Where to begin……
After an off week filled with bitching about Will Muschamp not being fired and the 2015 recruiting class taking some major hits (both stud LBs decommitted), Florida has to somehow focus on the remainder of the season, starting with the annual visit to Jacksonville to face Georgia.
One bit of good news for many is that Treon Harris will start at QB. While the offense may rally around him and show some life, he is still a true freshman making his first collegiate start, with minimal experience gained so far. By all accounts his disposition is very calm, and he is not easily rattled or intimidated by the task at hand. He does come from a football family (his dad, Ice, is a coach at scUM and is a legendary high school coaching figure in Miami), and won a state championship at Booker T. Washington, a national power. Perhaps Kurt Roper can devise a game plan that is unique to Harris’ skill set and one that hasn’t really been seen on game tape from this season to date. It will be interesting to see if the Puppies choose to sit back and try to confuse Harris by disguising schemes, or simply come after him often, making the Gator skill position players prove they can actually make an impact. I’m not sure what to expect from the RB position. Perhaps Matt Jones is healed up enough to provide some tough inside running, while Kelvin Taylor has been MIA, and hopefully used the off week to get his mind right. I’m hopeful that Demarcus Robinson can make some huge plays downfield, and perhaps (finally) Andre Debose will get enough touches on offense to perhaps break a long gain or score. As for the rest of the WRs and TEs, until I see production on the field I have no clue as to whether anyone can make an impact – a sad state of affairs.
The Gator defense knows what to expect – lots of power running plays featuring Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb. I expect Gurley will be back from suspension (of course) and fresh, but Chubb has filled in nicely in his absence, with no real falloff in production. QB Hutson Mason is efficient, but not really a guy that can go strictly to a passing game if needed. Most of his throws are very safe, with few deep shots. The Gator secondary will likely play man coverage to allow the front seven to focus on stopping the run. The week off should have allowed some major cogs like Dante Fowler to heal up, but the group of young D-Linemen has to elevate their level of play and somehow make some game-turning plays. Until the LB corps proves it can stand up in a 4 quarter game against a power running attack, I can’t expect that to happen. Forcing some turnovers is probably the only way to get Georgia to play out of it’s comfort zone and rely more on passing.
If Florida loses and is not competitive, this may very well be Muschamp’s last stand. There is too much uncertainty right now that is further damaging the program. A bad finish to 2014 likely sets Florida back another 2-3 years while a new coach comes in the try and resurrect a once-proud program. It’s hard for any Gator fan to sit and watch while the program sinks lower than it has been in 40 years. Jeremy Foley is getting closer to either retirement or perhaps something new (SEC Commissioner?), and this could be his last chance to fix a bad hire. His legacy is secure in that the athletic program is financially in the black while being one of the preeminent programs in the nation……but this could be an unfortunate stain on his record unless he hits a home run with a new Head Coach.
Right now, even with a positive jolt from a new QB and a week off to prepare, I just don’t see the Gators winning this game without help from Georgia in the form of turnovers. Perhaps an early emotional surge could put doubt into the minds of the Puppies, and turn things Florida’s way. It’s sad that a scenario like that may be the only path to an upset. I can also see Georgia jumping out to an early 7-10 point lead against an inexperienced QB that demoralizes a fragile team. Right now it appears that Muschamp likely rides off into the sunset winless against his alma mater……and doing more damage to Florida than Georgia ever could do on their own.
Prediction: Georgia 31 Florida 13