Florida 2012 Football Schedule: Keys to Each Game
Spring practice is over for the Florida Gators, which means that we are that much closer to the regular season kicking off. The Gators return a majority of last year’s squad and hope that the second season under head coach Will Muschamp will be much more successful than the first.
While this team still has questions they have to answer in fall camp, Florida also has a brutal schedule that they have to deal with if they would like to improve on last season’s 7-6 record. This surely isn't going to be a cakewalk, but it will be a measuring stick to see just how far this team is from competing with college football’s elite once again.
We broke down the Gators' schedule, gave a few predictions and listed a couple of must wins. Now as we inch closer to the regular season, here are the keys to victory for the 2012 Florida Gators football team.
Key: Force Matt Schliz into mistakes.
Florida really shouldn't have a problem with Bowling Green; after all, it's a program that hasn't won a bowl game since 2004. Last season the Falcons finished with a 5-7 record in the MAC, and although they do return 17 starters, this isn't a matchup that should keep the coaching staff up at night.
With that said, Bowling Green quarterback Matt Schilz wasn't bad in his second season as a starter for the Falcons. He completed nearly 60 percent of his passes and threw for over 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns. The problem is that when he throws at least two interceptions, the Falcons have a 2-7 record in the last two seasons.
Bowling Green would have to play a perfect game and then some to have a chance. Bottom for Florida: Force some turnovers and win this game fairly easily.
@ Texas A&M
Key: Protect the quarterback.
The Aggies may be one of the newbies of the conference, but they have one thing going for them, and that's the fact that they rush the passes extremely well. They return eight starters from a unit that was ranked first in the country with 51 sacks.
Last season Florida did an okay job, only allowing 23 sacks on the year. The problem is that only three of those sacks were given up in the seven victories, while 20 combined sacks were allowed in the six losses. This means that Florida lost many games when their quarterback was being thrown to the ground.
Both of these teams have many questions heading into the season, but Florida must do a better job of protecting its quarterback.
Key: Rattle quarterback Tyler Bray.
This Tennessee team has talent to really turn some heads this season. The Volunteers should also get a healthy Justin Hunter back at wide receiver, who was injured in last year's meeting against Florida.
But while this team is very talented and full of youth, quarterback Tyler Bray has still shown inconsistency. Sure, he has the talent to become one of the better quarterbacks in the conference, and the talent around him to win many games, but he hasn't quite taken that next step yet.
In the nine games Bray has thrown interceptions in his career, six of them have been games where he's been picked off twice. When he makes mistakes, he tends to do it repeatedly.
He threw two costly interceptions In last year's meeting against Florida, which played a huge difference in the outcome of the game. Force the young quarterback into a few interceptions and the Gators should increase its winning streak over Tennessee to eight straight.
Key: Score three touchdowns.
I have never seen Florida lose to Kentucky when it comes to football, as the Gators have won 25 straight against the Wildcats. In six of the last eight victories, Kentucky has failed to score 20 points, let alone three touchdowns. Last season this offense was extremely painful to watch, as it was ranked 117th in the entire country.
Kentucky truly lacks playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, and with the defense that Florida is bringing back, it's safe to say that the Gators should feel comfortable if they're able to cross the goal line a couple of times.
Key: Slow down that running game.
We know what the Tigers like to do on offense under head coach Les Miles, run the ball and run the ball some more. And why not, when you have a backfield that is easily four deep with each player bringing something different to the table.
Last season, the Gators couldn't stop the running game to save their lives against the Tigers. LSU carried the ball 49 times and racked up 238 yards and three touchdowns. If Florida is hoping for any chance to pull off the upset, they need to cut down that rushing total by at least half.
Sure, the Tigers may have a better passing game with Zach Mettenberger running the show, but I would much rather force a first-year starter to beat me in a hostile environment than a group of backs who already did so last season.
Key: Get off the field on third downs.
Florida was one of the best teams at preventing third-down conversions last year. The only team in the SEC that was better than was the Alabama Crimson Tide (27 percent conversion rate). Vanderbilt is a team that's making great improvements under head coach James Franklin, but the offense struggled at times to put points on the board.
