Ronald Powell, SEC, SEC shakedown, Sharrif Floyd, Trent Richardson, Will Muschamp, Wisconsin
Posted on: January 1, 2011 5:20 pm
Edited on: January 1, 2011 5:20 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Urban Meyer goes out with a win and a complimentary Bloomin' Onion as Florida defeats Penn State 37-24
Offense: Florida scored 37 points on Saturday, but don't think that means the Gators offense finally figured things out. Fourteen of those points came courtesy of the defense and special teams. Meanwhile, the two offensive touchdowns Florida did manage came on two drives totaling 40 yards thanks to Penn State turnovers.
In total, the Florida offense managed only 287 yards on the day, with its trio of quarterbacks combining to complete 14-of-27 passes for 102 yards. If there was a standout player for Gators on offense, it was Omarius Hines who had 59 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. Other than that, there wasn't much to celebrate on offense.
If the Gators were to hand out an offensive MVP for the game, it would likely go to kicker/punter Chas Henry or safety Ahmad Black. Grade:D
Defense: Thankfully for the Gators, while they still don't have an offense, the defense made the trip down south to Tampa on Saturday. Ahmad Black had a huge day in his final game as a Gator, including the deciding pick-six in the final minutes that put an end to Penn State's chances. All in all the Gators forced five turnovers on the game, all via the interception, and held Penn State to only seven points in the second half. Grade: B+
Coaching: You'd think that with over a month passing between Florida's last game and this one, the coaching staff might have been able to come up with an offensive game plan that wasn't as terrible as the one we'd seen all season. Unfortunately, even though Steve Addazio accepted the head coaching job at Temple, he stuck around Gainesville for this game. Still, since it was Urban Meyer's final game, and his beloved special teams unit got him a touchdown, the Gators staff still gets a decent grade. Grade: B-
Offense: To put it simply, Penn State's offense cost them a win on Saturday. Particularly Matt McGloin, who on one play would make a throw that completely surpassed your expectations, and on the next would throw a pass that completely defied logic. McGloin threw five interceptions on the day. Five.
You're not going to win many games turning the ball over that often.
Penn State's offense actually out-gained Florida's offense by 70 yards in this one, and Evan Royster rushed for 99 yards, but the interceptions and McGloin's overall decision-making killed the Nittany Lions. Grade: F
Defense: You can't pin this one on the Penn State defense at all. It did it's job and smothered a lackluster Florida offense, but the Nittany Lions found themselves in too many bad spots thanks to the turnovers. Really, the defense played well given the circumstances, holding Florida to field goals a lot of the time. Nobody on this Penn State defense has anything to be ashamed of following this game, and Matt McGloin owes everybody on this unit a free meal. Grade: B
Coaching: I did not like what Joe Paterno and the Penn State coaching job did on offense in this game. I'm sorry, but when my quarterback has had trouble with deeper routes all season long and is turning the ball over frequently, I'm not going to drop him back and have him throw 42 times. It just doesn't make any sense. If you feel you have to throw so much, then run plays with shorter routes. Yes, McGloin had a bad game, but his coaches didn't do him a lot of favors. Grade: D+
This game was not pretty. Not at all. Still, given the action going on around the state of Florida and in Texas elsewhere on Saturday at the same time, at least this one had a bit of drama in it at the end. It's for that reason, and that reason only, that this grade is even this high. Grade: C+
Posted on: November 4, 2010 12:55 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Much has been written and discussed regarding Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham making a choking signal at Florida kicker Chas Henry before his game-winning field goal last Saturday. One person who it may surprise you believes all of that writing and discussion is a lot of useless hot air? Chas Henry himself :
This is an admirable bygones-by-bygones approach from Henry, who of course already had the last word by making the kick. But when even Bulldog fans are mostly admitting Grantham could have done more to apologize , he really could have done more to apologize; the line between players and opposing coaches has been in place in virtually every sport since sports began, and for a reason. Crossing it should trigger something from Grantham's end other than him simply saying it won't happen again.
But considering Henry's reaction in the heat of the action, it's no surprise he doesn't see Grantham's mistake as worthy of further response:
Frankly, if you're looking for reasons the Gators have gone 18-3 the last 21 years against the Dawgs, you could do worse than the fact that Florida's players are relaxed enough to blow "little smooches" at opposing coaches just before the biggest play of the game, while Georgia's wound up enough that they feel the need to send the entire team onto the field to show how not-wound up they are.
