Vanderbilt Review / South Carolina Preview

All of a sudden, the Gators are starting to resemble a football team.  Florida dominated an overmatched Vanderbilt team from the start, and was able to clear the bench in a 55-14 blowout.  Actually, it’s difficult to read too much into this game, as the Commodores looked pathetic and punchless.  However, the way the game unfolded, especially in the second half, may be a harbinger of things to come the rest of this season and into 2011.

It appears that the failed Dazzler OC playcalling experiment is finally over, and that other offensive staff members are helping to develop a hybrid of the Spread Option to take advantage of the strengths of these players — a novel concept.  The Gators are back to being a power running team utilizing zone-blocking schemes, and are now employing an unheard-of 3 QB rotation.  Brantley is still the best passer, and Burton the best option guy, but now comes the sudden emergence of Jordan Reed as a viable threat both ways.  He certainly has the physical skills to make big plays running and passing, but will have to be brought along quickly and, more importantly, smartly, with a huge game coming up.

There really isn’t much to dissect from this lopsided game.  Florida did anything it wanted on both sides of the ball.  There were a few mental lapses, especially the poor blocking on the punt block, and some expected rustiness in some of Reed’s throws.  It was good to see Chris Rainey’s continued resurrection, and his impact on special teams as well.  There are a handful of freshmen who will be major contributors the rest of 2010 – Floyd, Powell, Riggs, and Dubose.

Showdown at the Swamp

Now it’s on to a championship game for the Gators, as they welcome South Carolina and the Pariah to determine the East representative in Atlanta.  Despite their blowout home loss to Arkansas, It would be a bad idea to underestimate the Lamecocks.  Their pass defense is worst in the SEC, but Florida’s pass offense has been anything but consistent and efficient up to now.  Expect a heavy dose of blitzes and jamming the box to stop the Gator option attack, and for USCeast to dare Florida to throw the ball to beat them.

On offense, the Pariah will attack to weak link of the Florida defense, the underachieving LB corps.  Their key RB, Marcus Lattimore, may be a little hobbled, but I still expect to see a lot of carries early for as long as he can go.  The LBs and safeties have to limit the completions on the slants and square-ins to Alshon Jeffrey, and must make Garcia try to pick out 2nd and 3rd options to throw to.  Even in his 3rd season, he still makes mistakes, and generating a few turnovers to help the Gator offense will be critical.

A big concern is the kickoff coverage, or lack of it.  With a walk-on as kicker who lacks the leg strength to get the ball inside the 5-yard line, it may be time to try some squib or sky kicks to offset this disadvantage.  All phases must be on point this week, and yielding continued good field position is not part of Urban Meyer’s Plan to Win. 

As much I would like to completely buy in to the revamped offensive scheme, it is still a work in progress, and there is precious room for error right now.  Florida is not a dominant team this year, and must continue to play opportunistic and efficient football to win.  The past 2 weeks offer hope, but can the Gators continue their momentum and push through this week, especially if they run in to any early setbacks and fall behind?  A slow start can cripple a fragile team, and I’m not sure if there is enough leadership among the players to overcome it.

All that being said, Coach Meyer was more energized than at any time this season during his television show, and is calling for an intense atmosphere at the Swamp Saturday night.  It will be a Blue-out game, and let’s hope the Gators don’t black out under the pressure.  I’m going to go with the home team and crowd in what could be another game not decided until deep into the 4th quarter.

Prediction – Florida 27    South Carolina 24