GAINESVILLE -- The Florida Gators innovative Thundercat Offense had a rough go of it on Saturday. Even Gators coach Urban Meyer seemed slightly concerned after the game when he admitted that "I don't think we are on the same planet as we were last year statistically."
Meyer's planetary observation begs the question: Exactly what planet does the Thundercat Offense call home? For now, we're calling it Planet Tebow. UF's quarterback carried the football 27 times on Saturday for 69 yards. Take away the six sacks from those stats and Tebow rushed it 21 times for 110 yards. Through the air, Tebow completed 17 of 26 attempts for 255 yards and a touchdown. Through six games, Florida is ranked No.1 in the Bowl Championship Series standings. Those are good numbers. Tebow's two fumbles against Arkansas ... not a good number.
Must the Gators rely on Tebow to win games? Obviously, yes. Should they? Absolutely. Is he not one of the greatest college football players in the history of the game? OK, so don't complain when the guy goes out and wins games.
[PICTURED, Time machine Timmy, circa 2007. Early permutations of the Thundercat Offense.]
Gators fans should step back from the ledge, relax and embrace the Thundercat. All this talk about a struggling Gators' offense seems to be a little overstated. Here's what Mark Schlabach of the ESPN wrote after Florida's 23-20 win against Arkansas: "The offense struggles to run the football unless Tebow is doing it, and there is hardly any threat of a down-field passing game."
We love Mark Schlabach, but he was a little ... off the mark in that analysis of UF's running game. In reality, the Gators have no problems running the football until they reach the red zone. Check this story in Monday's Miami Herald for accurate and fair criticism of the Gators' offense. LINK!
Consider these statistics, Gators fan, before you even consider writing off UF's offense. Florida is ranked sixth in the nation (and first in the SEC) in rushing offense (259.83 ypg), sixth nationally (and first in the SEC) in total offense (470.50 ypg) and 11th nationally (and first in the SEC) in scoring offense (36.33 ppg).
As for interceptions, Tebow has only thrown two, which is tied for second fewest in the nation. Florida leads the nation in passing efficiency (167.25 quarterback rating) and is ranked sixth nationally (and first in the SEC) in third-down conversion percentage (51.35).
Then why all the fuss? Because Florida is ranked eighth (80 percent) in the SEC in red-zone offense. (Alabama is only ranked sixth (86.1 percent), by the way.) In conference games, Florida is 6 of 20 (30 percent) in converting red-zone opportunities into touchdowns. Last season, Florida finished conference play with a 73 percent success rate in converting red-zone chances into touchdowns.
Fumbles have also been a problem. Florida has lost six fumbles this season. In 2008, the Gators lost eight fumbles all season.
What about sacks? Florida is ranked ninth in sacks allowed (13 for minus-79 yards) in the SEC.
So, there you have it. Red-zone touchdowns, fumbles and sacks are the three areas where the Gators' offense needs to improve. Oh, and passing offense. Florida is ranked fifth in the SEC in passing offense behind Arkansas, Georgia, Auburn and South Carolina. But do the Gators really need to pass the ball more? Probably not. The combined conference record of Arkansas, Georgia, Auburn and South Carolina stands at 8-9. Florida's conference record: 4-0.