Florida Football: Ranking the Gators' 2013 Opponents by Passing Attack
The Florida Gators had one of the worst passing attacks in the entire country last season.
In fact, they would be pretty low on any list that ranks aerial effectiveness.
Luckily for them, we are going to take a look at each of their opponents for this list. With non-conference games against two college heavyweights and yet another rough SEC lineup, the Gators will have an up-close look at some of the best aerial units in college football.
At the same time, their secondary will have an easy day at the office against other teams that aren't as effective through the air.
As the season approaches, here is a look at which teams will be able to throw on the Gators and which will not.
12. Georgia Southern
If you watch this Georgia Southern highlight video, you may notice something peculiar.
The Eagles pretty much never throw the football.
That's because they run the triple option and do it well. In fact, they averaged nearly 400 rushing yards per game last season.
In other words, the Gators do not have to worry about any sort of aerial attack when the Eagles head to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. For the most part, it does not exist.
Florida's defense had no problems against Kentucky last season. Quarterback Morgan Newton struggled throughout the entire game, and the Wildcats were kept off the scoreboard.
Although they should look somewhat better this season, the Wildcats will be in for more of the same against the Gators and others.
Whether it's Jalen Whitlow or Maxwell Smith at quarterback, Kentucky will be heavily under-matched in 2013. I expect Mark Stoops to give Raymond Sanders a larger role in the backfield, and there are simply not enough weapons in place to field a good aerial arsenal.
Look for the Gators to make it 27 in a row against their conference foe.
Florida's annual clash with Tennessee has lost some of its luster in recent years. The Gators have dominated during that time, and turnover at the quarterback position in Knoxville should allow that trend to continue.
Tyler Bray is now trying to rise through the pro ranks, which means all signs point to Justin Worley. The junior will have his struggles due to inexperience, and he is learning a new system under Butch Jones.
Not to mention the Volunteers also lost their top four receivers from 2012 in terms of yardage. Worley will likely struggle to find a reliable weapon, especially at the beginning of the schedule.
Add all of this up, and you will see why Tennessee's passing attack should not give the Gators much of a fight this season.
Like the Volunteers, the Razorbacks will have to move forward with a new quarterback under center.
In this case, Tyler Wilson left to join the Oakland Raiders after tossing 45 touchdowns in two seasons as the Arkansas starter.
First in line to replace him is Brandon Allen, who got his feet wet in relief of Wilson in 2012. He struggled, but his spring game performance leaves reason for optimism.
Arkansas will also have to overcome the departure of Cobi Hamilton, who caught 90 passes as a senior.
With a new quarterback and top wide receiver target, the Razorbacks should have a more difficult time throwing the football in 2013.
Add yet another school that is facing uncertainty at quarterback.
Jordan Rodgers put together a solid final season at Vanderbilt and led the Commodores to a nine-win campaign.
If James Franklin wants his squad to have similar success in 2013, he will have to rely on former Wyoming Cowboy Austyn Carta-Samuels. The senior has never put up huge numbers, but he has the most experience of any quarterback on the Commodore roster. He is also very athletic, which makes him more difficult to defend against.
Perhaps more importantly, he will have the services of stud receiver Jordan Matthews to help him find a groove. Matthews' presence alone makes Vanderbilt's passing attack more formidable.
This unit will have its struggles, but there are enough playmakers to limit the regression from Rodgers' absence.
Even though the Tigers have a mess at quarterback, they are still about mid-tier in terms of aerial effectiveness.
James Franklin saw most of the action last season, but there is no guarantee that history repeats itself. Corbin Berkstresser and Maty Mauk both saw extensive action in Missouri's spring game. Unfortunately for Tiger fans, none of these three were very impressive.
Then again, I don't think it will matter when they play the Gators. Franklin was only able to put seven points on the board in last year's matchup. It will help that the Tigers are at home, but that won't be enough for an upset victory.
Missouri has a lot of work to do, and much of it will be in regards to finding a passer.
6. Florida State
Florida State would have been much higher on this list prior to last season. Of course, that's because EJ Manuel was on the roster.
Until Jameis Winston can prove himself as a reliable quarterback, I am not completely buying the Seminoles as a dangerous passing threat.
Winston opened a lot of eyes during Florida State's spring game, and the freshman is now the preferred option in the minds of many fans.
The Seminoles make up for their lack of experienced quarterbacks with two strong receivers in Rashad Greene and Kenny Shaw. No matter who is throwing the football, these two will be able to make big plays and spark the offense.
By the time they face the Gators, the Seminoles could be right back where they were last season in terms of aerial production. For right now, however, the jury is still out.
Most SEC fans don't know much about Toledo, but they should. The Rockets' passing attack doesn't put up a ton of points, but it is very effective.
Terrance Owens holds it all together at quarterback. Is he a superstar? No, but he gets the ball where it needs to go and he limits turnovers.
Meanwhile, Bernard Reedy and Alonzo Russell are on the receiving end of those passes. Last season they combined for 2,080 yards. They form as dependable a combo as one could hope for.
It also helps when David Fluellen can open up the field with his strong ground game.
They play in the MAC and don't get much attention, but the Rockets can play with the big teams in college football. They're no pushover.
Zach Mettenberger had a decent season in 2012, but he never did much to stand out among SEC quarterbacks.
While he certainly is not the next Johnny Manziel, Mettenberger should improve significantly in 2013.
The biggest key will be his confidence in big games. Aside from the Tigers' loss to Alabama, Mettenberger had his worst performances in key contests, including those against Florida and Texas A&M. If he can step up on the big stage, LSU will be competitive in every game.
The presence of Odell Beckham and Jeremy Hill will be an added benefit for Mettenberger as well.
The Tigers did lose a number of pieces, but they still have weapons on offense to get the job done. It will come down to Mettenberger and his efficiency.
3. South Carolina
South Carolina was absolutely awful against the Gators last season, but don't let that performance fool you. The Gamecocks have enough weapons to field one of the best passing attacks in the SEC.
Connor Shaw made strides during his junior season even though he was forced to battle through injuries. This put the spotlight on Marcus Lattimore, who was one of the best running backs in the country before his severe leg injury. Still, Shaw is very athletic, and he could very well break out in 2013.
South Carolina also has one of the best tight end units in the nation, and leading receiver Bruce Ellington will be back to improve upon his solid 2012 campaign.
I expect big things from Shaw, and this could finally be the year that the Gamecocks reach the elite level of college heavyweights.
The Gators have haven't seen Miami in recent years, and their rivalry has somewhat quieted down.
When they do meet, however, the Gators will have their hands full.
Leading the charge is Stephen Morris. Although he had a mediocre completion percentage, Morris did throw for 3,345 yards and 21 touchdowns. Now a senior, he will be looking for a signature win. Florida is a perfect candidate under that circumstance.
More importantly, he has other playmakers. Rashawn Scott and Phillip Dorsett can get open on the outside with regularity. Furthermore, defenses will have to account for star running back Duke Johnson.
The Hurricanes will be a dangerous team, and the Gators will need to be on their toes.
The battle for the top spot on this list is no contest. Aaron Murray and the Georgia Bulldogs will form one of the best passing attacks in the nation in 2013.
Although Murray struggled against the Gators last season, he was statistically one of the best quarterbacks in the game in 2012. He nearly threw for 4,000 yards and finished with 36 touchdown tosses. He will be back and on a mission to take the final step toward the BCS title game.
He won't have Tavarres King to catch passes, but it should not matter. Murray has improved every year, and he will cement his status as an elite college quarterback.
Opposing defenses, take note.