Florida's Defense Is BCS Championship-Worthy, but Can the O Shape Up by 2013?

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterNovember 3, 2012

GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 03:  Omarius Hines #20 of the Florida Gators runs for yardage during the game against the Missouri Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 3, 2012 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

It wasn't the humidity that was making Florida Gators fans sweat in the Swamp on Saturday afternoon—it was the Gators offense.

For the first seven games of the season, the Gators sped out to a 7-0 record on the heels of a punishing running game and stout defense, with no sign of a functional passing attack.

The last two games have made it abundantly clear why the passing attack has been missing in action.

It simply doesn't exist.

Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel completed 12 of 23 passes for 106 yards and one touchdown in Saturday's 14-7 win over Missouri in Gainesville.

This comes on the heels of a miserable performance vs. Georgia in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, in which Driskel threw two picks and fumbled twice in a 17-9 loss to the Bulldogs.

Florida's defense is BCS National Championship-worthy, but it's clear that head coach Will Muschamp's offense is still lacking under first-year offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

Can the Gators get things turned around and make a run at the title in 2013?

While Driskel may be a concern, the first order of business is to find a replacement for senior Mike Gillislee, who has been a workhorse for the Gators this season.

Mack Brown was a highly touted recruit when he came to Gainesville from Lithonia, Ga. in the Class of 2010, but hasn't had a chance to shine as the feature back. He'll likely get the first look next season, and if he can live up to the hype that followed him across the border, the Gators will be just fine.

But he has help.

Kelvin Taylor, a 4-star recruit from Belle Glade, Fla. and son of former Gator Fred Taylor, has committed to the Gators as part of the Class of 2013. We've seen true freshman running backs like Todd Gurley, T.J. Yeldon, Isaiah Crowell, Michael Dyer and Marcus Lattimore make instant impacts in the SEC recently, so it's not farfetched to think that Taylor could do the same.

If Florida is going to take the next step, they are going to have to let Driskel get comfortable in the pocket this season at some point.

He had way too many passes batted down on Saturday afternoon vs. Missouri, missed several open receivers and looked generally uncomfortable in the pocket.

He has looked the part of a legitimate threat through the air at times this season, particularly in Florida's win at Tennessee early in the year. But that was against Tennessee's defense, which is only slightly better than air.

Driskel has the talent but has been protected by his running game and defense this season. Muschamp and Pease are going to have to let him learn on the job at some point this season if Florida is going to take the step up to the next level, because the style of play that got them into the title discussion this year won't let them break through that glass ceiling.