I have explored what I wondered might be "Chinks" in the Gators armor. There were 5 in all and the research and analysis appears in the previous posts. Of the 5 areas explored, I have been encouraged about 3 and I am neutral about the other two. Here is the summary:
1. Can Knowshon run on the Gators again this year? The short answer is that, statistically, their run defense is a little less stubborn this season. Our run offense is more productive now than it was last season. For these two reasons, I think we will do no worse than our rushing average for the season, which is 173 yards. Of that total, I think Knowshon will be around 130-140.
2. Has Florida faced a quality, experienced QB this season? This one is totaly straight forward. Absolutely not. They have faced one mediocre senior in Casey Dick and every other QB they faced (11 in all) had a combined total of 35 passes at the college level before this season. Last year they had faced 6 straight senior QBs coming into the game and Stafford had one of his best games. The seasonal average passer rating of their opponents this season is 114 and against Florida they have an average passer rating of only 99. Stafford enters the game with a passer rating of 146. He is magnitudes better than the competition they have faced and has better receivers than every team they have faced (with LSU being the next best.)
I think Stafford will throw it between 23-28 times for over 200 yards and closer to 250 yards. Combining this with our rushing yardage, we should be between 400 and 425 total yards of offense. Our average for the season is 431. Our two off games were South Carolina (252 yards) and Alabama (324 yards.) The Gator defense does not worry me as much as those two defenses did because of personel match-ups and the improvement in our o-line. Florida does rank close to SC and Alabama in total yards surrendered per game (273 for UF, 256 for USC and 263 for US.) So, in my opinion, even if they have a great day against us, we should still amass no less than 350 yards - which probably will not be enough to win.
3. Can the Gators Sack Stafford? They average 2.29 sacks per game. We have allowed 1.13 sacks per game. I think they will sack Stafford once or twice. If they get more than that, things could get tough for the Dawgs! But, I don't think they will get Stafford more than once from a 3 or 4 man rush. So if they have to blitz to get pressure, I like our chances to beat the blitz with max protection schemes and an experienced QB putting us in the right plays.
4. How do their shorter defensive backs match up with our tall receivers? I don't think this height difference will matter often but it could come into play in the red zone or in a long jump ball play. We could see an advantage in size on downfield blocking, but their d-backs are aggressive and physical, so this probably won't be a distinct advantage.
5. Can we sack Tebow again this year? We are getting 1.88 sacks per game and they are allowing only 1.43 sacks per game. We have more healthy defensive ends for this game than we have had for a long time. But, none of them are named Marcus Howard. I expect us to sack Tebow twice. But, as a glimmer of hope, I point out that coming into the WLOCP last year, we were averaging only 1.71 sacks per game and we sacked Tebow 6 times and went on to average 5 sacks per game for the last 6 games. Is there another Marcus Howard waiting to breakout in this game? Maybe Justin Houston - please!
So there are the 5 areas analyzed. I think we can expect to have a better day against their defense than any other team they have faced. In my next post, I will indicate how much better - in terms of points on the scoreboard.