The Commodores do return nine starters on the offensive side of the ball this season, but couldn't keep drives alive when they were put in third-down situations. Their 36 percent conversation percentage was good for seventh in the SEC and 106th in the country.
This should be a tough matchup as the Gators travel to Nashville, TN, but if the defense can do a good job of getting off the field, they should be in good hands.
Key: Contain Marcus Lattimore.
By this point in the season, we should be able to tell if Lattimore is fully recovered from an ACL injury that sidelined him for a majority of last year. The Gators luckily didn't have to face the Heisman candidate, but that likely won't be the case this season.
Lattimore had his career high in rushing yards against the Gators in 2010, as he ran for 212 yards in a 36-14 victory. He averaged over five yards a carry in that game, caught three passes for over 30 yards and scored three touchdowns.
The Gamecocks have a great defense that Florida will have to worry about as well, but if they hope to have any chance of winning, you can't let this guy run all over you once again.
Georgia (In Jacksonville)
Key: Avoid penalties.
Florida was one of the most undisciplined teams in the country last year, averaging 59.5 yards in penalties a game. That was good for dead last in the conference and 89th in the country. In last year's meeting against the Bulldogs, Florida racked up a ridiculous 14 penalties for a total of 106 yards moving backwards.
Georgia is one of the more talented teams in the country and has their eyes set on the SEC title and possible national championship. If the Gators are to have any chance of ending a two-game skid against the Bulldogs, they must stop shooting themselves in the foot.
Florida only lost by four points; one would think if they didn't have some many flags thrown, they may have actually won that game.
Key: Prevent third-down conversions.
Despite all of the offensive talent the Tigers have on their team, they were one of the worst squads in the country at converting third downs. Missouri was ranked ninth in the Big 12 last season and 72nd in the country as it converted less than 40 percent (70 of 183) of its third-down attempts.
That doesn't sound good when going up against a team like Florida, who was one of the best at preventing third-down conversions. (48-177)
Missouri does have playmakers on the offensive side of the ball in quarterback James Franklin, wide receiver T.J. Moe and true freshman Dorial Green-Beckham. However, they simply won't be able to beat the Gators if they can't extend their drives and give themselves more scoring opportunities.
Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns
Key: Keep them out of the red zone.
Louisiana Lafayette didn't play much defense last season, but had an offense that was pretty solid considering they play in the Sun Belt Conference. The Ragin' Cajuns averaged over 32 points per game and return eight starters from last year's unit.
This is a team that scored 92.86 percent of the time they entered the red zone last season. That was by far the best in the Sun Belt and the fifth best in the entire country. The only teams that averaged a higher percentage were Stanford, Texas A&M, Wisconsin and LSU. Pretty good company, huh?
I'm not saying Louisiana Lafayette stands a chance, taking a trip to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is a difficult task for any team. But this is a squad that went toe-to-toe with Arizona last year and dropped 34 on Oklahoma State.
Keep this team out of the red zone or things could get interesting.
Key: Don't look ahead.
Does this game truly need a key to victory? If the Gators end up losing this game, they should forfeit the rest of the season and ban themselves from a bowl game. The only possible way Florida ends up losing this game is if they get caught looking ahead to the big rivalry showdown against the Florida State Seminoles.
Even then I'm not sure Florida loses this game, but then again, Furman did hang around last year a lot longer than they should have.
@ Florida State
Key: Protect the quarterback.
Surprisingly, in last season’s loss against Florida State, the Gators only allowed two sacks. That offensive line will need a similar effort if Florida expects to have any chance in this matchup. The Seminoles return nine starters from a defense that was ranked fourth in the country, and finished the year first in the ACC with 41 sacks.
They also bring in a loaded recruiting class on the defensive side of the ball, which makes this unit one of the scarier defenses in the country heading into the season. In the last three seasons, the Seminoles are 14-5 when they pick up at least three sacks. Things could really get ugly if Florida doesn't do a solid job of protecting its quarterback.