Friday, October 25, 2013

Florida - early thoughts

Ahhh...this time next week - the warm ocean breeze, the beer, the golf, the seafood, the beer. I love WLOCP weekend. And y'all know I don't use the word "love" much outside of my wife, children, bourbon, BBQ, and Herschel Walker. So here's some early thought processes on the next game.
  • Who's angrier and who's just feeling sorry for themselves? Both teams have experienced devastating, and perhaps unprecedented, injuries. Whichever team is closer to no longer using that as an excuse will have an advantage mentally.
  • Which coach is hungrier? Because the teams have been able to point to excuses too easily, whichever head guy does the better job steering the team mentality away from that could provide his team a huge edge.
  • A lot of things to watch in the next week, but the biggest will be Gurley's ankle. His availability to the Georgia backfield would be a huge boost of confidence.
  • It's not the record we'd expected or hoped for heading down to Jacksonville, but you get the feeling that this is one of those crucial contests in the series between these two teams. Georgia's finally won two in a row down there. Florida's looking to end that streak before it can get any further and, in their minds, restore order. Dawgs are looking to really damage the Cocktail Party Psyche of the gators.
  • Interesting stat that I haven't mentioned in some time - Will Muschamp has never tasted victory in Jacksonville.
  • Wrinkles vs. Tweaks...vs. Adjustments. Both teams have a bye week in preparation. And both teams need it. How much time is spent on minor wrinkles and how much is spent on the basics from back in August?
  • Can the gators develop a downfield passing attack? Muschamp pulled his coaches off the recruiting trail earlier this week to "fix things". Plays that stretch the defense longitudinally is something that has been missing altogether. Florida has just eight passes that have gone for 25+ yards. I'm willing to bet some or most of those were short throws that evaded tacklers.
  • Because even a defense that is struggling, if it can clamp down on the square yardage it has to defend, is going to have some success if it is not threatened deep.
  • Another thing to watch will be how physical the practices get next week. Richt is certainly and understandably wary (and weary) of injuries. But tackling and getting off blocks has been something of a problem thus far.
  • Fan enthusiasm. Tickets will be cheaper than usual this go round. I would expect the stadium to still be 50/50. But if anyone has been wanting to experience this game without the hefty price tag, now's their chance.
Lastly, two things this game will hinge on - third down conversions and turnovers. I would expect Florida to be tighter with ball security given Muschamp's emphasis obsession with it this off season and the fact that Jarvis Jones is no longer around. So who wins third downs will become even more important if that's the case. And it's one of the Gators' defensive specialities (27% on the season) and one of Georgia's weaker offensive categories (35%). Actually, except for the South Carolina and North Texas games, the Dawgs have struggled mightily on third and distance.

Did I mention how important Gurley's ankle is?