Now that Florida is at the bye week and has eight games under their belt, and at least five more to go, I figured I would look at where Florida ranks in several statistical categories across the board.
I will focus on national rankings in this piece. And I will look at last year’s numbers as a comparison because the staff is consistent from 2018 to 2019.
I wanted to start with the defense.
For as much as a pessimist I am, I was optimistic about Florida’s defense coming into this season but they have let me down by the play in various areas while I’m happy in other areas.
So in our 4 major defensive categories, we have seen an improvement in three areas and a regression in another. The let down is the drop-off in pass defense with the return of CJ Henderson and Marco Wilson returning from injury and the assumption that Trey Dean would be a really good nickel corner because of his playing time as a true freshman in 2018. The pass defense hasn’t been bad, they’ve only allowed over 200 yards in three games, the outlier performance was the Kentucky game in which they gave up 267 yards to a bad backup QB. They also are 12th in the country in passes defended and 2nd in the country in interceptions. I would have liked to see Florida sporting a top 10 pass defense right now, but barring a miracle, I think the best they can hope for is to finish in the 20-25 range, which is nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s slightly disappointing with the talent in the secondary.
The defensive line has seen little if any drop-off, despite losing Polite and his 11 sacks. This is because Jonathan Greenard being eligible this year after transferring from Louisville. Zuniga and Greenard are both strong run defenders which is part of Carolina’s success on the ground vs this front. After averaging 4.8 sacks through Towson, injuries have hit Zuniga and Greenard hard, and in the last three games, Florida is only averaging 1.6 sacks a game. Getting Zuniga and Greenard back for the Georgia game is huge for the pass rush and run defense.
Opponent 3rd Down Conversions
Opponent 4th Down Conversions
Opponent Red Zone Conversions
Now I look at Florida’s efficiency numbers on the defensive side of the ball. We have improvements everywhere. The biggest being in Red Zone Scoring percentage allowed.
Last season Florida allowed an astounding 90.63% of opponents drives that got into the red zone to end up in points, this year Florida has jumped up to 4th nationally, 11th if you’re curious about where Florida ranks in terms of TD percentage allowed.
I believe that improvement in the red zone is just smarter play by the secondary. A year ago the Gators faced a lot of injury issues in the secondary, this year Florida has had CJ and Marco healthy for every game and gotten solid play from Jaydon Hill and Kaiir Elam. Shawn Davis has been strong at safety and been in the right place, the right time in the red zone on multiple occasions.
And lastly for this category, for a guy in Todd Grantham who has the nickname “Third Down Grantham”, being 40th in the country in 3rd down conversions isn’t anything to be ashamed of. I pointed out in my film review of the Florida defense vs South Carolina how efficient and effective this defense is when they bring heat, the blitz packages have been smarter and the players have held up better than a year ago.
And speaking of Grantham, it seems weird to look at these numbers and state “I don’t like Todd Grantham”, but keeping it short, Florida a season ago played excellent defense until a four-game stretch that saw them allow 27, 36, 38 and 31 points before allowing 10, 14 and 15 in the last three games. It feels as if we’re about to see another stretch of games like that. After playing excellent defense through 6 games, Florida has now allowed 42 and 27 to LSU and Carolina respectably and with Georgia coming up, you don’t know what to expect even with Zuniga and Greenard returning. Most of my issues with Grantham hinge on this lack of consistency. With Zuniga and Greenard gone, the play-calling was slightly softer over the entire Carolina game than I thought they would be to counter the loss of their pass rushing.
Time to move onto the offense
The offense has seen a drop-off in 3 of the 4 major categories. This isn’t a complete surprise considering what Florida lost at offensive line. I will admit, I thought the running game would be better this year while the offensive line would struggle a lot more in the passing game. But this offensive line has been strange, they struggle a lot with simple run blocking schemes, often failing to break off double teams and get to the second level of the defense.
From a pass protection point of view, they are a drop-off in terms of sacks allowed from last year. In 2018 Florida only allowed 18 sacks, this year Florida has already allowed 16. I get the sense if I was to check out PFF and find out the pass-blocking efficiency of this line; they aren’t that bad. Their strongest attribute as a unit is in pass protection and if Delance didn’t struggle as badly as he struggles every week, the sacks allowed can almost be cut in half.
The passing offense has taken off this year under Mullen which is one thing myself and most Florida fans expected coming into this year. With a deep stable of wide receivers and Pitts at TE, I don’t think anyone is surprised by the overall passing numbers; I think it surprises most people that with Trask the passing game has gotten more dangerous. And last year, despite a strong pass-blocking offensive line, Florida threw the ball 28 times a game, this year they have bumped it up to 33.9 a game. When I write that out, it seems like the bump in passing attempts is more, Florida feels like a mini air raid offense, but they are quite a way out from reaching Texas Techs 46 pass attempts a game.
The scoring offense is another area that when I started writing this article I thought it would be an improvement on last year, so it surprised me that Florida is a tad under last years numbers. But again, nothing to be ashamed of. When you remind yourself of having 4 new offensive linemen and you’re to your backup QB who wasn’t highly recruited out of high school, I don’t think it’s worth stressing over too much.
If I had to guess a reason for some of Florida’s offensive woes that is not the offensive line blocking ability? It would be turnovers. Florida has fumbled the ball ten times (77th in the country) and lost eight of them, that fumbles lost number would put Florida at 119th in the country. That is bad. On top of that, Trask and Franks have combined for seven interceptions, overall, that puts Florida’s giveaways on a per-game basis at 2.5, which is 126th in the country. BAD. So just to sum up, Florida’s offense has given the ball away a total of 15 times, 116th in the country. Just pretend for a moment that you knocked one turnover a game off that 2.5 number and replaced it with a TD, instantly the offense looks more dangerous.
3rd Down Conversion %
4th Down Conversion %
Red Zone Scoring %
The efficiency numbers in these three categories are consistent with a year ago. 4th down conversion % isn’t overly concerning to me as much as Mullen’s confidence in the offense to go for it. A year ago Florida went for it 1.5 times a game and this season the number is at an even 2 a game. I’ll be very interested to see where Mullen’s confidence sits in the offense in a year with Trask returning as the starter and so much returning experience at offensive line.
3rd down conversion is a relatively small bump from last year, but in college football even a 2.71% increase in your 3rd down conversion rate is big. If you want a comparison to what I consider the best offense in college football in Oklahoma, they are at 46.88%, good for 19th in the country. So again in a year, it won’t shock me if this offense is in the top 20 in this category.
Red Zone scoring is down, which is probably because of turnovers and lack of execution, but it’s not down enough for me to scream bloody murder.
Opponent Punt Returns
I wanted to point out the punting numbers. The average punt yardage is up slightly, but the punt return coverage is significantly better than a year ago. I will claim ignorance on this topic because I can’t recall how many starters were on the punt coverage team a year ago, but this season Florida has Cleveland and Jefferson as gunners and they are excellent in this role.
Overall, the most important statistic on the season is the record of 7-1 and ranked 7th in the country before a big showdown with Georgia. Florida is in a good position to win out if they can successfully get past Georgia and unlike the McElwain years, I like the chances of Florida in Atlanta this time around, especially if Florida gets a rematch with LSU or Auburn.