UF? FSU? The Jury’s Still Out

Posted: September 22, 2011 in Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles
Tags: , , ,

In listening to the media and fans it was difficult to determine who won and who lost last week as Florida and Florida State finally were tested.

Florida defeated Tennessee 33-23 in a game that wasn’t that close, but Gator Nation isn’t celebrating all that much, and understandably so. Meanwhile, FSU lost 23-13 at home to top-ranked Oklahoma, a defeat that left much of Seminole Nation feeling good about itself. A columnist for the Tallahassee Democrat even went so far as to say the game signaled FSU’s return to elite status in college football. That’s a bit over the top.

The Gators should, indeed, feel good about their defense. The Vols couldn’t run the ball a lick. They do have a much better than average passing game, but the Gators made it look ordinary with a ferocious rush. The Vols’ best plays were pass interference penalties against Florida.

What should concern the Gators is their lack of wide receivers and power running. Too often the Gators have to settle for field goals because of these weaknesses. No wide receiver has emerged as a threat. Thus far, even against inferior opponents in the first two games, Florida’s passing game basically is quarterback John Brantley dumping off the ball to his small but speedy running backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. It has worked beautifully to this point, but you can figure on Alabama and LSU, to say two future opponents, doing a better job of containing them. Against teams of that caliber, it’s reasonable to think the Gators will face some critical third-and-short situations. Converted quarterback Trey Burton looks like Florida’s best option.

The Gators’ biggest concern, however, is their rash of penalties. Tennessee benefited from 16 penalties for 150 yards. The Vols declined two other penalties. In three games the Gators have been penalized 34 times for 270 yards. Florida plays with great emotion – no doubt feeding off of their super hyper coach, Will Muschamp, who looks like a heart attack waiting to happen. Can they keep their emotion and play with poise? They’d better or they won’t have a chance of beating better competition than they’ve faced.

As for FSU, there were many positives even in defeat. It was a 13-13 midway through the fourth quarter with starting quarterback EJ Manuel on the sideline with a shoulder injury. The Noles can run with any team and they have quality great depth.

But they continue to struggle running the ball even with a bunch of veteran backs and an experienced offensive line. Manuel’s accuracy has been so-so and now he’s injured. And if ever there was a game when the home crowd should have helped, this was it. Doak Campbell Stadium was packed and loud. If the Noles are an elite team, they have to win in such an environment.

There’s no doubt FSU is better than it has been. No team wants to play them. But until they beat a top 10 team and win a tough road game, the Noles aren’t elite.

Quick pix: Florida can pick the final score against Kentucky; the Seminoles take a step back because of a Okie hangover, losing at Clemson; Georgia Tech’s offense has been on fire, but the Jackets cool down this week, and still beat visiting North Carolina; Georgia makes it two straight wins because host Ole Miss is the SEC’s weakest link; former SEC member Texas A&M slows down Oklahoma State’s passing attack enough to win close. Last week: 2-3 (5-5 overall).

 

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