Posted on: November 2, 2010 2:19 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
On Saturday in Jacksonville, Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham was caught on camera making what appeared to be the universal "choke" signal before Chas Henry lined up to make a game-winning kick in overtime for Florida. Grantham repeatedly put his right hand up to his throat after Georgia called a timeout to ice Henry.
Now, for some reason, the fact that a coach on the opposing team would somehow hope that a kicker would blow a field goal and not beat his team is apparently a big deal. Why? I honestly don't know.
Should Grantham have been rooting for Henry?
Whatever the case is, Mark Richt felt the need to address it at his weekly press conference.
“I’ll just say that emotions run high and people do things that they probably wish they wouldn’t do,” Richt said. “I think that was what was being communicated. I don’t think he’s necessarily proud of it. We're just gonna learn from it and move on.”
Personally, I side with Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray who said that he didn't think it was that big of a deal as "it's not like he charged the field at the kicker and tried to do something to him."
Which, if Grantham had done, would have been wrong but so very awesome.
Posted on: October 30, 2010 11:29 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2010 11:32 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
1. The SEC East will be decided on November 13. A few weeks ago the SEC was up for grabs with just about every team in the division still in contention to win it. Now, after Saturday's events, only two teams remain. With their wins on Saturday, only South Carolina and Florida have a realistic shot, and they play in Gainesville in two weeks. Florida has Vanderbilt before that, which they should win, and while South Carolina has a tough test with Arkansas next week, they can withstand one more loss. Either way, the winner of that game on the 13th is going to Atlanta.
2. Auburn cares not for the BCS curse. Oklahoma couldn't overcome it last week, and some folks wondered if Auburn would be the next #1 team in the BCS to suffer a loss, but it didn't happen this week. The Tigers took care of Ole Miss 51-31 on Saturday night in Oxford, and the Cam Newton Heisman Locomotive kept on barreling down the tracks. In fact, Newton decided he was tired of merely passing and running for touchdowns, so he decided to catch one this week as well.
3. Tennessee found a new quarterback. And his name is Tyler Bray. The freshman saw his first action last week, and came on in relief of Matt Simms against South Carolina this week as well, and it looks like he may have wrestled the starting job away. Bray was far from perfect for the Vols, but he did throw for 159 yards and two touchdowns, getting the Vols back into the game before South Carolina pulled away late. Considering that Bray is the future for Tennessee, and the Vols have nothing left to play for, it only makes sense to roll with Bray the rest of the way.
4. Aaron Murray is going to be very good one day. It's just not going to be this season. At times on Saturday, Murray made fantastic plays to help lead Georgia back from a 21-10 deficit and force overtime against Florida. Unfortunately, he also turned the ball over four times, including the back breaker in overtime. Even so, Murray showed the kind of flashes on Saturday that have to make Georgia fans very optimistic about the future.
5. Chas Henry will rest peacefully tonight. I've felt incredibly sympathetic for Florida punter Chas Henry this season. He's had to fill in for an injured Caleb Sturgis, and has missed a few huge kicks for the Gators, including one that led to a loss against Mississippi State. Still, he made a very big one on Saturday night, nailing a 37-yarder to win the game in overtime.
Posted on: October 16, 2010 8:38 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2010 8:40 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Florida may have been hoping to end its two-game losing streak this week, but so far that's the only thing the Gators have done: hope. It's halftime in Gainesville and Mississippi State has a 10-0 lead. Though it's really not as bad as it sounds, and, yes, being down ten to Mississippi State at home does sound really, really bad.
The truth is, though, that Florida has an edge in just about every meaningful stat. They've outgained the Bulldogs 138-to-126, and have had the ball three minutes longer. The problem has been putting points on the board and keeping John Brantley off of his back. Oh, and if Florida could start getting more than one yard a carry in the second half, that would probably help too.
The Gators had a nice chance to get some points in the second quarter, putting together a 15-play 59-yard drive, but Chas Henry missed a 33-yard field goal that would have cut the lead to 10-3.
Still, even though they haven't played well in the first half, the Gators still only trail by ten points and Mississippi State hasn't exactly been playing magnificent football either. Though if the Gators don't find a way to get a ground game going in the second half, the ten point deficit may be too much to overcome. And if the Gators lose this one, well, hello, Cotton Bowl.
Posted on: October 2, 2010 8:37 pm
Edited on: October 2, 2010 11:10 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
8:35 - Trey Burton is not Tim Tebow. Florida had a 4th and goal from the one yard line and went for it. Burton tried to pull off the jump pass but was picked off in the end zone. Tide gets the ball back up 3-0 with 2:15 left in the first.
