Florida Football: 5 Reasons the Gators Could Win a 4-Team Playoff
If you take away a couple of turnovers in Jacksonville, the Florida Gators could be playing for a national championship this season. But that's not how things work under the BCS.
However, a four-team playoff is right around the corner. The playoff system will use a committee, similar to the committees that choose the men's and women's college basketball tournaments, to choose the best four teams in the country. Those teams will then play in a semifinal with the winners meeting later to play for the National Championship.
If we had a playoff system this season, Florida would have undoubtedly been selected by the committee. Florida had the most impressive résumé of any team in the country and finished ranked No. 3 in the BCS.
For the sake of argument, we will assume that the top four teams in the final BCS standing were selected to play in a four-game playoff. That would pit Florida against Alabama in one semifinal and Oregon against Notre Dame in the other.
Are the Gators good enough to match up against the likes of Alabama, Notre Dame and Oregon? Absolutely. This slideshow will give you the top five reasons why the Florida Gators could win a four-team playoff this season.
5. Will Muschamp
Will Muschamp was questioned after the Gators finished 7-6 in his first season as a head coach.
In his second season, Muschamp has silenced those doubters. Muschamp and the Gator coaching staff were able to make on-the-fly adjustments during games that helped the Gators come back from early deficits. Four times in 2011 the Gators went into the locker room trailing, only to make adjustments in the locker room and play lights out in the second half.
Florida's ability to make adjustments in-game will be crucial against the teams in this playoff.
Will Muschamp has earned the respect and trust of Gator Nation, and they are not an easy group to impress.
4. The Team Is Finally Healthy Again
The injury bug hit the Gators pretty hard this season.
Ronald Powell tore an ACL and was lost for the season during Florida's spring game. Cody Riggs broke a bone in his foot against Texas A&M and missed the rest of the season. Jelani Jenkins missed two games early in the season and will miss the bowl game with an injury.
Other than Jenkins and Riggs, the Gators are finally healthy, especially along the offensive line. Florida used 10 different offensive linemen this season and the line struggled to jell as a cohesive unit because of it.
Now that the offensive line is back at full strength and the team has had about a month to heal and prepare, it leads us to our next reason why the Gators could win a four-team playoff.
3. The Running Game
Make no mistake about it the Gators are going to run the football.
Florida ran the ball on 66 percent of their offensive plays this season and having a physical running game allows Will Muschamp to control the clock and play great defense.
Florida was able to run the ball effectively against the two best run defenses it played this season, LSU and FSU. LSU is the ninth-ranked run defense, allowing just 101.83 yards on the ground a game. The Gators wore down the Tigers defense by running the ball 58 times for 176 yards.
The win over FSU is even more impressive. The Noles are the fifth-ranked run defense, allowing 92.62 yards a game. Florida ran the ball 47 times for 244 yards.
The Gators would run all over Oregon, the Ducks give up an average of 146 yards a game on the ground. Although Alabama and Notre Dame have the No. 1 and No. 4 rush defenses respectively, the Gators would be able to run the ball.
Mike Gillislee is in the midst of a career season while Matt Jones has emerged as a young back who can carry the load if he needs to. Jeff Driskel's mobility also adds an extra wrinkle to the offense that would keep all three defenses on their toes.
2. Florida Protects the Football
Perhaps the biggest area of improvement this season was turnover margin. Florida took care of the football in 2012 and forced its opponents to become violators.
In 2011 the Gators finished the year with 14 takeaways but turned the ball over 26 times for a minus-12 turnover margin. However, this season, Florida created 29 takeaways while only turning the ball over 12 times for a plus-17 turnover margin.
The plus-29 difference from 2011 to 2012 has been almost unbelievable and has kept the Gators in games.
Florida has the least amount of turnover of the four teams in our playoff and only Oregon has forced more turnovers than the Gators.
Florida's ability to protect the football on offense while creating turnovers on defense sets its apart from its competition.
Earlier in the week I wrote an article protecting who the top 25 defenses would be next season.
In doing research for that I found out that every team to win a national championship in the BCS era, except the Cam Newton-led Auburn Tigers, has had a top 10 scoring defense.
Notre Dame, Alabama and Florida are the three best scoring defenses in the country in that order. Oregon comes in at No. 26 and it doesn't have Cam Newton to carry them to a title.
Offense sells tickets and makes for great highlights but defense win championships.
The Gators defense has played their best football against their stiffest competition. Florida held Texas A&M, an offense that averaged 44.8 points per game, to just 17 points and shut out the Aggies in the second half. Florida was able to hold LSU to two first-half field goals and then stonewalled the Tigers in the second half.
On the other side, Alabama's defense and Notre Dame's defense struggled at times this season. Alabama couldn't stop Johnny Manziel and eventually lost to the Aggies, 29-24.
Notre Dame gave up 26 points to the No. 74-ranked offense in the country and should have lost to the Pitt Panthers if not for a few errant field goals.
The Gators defense may come up behind Alabama and Notre Dame in some categories, but Florida's defense has played as solid and can match up with any defense in the country.