Figuring Out Florida: A Q&A with The Bull Gator

Razorback ExpatsSenior Analyst IOctober 3, 2008

With Razorback fans bracing themselves for another Saturday whipping, we thought it would be a good time to check in with a Gator expert. Joel from The Bull Gator was kind enough to answer our questions about this year’s Florida squad. Read on to his take on the Gator’s strengths and weaknesses, last year’s Heisman Trophy race and the love that Florida fans continue to feel for Darth Visor. (And click here to see our answers to his questions.) Many thanks, Joel. And now, on with the show …

Give us a quick scouting report on this year’s Florida team: strengths, weaknesses, etc.

Florida’s biggest strength is the capabilities of its offense. Its biggest weakness is the coaches’ lack of realization of those capabilities. The Gators have the talent and firepower to put 40+ points on anyone. They also have the playbook to do it. So far in 2008, we haven’t seen it all come together for an entire game. Florida is averaging 35.5 points per game this season – which is nothing to put down – but this is a team built to do even more. The Ole Miss game exposed the fact that when behind in games, Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen panic and only go with the guys named Tebow and Harvin. The playbook is practically closed and the same 3-5 plays are used in hopes we can will a win.

In pressure situations, the Gators get away from what worked and go into panic mode. Not that I should complain too much about being 3-1 with big wins over hated rivals Miami and Tennessee, but the Ole Miss game made me very nervous for the rest of the season.

Other strengths include the starting defensive ends – Carlos Dunlap is a star in the making – and the linebackers. However, a weakness is still the secondary. Although vastly improved over last year, the Ole Miss game proved they are still a ways off from being among the SEC’s elite units.

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What are fans’ expectations for this season?

Whoever the coach is will always tell you that Florida doesn’t look beyond winning the SEC East. Once that goal’s accomplished, it’s winning the SEC Championship. Then we can actually discuss the national title. Most fans I know think slightly different. We start at the top and then settle for the rest. Sure winning the SEC East is nice. Taking home a SEC title is all good and well. But fans want a national championship. The 2006 one is so fresh in our minds, we want another one. After losing to Ole Miss, we didn’t think “it’s okay, we still control our destiny in the East, win out and we’re in the SEC title game.” No, we thought “crap, how can we get back in the hunt for the national title?” Sure we’d settle for a 10-win season with a conference championship if we have to, but our expectations are a national title. We feel Florida has the program and talent to compete with anyone, so there’s really nothing else.

Do you feel last week’s surprising loss to Ole Miss was a fluke, or did it reveal real problems that might plague the team the rest of the season?

The way Florida played for the first three quarters against Miami and at certain points during the Tennessee game, I actually don’t believe it was a fluke. The Ole Miss game exposed the team to itself I think. Too much reliance on only Tebow and Harvin. Not utilizing the entire playbook. Bad play calling when behind. Despite wins by at least 23 points in the first three games, we saw some holes in Florida’s offense that weren’t expected. But watching those first few games, it was also apparent that some team could easily sneak up on the Gators. Ole Miss did exactly that.

It’s hard to say there are problems that will plague Florida for the rest of the season, because they are fixable issues. The Gators have the right coaches and players; they just have to utilize both effectively.

Do you have a hard time sleeping at night knowing that Tim Tebow wrongly won the Heisman last year instead of Darren McFadden?