Are Gators' Struggles a Fluke? or Something to Worry About?
It's no secret: the Florida Gators immensely underachieved versus the Missouri Tigers in The Swamp. Still, ugly wins are part of college football and certainly the SEC. A win is a win, and Florida also closes out by going 7-1 in conference play.
By no means was this a totally dominant performance from the Gators against the SEC's newest Tigers. And Will Muschamp's crew definitely must buff out some rough spots over the next few weeks, because in-state rival Florida State will not be a cakewalk—especially on the road in Tallahassee.
Therefore, let's check out Florida's early-November performance and determine whether the Gators' past couple weeks are concerning, or just nothing to worry about.
Defense Maintained Consistency
Rewind back to the loss against the Georgia Bulldogs, and Muschamp's defense was stellar. With Jeff Driskel and the offense turning the rock over six times to the Dawgs, Florida never broke and allowed just 17 points.
That's a really impressive performance considering Georgia's explosive offense with additional possessions. Not to mention the Gators forced three turnovers off Aaron Murray and held the Bulldogs to just 14 first downs, which were fewer than Florida achieved.
Looking at the Missouri game, and the Gators again forced turnovers. Recording four interceptions of James Franklin, Florida gave up only seven points despite the Tigers winning the time of possession battle by almost eight minutes. Another area of improvement comes in the form of quarterback pressure. No sacks occurred against Georgia, but four were collected against Mizzou. As long as Muschamp's defense refuses to break, the Gators are fine.
Offense Minimized Turnovers
As previously mentioned, the Gators turned the ball over six times against Georgia. Well, only one turnover happened versus Missouri on Saturday, which is a relieving 180-degree turn compared to late October.
Yes, the Dawgs field one of the nation's best defenses and are certainly much tougher than that of Mizzou. Nonetheless, Driskel's confidence obviously needed to get back on track for Florida's offense to move the ball. What definitely helped assist Driskel was the Gators' ground attack in racking up 170 yards on 33 carries (31 from Driskel). Then, the Florida field general was able to spread the field with 12 completions to seven different players.
No, that's not a lot of elite production through the air, but utilizing all levels and dimensions of the defense certainly is. One concern; however, is Florida going 2-of-13 on third down after going 7-of-16 against Georgia. Get in more manageable third-down situations and fix the conversion rate and Muschamp's offense won't miss a beat.
The Anatomy of a Trap Game
The Missouri Tigers were a trap game for the Florida Gators, period. And it breaks down into three aspects:
1. Tigers coming off first SEC win while Gators were coming off tough loss.
2. Playing at home versus inferior opponent resulted in overconfidence, which affected performance throughout.
3. Last regular season conference game with no legit opponents until Florida State.
In short, this being a close contest was not surprising. Had Florida lost, their runner-up position in the SEC East would still remain intact after beating South Carolina and others. Also, losing to Georgia allowed the Dawgs to control their own destiny regardless.
Nevertheless, Florida currently sits at 8-1 and can easily expect to be 10-1 when squaring off against the 'Noles. Muschamp has The Swamp back on the rise, and the standards are only increasing for 2013.
John Rozum is a Featured Columnist for the Bleacher Report. Click here to read more of his work.