The Gators will start year six of SEC play during the Urban Meyer era just like they've started off years one through five, 2–0 and ranked in the top 10. The Gators shook off a slow start to crush the Bulls 38–14.
This win was not a disappointment, despite what poll voters may think. Florida dropped from seventh to tenth in the AP poll and from sixth to seventh in the coaches' poll. The drop isn't a big deal, but it is odd that a better win against USF nets the same result as a win over the 1–11 MACupcake (who won their division opener against Eastern Michigan–SWEET VALIDATION!).
The Gators are still looking for an offensive identity and struggle at times, but they have settled into at least a temporary power/I Form/Big 10 type running team. This makes the spread offense fan in me weep, but when life hands you the worst option quarterback since Dan Marino, you make your lemonade by turning into Iowa.
Still, there were more than enough good performances to round out a solid top 10 list. The Gators weren't anywhere near perfect, but the improvements made should be enough reason to turn off panic mode and resume normal Florida expectations.
John Brantley has still not settled into the role as team leader/starting quarterback. He showed signs of the kind of quarterback Florida fans thought they were getting, but his overall play has been disappointing. That said, two touchdowns and zero interceptions is not a bad stat line, even if it is to the tune of 172 yards on 31 passes (which is terrible on its own, by the way).
Brantley can look DBs off and find the open receiver, but he has been inconsistent with his accuracy and decision making. He threw short on a third and ten when he wasn't under heavy pressure. His understanding of the option is as bad as I've ever seen, twice opting for the underneath shovel pass over a guaranteed big gain by either Jeff Demps or Mike Gillislee.
Overall, Brantley isn't living up to the hype. He hasn't done anything to jeopardize the Gators chances of winning, but he's not winning games either. He did enough to crack this list, but only because he was able to find the end zone twice.
Just average isn't going to cut it as Tebow's successor.
Gillislee only played one play in the first half. He missed his block and forced Brantley to throw the ball away. He came back in the second half with two 10+ yard runs and a four-yard touchdown run.
Florida's "power back" gained yardage on every touch. Gillislee has also made his mark on special teams, with a nice tackle on a punt. He was clearly the third option at running back, but he could go back and forth with Moody all year.
Thompson had a drop and a pseudo drop in the first half. He also had six catches for 83 yards. It was an up and down day for Florida's No. 1 receiver. His first drop should have been intercepted on the tip. His second "drop" was a tipped pass that pretty much fell right into his hands after it was defended. He also let slower, less talented defenders hang with him on routes, which led to broken up passes.
The six catches were a team high, though. So were the 83 yards of offense. He made a great catch that set up UF's first touchdown too. On paper, his game looks great. However, it always seems like Deonte should have done just a little bit more, and sometimes, you are judged more on what you should have done than what you have done.
This may be a sign that the Gators are in trouble. The punter has the seven spot on a top 10 players list. Henry did more than luck into a spot here thanks to the team's incompetence. He pinned the Bulls back inside the 20-yard line twice and had four punts for 174 yards.
Henry is a very underrated part of the Gators' team. So far, winning the punting battle hasn't really mattered. The Gators have run away with both victories this season, so it is easy to overlook the special teams.
It's nice to see Henry return to last season's form. Against Miami (OH), his only punt went for an abysmal 27 yards. He had more opportunities against USF and has only allowed one yard on punt returns so far this season.
With SEC play starting this week, punting is going to become more important. Unless the Gators can turn into the 2008 team that could score at will, field position is going to matter this year.
Moody went from doghouse to workhorse. He carried the ball 14 times for 59 yards. Most of his carries were hard yardage. Moody kept the ball secure, blew through tackles and showed Florida fans a glimpse of the running back that was supposed to show up in 2007.
While the numbers aren't overly impressive, the "how" was. Jeff Demps is the feature back. However, he's not going to grind the clock down to hold out for a close win. He's a home run hitter.
Moody did those things. The win wasn't close, but he ate up most of the fourth quarter on an eight-minute, 13-play drive that featured five Emmanuel Moody runs including a fourth-down conversion.
Florida's line is big and mean. The starters average 321 lbs, good for biggest in the SEC. The Gators can wear teams out with the play of their front five. However, in order to do that, a team needs a power running game.
Moody looked like the answer against USF with his solid performance that placed him firmly in the top 10.
Trattou's interception for a touchdown really vaults him up the list. Overall, he had a pretty bad game. BJ Daniels made the senior captain look like a freshman on multiple runs, options, and fakes. However, that all gets washed away by a clutch interception for a touchdown.
The Gators gave up 244 yards on the ground, 6,100 percent more than they allowed in the opener (absurd, panicky stat!). A lot of that falls on the defensive ends, who looked like they'd never seen any form of the option offense (didn't Florida used to have a quarterback who could run that pretty well?).
Still, pick–sixes are huge. They're even huger when a defensive lineman manages to get one. Trattou needs to play better this week against Tennessee's surprisingly good rushing attack, but for at least one game, one play was all he needed.
Moore went from invisible to playmaker in between Week 1 and Week 2. He made all of his blocks, excepting a pancake block that may or may not have been a hold (it was called a hold, however). He also had five catches for 40 yards and a touchdown.
The numbers, on their own, don't tell the whole story. Every one of his catches was highlight reel quality, and Moore's sure-handedness saved John Brantley from an absolutely awful game.
Between Moore and Thompson, there was a glimmer of hope for Florida's anemic passing game. This offense still has a long way to go, but the Gators are slowly figuring out who the go-to guys are.
This list was pretty weak up until this point. However, the next three guys had games so great that it didn't matter what the rest of the team did.
Ahmad Black leads the nation in interceptions and the SEC in tackles. You couldn't ask a guy to do anymore than he has so far this season. On Saturday, he grabbed two interceptions and made eight tackles (four solo).
His first pick kept the Gators from being shutout in the first half. His second interception fully swung the momentum in Florida's favor and set the tone for the rest of the game.
With Hill out until he figures out how to find the classroom, Black has stepped up to fill every role that a safety is expected to do. No. 35 is the centerfielder, the run stopper, the hard hitter, and the quarterback of the secondary all at the same time.
His leadership proved vital in keeping a defense that was dangerously close to breaking on multiple occasions together.
If Jenkins keeps up his play, he'll be a darkhorse Heisman candidate. He hauled in another interception, returned a punt 30 yards, made a hyper-athletic pass breakup, smashed BJ Daniels on a sack, and locked down his side of the field for the entire afternoon.
Jenkins improbably looked better against USF than he did against Miami (OH). Miami (OH) was probably his best game up to that point in his career, which means that JJ may not have peaked yet. That's a scary thought for any SEC offense, but the Gators will need it out of their star corner if they are going to challenge for the SEC title or remain in the national picture.
If Lattimore hadn't destroyed Georgia, Demps would have been the most impressive player in the SEC last week. He burned South Florida with 255 all-purpose yards on 14 touches including a career high 139 rushing yards on 11 carries.
Saying Jeff Demps is fast doesn't do him justice. He absolutely ruins potential tacklers' angles with his speed. 20 yards, 40 yards, 60 yards, 100 yards, it doesn't matter, Demps is the fastest man in football.
Watch the video again and again. Demps is tripped up and stumbling as fast as Jordan Reed is sprinting.
Take away the down-field holding call on Carl Moore, and Demps would have had four touches over 40 yards. As it stands, six of his 14 touches went for 20 or more yards. Saturday served as the Gators' memo to the SEC as well as the rest of the Gators' opponents: There isn't a more dangerous player in the game than Jeff Demps.