Florida Football 3-2-1: Perspective makes defense look even worse

Oct 19, 2020 | 0 comments

After one of the most bizarre and eventful weeks in recent history, the No. 10 Gators enter their second unplanned bye week in a row. Close to 30 players, at least two assistant coaches, and head coach Dan Mullen are in quarantine, and the team is not expected to resume activities for at least a few more days.

Since there was no Florida football last week and none this week, this week’s edition of 3-2-1 will primarily focus on the Gators’ opponents. Here are three observations, two questions, and one prediction.

Three Observations

1) The offensive performances turned in by Ole Miss and Texas A&M over the weekend make UF’s defense look even worse. The Rebels piled up more than 600 yards against the Gators, and quarterback Matt Corral threw for nearly 400 yards. Arkansas limited them to 21 points and intercepted Corral six times. A week after Aggies quarterback Kellen Mond torched the Gators for 338 yards and three touchdowns, Mississippi State held him to 139 yards on just 13-for-23 passing. Texas A&M only gained 325 yards as a team. Some people like to point to recruiting shortcomings as the source of the Gators’ eyesore of a defense, but this is not a recruiting issue at its core. Florida has significantly better defensive talent than Arkansas and Mississippi State, so there are no excuses for them to not at least be a middle-of-the-pack SEC defense.

2) The Arkansas game no longer looks like a walk in the park. The Razorbacks entered the season on a 19-game conference losing streak, and some wondered if they would go 0-10 in their first season under new coach Sam Pittman. Instead, Arkansas has been one of the most improved teams in the country. They’re 2-2 and would be 3-1 if not for a poorly officiated spike play in the waning seconds against Auburn. They also competed with Georgia for a half. Defensive coordinator Barry Odom has worked wonders for them, leading a unit that ranks eighth in the league in total defense and fifth in scoring defense. With the Arkansas game falling the week after the battle with Georgia, that game now has the feel of a sneaky trap game.

3) The SEC did the Gators a bit of a favor with how they handled the rescheduling of the Missouri game. Missouri and Kentucky shared a common bye week on Nov. 7, so the league could’ve easily bumped their originally scheduled Oct. 31 game back a week and kept everybody else’s schedules intact. Instead, they recognized that the Florida-Georgia game will almost certainly decide the SEC East, so they reworked the schedule to also eliminate Georgia’s bye week before the game in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs will now face Kentucky on Oct. 31.

Two Questions

1) How many players will the Gators be without against Missouri? According to SEC rules, individuals who test positive are required to quarantine 10 days from the onset of symptoms, while individuals who have been identified as close contacts are required to quarantine for 14 days from the date of last exposure. Assuming there were no more positive tests after Wednesday (which is a big if), every player and coach who tested positive would be cleared to return in time for the beginning of game week, while those who are isolated due to contact tracing would be eligible to return in the middle of the week. Of course, the Gators might still experience some more positive tests over the next week that leave them shorthanded still. Or, they could not have any more positives, get some injured players back, and actually come out ahead in all of this.

2) Will the offense lose its rhythm during these back-to-back weeks off? Offense is highly predicated on timing, and not practicing for almost two weeks could cause that timing to be off against Missouri. You have to figure that there are probably multiple offensive starters in quarantine right now, and those that aren’t can’t just hop onto the practice field and throw for an hour with the facilities closed. So, unless they’re going to some random park in Gainesville, they’ll likely do nothing football-related this week other than watch some film. This isn’t something the players and coaches have had to deal with before. Even during the 1-2-week gap between the end of the regular season and the beginning of bowl practices, they still have weight-lifting sessions and the option of practicing on their own. This is a complete shutdown in the middle of the season. If they don’t pick up exactly where they left off on offense, they’ll be in big trouble against Missouri.

One Prediction

1) The public shaming that Mullen received after his comments about packing the Swamp days before the outbreak will subside by the end of this week. You can always count on another program suffering an outbreak or somebody else saying something objectionable to steal the negative attention away quickly during this pandemic. Mullen’s comments and the subsequent outbreak were horribly timed and looked really bad from an optics perspective, but they had nothing to do with each other at all. As the Gators’ outbreak comes to a close and other programs inevitably suffer similar issues, critics will find somebody else to mindlessly bash this week.

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