Stop it. Just stop. Twitter was quite the spectacle on Saturday and then again on Sunday. During and shortly after the Gators hideous
defeat win over an average I-AA team, Gators fans were expressing anger and frustration with the regression of their team. Tweet after tweet bashing Florida’s offense mostly. A mere seven hours later, many of those same fans were jubilant, irrationally looking ahead to BCS championship scenarios. When the BCS standings came out on Sunday, the insanity ratcheted up a notch to near bedlam among Gators fans. I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on TV but you all need help.
Every fan has a right to be frustrated with what is a very poor offense at this point in the season. Every fan has the right to be optimistic about its teams chances of winning its next game. And it is certainly fun to play the “what if” game and look ahead at what might be. But to do all these things within hours of each other is insane. And your first instincts were right. This isn’t a championship caliber team and you knew that early Saturday afternoon. We’ve made fun of the irrationality of Florida State fans this season, Boise State fans in previous seasons, Big 10 fans every season, who said their flawed teams deserved BCS title game invites. And now we are the ones who deserve to be mocked.
I can understand some emotionless computer that doesn’t have eyes thinking Florida has a case. Traditional power arisen back to power. Power conference. Wins over three top 10 BCS teams, more than any other team in the country. Top strength of schedule in the country. But you, Florida fan, you’ve seen this team. You’ve watched the past four games. You know the warts that cannot be hidden. Regardless of how badly you want it, it is disingenuous to claim Florida deserves a title shot.
Yes, the Gators possess a tremendous defense and two great kickers. But championship teams must at least be competent in all three phases of the game. This is a team that has scored 73 points in its last four games with only five offensive TDs and only two of those TD drives over 55 yards. They scored 50 points combined against Louisiana Lafayette and Jacksonville State. Eastern Kentucky put 51 on the Gamecocks, while Arkansas State ran up 50 on the Cajuns. And even if you look back beyond the past four games, Florida has truly only put together two good offensive performances this year. The offensive line has been a wreck in the passing game. The receivers cannot get open or make plays down the field. Even the running game that was strong early has been stifled as teams have seen more tape and been better prepared to defend it.
Not matter how much we drank to try and forgot, the memory of last season’s offensive performance against Florida State will never fully be gone. The easy joke after the four-turnover, 184-yard calamity was the Gators would have been better off taking a knee on every offensive snap and then punting on fourth down. Well, the state of the Gators offense isn’t that much better entering this year’s matchup, regardless of Jeff Driskel’s health. At least last year’s offense had the threat that Chris Rainey could break one. No one has shown the capacity to break a long one this year (notwithstanding fluky long TD runs by Burton and Driskel).
Now I’m not saying Florida can’t beat Florida State. Of course they can. The Seminoles are a decent football team but are not juggernauts. Florida can win the game with its defense and kicking game if it doesn’t turn the ball over and gets a few breaks. My point is that even with a win and a Notre Dame loss (which is unlikely but not impossible either – I live in Los Angeles and have seen Max Wittek since high school, he has the tools to be a good quarterback and combined with so many playmakers on offense and the Irish history of heartbreaking collapses, anything is possible), the Gators don’t deserve the BCS bid. And what if they did get the bid? You really think Florida can play with Alabama? I suppose the Gators can prove me wrong by coming out Saturday and blowing out Florida State but I can’t see that.
Florida is in this position because of its schedule but I think that’s overrated because the SEC is overrated this year. Sacrilege I know! I think the Pac-12 may be better than the SEC this season, at least at the top of the conference. The SEC will stack its heavyweights (this year: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and I’ll take Texas A&M) against anyone’s. But the Pac-12 top four of Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and Oregon State are pound-for-pound right there. You’d get these matchups based on rankings:
-Alabama vs Oregon. You can say Alabama would follow the Stanford blueprint and beat the Ducks. Or you can say Oregon would follow the Texas A&M blueprint and beat Alabama. I think you’d have a very close game either way.
-Stanford vs Georgia. The Cardinal’s disciplined, smash-mouth style would be much more than the Bulldogs could handle.
-UCLA vs Florida. The Gators have shown they can’t move the ball offensively against anyone so the game would come down to the Bruins’ dynamic quarterback Brett Hundley against our defense. We’d slow him but he’d make some plays too. UCLA running back Jonathan Franklin is perhaps the best in the country this year. This is very good UCLA team. Slight advantage Bruins.
-Texas A&M vs Oregon State. I think the Aggies might be the best team in the country right now and they’d pound the Beavers.
Bottom line, I think it is much more of a toss up this year comparing the top of the SEC to the top of the Pac-12, more so than in the past two decades at least. It is at least close and that’s not something you can usually say. So Florida’s strongest claim to a title game berth isn’t as strong as many have made it out to be.
The other thing to keep in mind is the inevitable all-SEC BCS title game backlash. If everything broke right for the Gators, voters will have a hard time moving them up to #2. I think they look at Oregon (especially with a big win over Oregon State) instead and push the Gators down, counter balancing the computers love affair.
Regardless of what happens (and I think a 16-6 FSU win ends all this speculation anyway), I’m proud of the Gators season. This is only the 12th time Florida has won double digit games in its history and it is only the 6th Florida team ever to get to 10-1 or better after 11 games and four of them played for the national title. It is beyond all of our wildest dreams that they are back in the national conversation. And if they pull the upset in Tallahassee, I’ll be rooting for Lane Kiffin and his Trojans as much as anyone. But I’ll also be realistic about our chances and whether we deserve the spot.
1. Notre Dame
3. Ohio State
6. Kansas State
8. Florida State
10. Texas A&M
13. South Carolina
15. Oregon State
17. Kent State
21. Northern Illinois
24. Oklahoma State
25. Utah State