8:39 - It's pretty scary to consider that Trent Richardson is the second running back for Alabama. He just tore off a 30-yard run to get the Tide into Florida territory.
8:43 - The first quarter comes to an end with Greg McElroy hitting Darius Hanks for an 11-yard gain to the Florida 14-yard line. So the second quarter will start with the Tide threatening to add to their lead. Well, unless they call a jump pass.
8:48 - Mark Ingram does what Mark Ingram's done plenty of times, scoring a touchdown to give Alabama a 10-0 lead with 14:21 left until halftime. Though Trent Richardson would have gotten there quicker.
8:54 - This is an important drive for the Gators. While they don't have to get points, they need to move down the field and get some momentum behind them. If they go three and out and punt, it could be 17-0 really quick.
9:59 - Not a bad start for Florida in the second half, as Brantley hits Burton for a big gain and the Gator offense is already at midfield. If they can get a touchdown here we might almost have a game.10:02 - Brantley hits Moore on third down to set up a first and goal from the 5.
10:05 - The Gators have to settle for another field goal. FIELD GOALS AREN'T GOING TO WIN THIS GAME, URBAN. It's 24-6 Alabama and no sign of this game getting good anytime soon.
10:11 - Florida forces Alabama to punt, and it's a beauty. Downed at the one-yard line. If Florida can stop the Tide seven more times and kick seven more field goals, well,talk about excitement.
10:17 - Well that's a questionable strategy to get back in the game. Brantley is intercepted by C.J. Mosely and the freshman takes it to the house. It's 31-6 Alabama.
10:19 - Games like this really make you appreciate the idiocy of Les Miles.
10:21 - College football needs to institute some kind of mercy rule. Not to protect the feelings of the young men playing in the games, I don't care about them. I'm talking about taking mercy on my eyes.
10:24 - Aww, the stinking sideline is ruining John Brantley's interception party. He was just picked again, this time by Barron, but Barron comes down out of bounds so it doesn't count.
10:26 - On the very next play Brantley decides to just throw a pitch to Jeff Demps away, yelling "Stop this sideline! Turnover party!" Unforunately Demps never got the invitation and recovered the fumble. Let's see what Brantley tries next.
10:28 - The refs take mercy on Florida, and call a holding on Milliner to give the Gators a first down at the Alabama 15. Then on the next play Brantley throws to Moore in the end zone, and another flag is thrown. Pass interference on Milliner again. Florida is officially a charity case. Congratulations.
10:33 - Could it have gone any other way? Brantley and Moody fumble the exchange, Alabama recovers. The Brantley Turnover Extravaganza rages on.
10:36 - We start the fourth quarter with Alabama up 31-6, and ready to heap more punishment upon the Gators. Nick Saban is so happy that after the game tonight he's going to drink the blood of not one, but two babies.
10:39 - Alabama has to punt again, so it's Florida's ball once more. How will they mess it up this time? The only thing they haven't done tonight is give up a safety, so we should probably expect a Mike Pouncey snap to sail over Brantley's head and 50 yards through the back of the end zone.
10:44 - Wow, they just showed a stat that said the Tide only have 18 yards since halftime. And they're still up 25.
10:46 - I know Gillilee is out of the game with an injury, but seriously, what's the point of having Jeff Demps in the game at this point? He's already hurt, so why risk losing him next week in a game that's already decided?
10:48 - When it rains, it pours. John Brantley just got sandwiched between two Alabama players while scrambling and he's down on the ground being attended to. He looks to be in a considerable amount of pain too.
10:51 - See, this just makes no sense to me. Both coaches just saw Brantley leave the game with an injury, yet Alabama still has all their starters in. You're up 25. You're not going to lose this game. Get your reserves some play.
10:57 - Brantley is back in the game for Florida with a couple of sore ribs. Why, I don't know.
11:00 - Only 4:22 left in the game. Mercy will be taken upon us all soon enough. It's still 31-6 Alabama.
11:05 - Saban has Mark Ingram running the wildcat just to pad his stats. Well, that's awful nice, but he's going to need about 300 more yards to catch up to Denard Robinson.
11:07 - Verne points out that every one of Alabama's remaining opponents have a bye week before facing the Tide. Which doesn't seem fair, but let's be real, Alabama had a bye this week as well.
11:09 - All right, it's a final. Alabama wins 31-6. The Tide get South Carolina next week, and if they get past them the only thing I see standing in their way to the SEC championship is Cam Newton and Auburn.