Scouting the Gators
by Murray Poole
Location: Gainesville, Fla.
Conference: SEC East
Gators in a thumbnail: Coming off last season’s 7-6 season (3-5 SEC),
Will Muschamp’s second Gator edition was generally predicted for a thirdplace
finish in the SEC East this season, behind Georgia and South Carolina.
But Florida didn’t buy into that particular forecast and, consequently, has
used a tenacious defense and the play of sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel
to storm over seven consecutive opponents and to a No. 2 ranking in the
BCS standings. The Gators, 6-0 in the SEC, opened with a modest 27-14 victory
over Bowling Green but then proceeded to reel off consecutive conference
wins over Texas A&M (20-17), Tennessee (37-20), Kentucky (38-0),
LSU (14-6), Vanderbilt (31-17) and South Carolina (44-11).
A look at the Florida offense: The Gators have fashioned a punishing
ground attack to date, getting major production from senior tailback Mike
Gillislee (652 yards, 7 touchdowns) and QB Driskel, who has rumbled for
321 yards and four scores while passing for 929 yards and eight touchdowns,
four of which came in the rout of South Carolina. Driskel (6-4, 237)
erased the legendary Tim Tebow’s school single-game rushing record for a
quarterback when he ran for 177 yards in the win over Vanderbilt including
a 70-yard touchdown gallop.
A look at the Florida defense: The tenacious Gator defense is fronted
by senior linebacker Jonathan Bostic, who led the team in tackles last season,
junior linebacker Jelani Jenkins, junior strong safety Matt Elam, junior
tackle Dominique Easley and senor nose guard Omar Hunter, who hails from
Buford, Ga. But senior free safety Josh Evans has been the Gators’ tackling
leader this season with a total of 44 stops. Elam has 39 tackles while Bostic
follows closely with 38. The Gators are allowing only 12.1 points per game,
which ranks fourth in the country in scoring defense.
What Gators head coach Will Muschamp says: “What you emphasize
is what’s important. I knew going into the season we had good team speed,
good specialists and good returners. … We put a lot of emphasis on it (special
teams, which was sensational against South Carolina). We meet a lot.
We play in Jacksonville next week. We’ve got one game. A one-game season
(to clinch SEC East).”
Game Prediction: I switched my preseason pick of South Carolina over
Georgia to Georgia over South Carolina when that week rolled around and
we all know how that one turned out. And back in August, I predicted the
Bulldogs would defeat the Florida Gators by 28-21 in this coming Saturday’s
2012 meeting and well, I’m changing that pick again as, to date this season,
Georgia shows no reason why they should be picked to defeat a Gator
team that has gotten better each and every week in soaring unbeaten and
to a No. 2 BCS national ranking behind Alabama. A shaky Georgia defense
that hasn’t lived up to its lofty preseason billing and a running game that has
fallen off drastically the past two games against South Carolina and weak
Kentucky will put too much pressure on Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murray
to have to win this game. Hoping this switch will prove me wrong again, as
the South Carolina forecast did, the Gators should clinch the SEC East crown
with a 31-21 win over Georgia.