Arkansas Review / Mississippi St. Preview

Lipstick on a Pig

Somehow the Gators were able to overcome a litany of errors (4 lost fumbles, 6 sacks allowed, 2 long pass plays allowed) to outlast the Razorbacks.  That game was a testament to the senior leadership on this team and it’s mental toughness, because those circumstances are rarely overcome, even by great teams.

There are so many areas that need work.  The offensive line was surprisingly ineffective, allowing consistent pressure on Tebow all day.  Ball security (or lack thereof) was shocking.  The red zone conversion rate is terrible.  Coach Addazio, along with the entire offensive staff, have to start putting the players in a better position to be successful.  Tebow needs to start taking the swing passes to the RBs more often — that is available often during a game, and the biggest disappointment is that he only occasionally looks for it.  Opponent defenses have little respect for the Florida passing game right now, and will continue to crowd the box and run blitz regularly until the Gator offense starts using the entire field.

Unfortunately, with the injury to Matt Patchan it appears that Carl Johnson will stay out at LT, instead of moving to LG, where he is dominant.  I was hoping that the staff would give Xavier Nixon some snaps at LT and move Johnson inside, but they simply don’t work that way.  When Johnson became the starter at LG in 2008, the inside blitzers coming free stopped, and the running game really came alive.

Congratulations are in order to Caleb Sturgis, who shook off an early miss and made the winning kick.  I loved how he was gesturing to his teammates to not get overly excited and cause a celebration penalty after the kick — smart football.

Florida’s defense actually played pretty well, but started to show some cracks in terms of allowing big plays.  Too many missed tackles on some running plays hurt, and it’s not the first time this year, which is surprising given the maturity of this group.  Janoris Jenkins has to stop peeking in the backfield and sticking with his man downfield.  His excellent performance, even as a true freshman, has spoiled us, and I’m sure he’ll be coached up.  Credit must be given, though, to allowing the Razorbacks only a 2-for-11 3rd down conversion rate, and holding Ryan Mallett to a completion rate under 50%.  Bobby Petrino has a strong offense and some future NFL playmakers, and those are stats the Gator defense can be especially proud of.

The injuries are starting to pile up on the defensive side of the ball, and it’s beginning to get very serious.  No Trattou, Howard, or Marsh on the D-Line this week.  Trattou has an injury to his biceps tendon, and that really worries me.  That’s an injury, even if not serious, that can linger the rest of the season, and his effectiveness may be limited until 2010.  Marsh’s ankle injury was more serious than let on, as he had torn ligaments that simply have not come around — it appears he may be done for the season.  I hoped Howard would be back this week, but for Meyer to come out so early in the week with a definitive statement that he’s out, puts an end to that.  Spikes has 2 injuries to deal with — the lingering Achilles tendonitis, and now a groin strain.  His presence was obviously missed against Arkansas’ running game, and I hope the staff can sit him out this week to get ready for bigger games to come.

Now it’s on to aptly-named Starkville, and Mississippi State.  It’s hard to believe that Florida’s last win there was back in 1985, but the Gators have simply played some terrible games there, both under Spurrier and Zook.  Dan Mullen has to be excited to get his first crack at his former boss, and can plainly see that the Florida offense is nowhere near it’s previous effectiveness.  I’m sure his knowledge of Florida’s personnel will lead to occasional matchup issues, and I expect to see everything in the playbook.  What I hope I don’t see is 20+ carries from Anthony Dixon.  That guy is a load, and it would mean the Bulldogs are having some success running against a depleted Gator D-Line, and that the Gator offense hasn’t scored enough points to make MSU one-dimensional.

MSU simply has very few playmakers on offense.  The QB play has been below average, and only Chad Bumphis has elite ability at WR, but he’s only a true freshman.  The fact that their offense ranks in the middle of the SEC standings, though, is a testament to Mullen’s maturing as a play-caller.  He has shown development as a coach, and has given the Bulldog fans some real hope that some winning seasons and bowl games are in the future.

Defensively, MSU has it’s usual solid unit.  Their front seven is solid against the run, but hasn’t been challenged like they will be Saturday.  Their weakness is in the secondary, as their pass coverage should (hopefully) be exposed by the Gators.  Deonte Thompson, if fully healed, should be able to build on his big play against Arkansas.  Cooper has been steady and is showing a knack for getting clutch first downs.  Aaron Hernandez is simply the best TE in the SEC, and no defense matches up with his receiving skills.

It may finally be time for the Gator offense to start helping out the defense a little, until they can get some of the injured players back.

Prediction – Florida 31      MSU 10