Contrary to what many people expected when they left The Swamp last night, the sun did rise in Gainesville this morning. As a matter of fact, it's a beautiful day, and with it came a realization as clear as the sky I'm looking at through my window right now:
Florida ain't good.
And Saturday night's loss to Mississippi State (read those last six words again for full effect) put the word out. The AP poll dropped today (LINK) and UF is nowhere to be found. For the first time under Urban Meyer, the Gators are unranked, ending an 89-week streak. They didn't even receive a vote (Kentucky, Air Force and East Carolina did).
Here's the game story to put this loss in perspective, courtesy of Clark Spencer, who got a fine baptism to the UF beat last night: LINK
Now, it's pretty clear that 2010 is going to be a forgettable season, but what's next? Well, thanks to South Carolina losing to Kentucky, the Gators can STILL win the SEC East and get a shot at the SEC title if they win the rest of their conference games. A BCS game is still on the table, which is baffling. Then again, the Liberty Bowl is a possibility too.
So how to fix this mess? Here are my suggestions. Feel free to leave yours in the comments, along with the standard UM-UF back-and-forth nonsensical chest-thumping that we've all come to know and love on this blog. All these are on the offensive side, obviously. The defense did its job.
-Firing Steve Addazio isn't the answer
Maybe you think Addazio didn't make a single good call, but really, what would you do with this bunch? Running backs Jeff Demps, Emmanuel Moody and Mike Gillislee were all out or slowed at some point during the game, which led to receiver/tight end Omarius Hines taking over the running game.
Add on Chris Rainey's suspension and Andre Debose's ankle injury, and Addazio is running an offense that suffers from a severe lack of playmakers. Plus, let's not give Meyer a free pass here. This is his offense, and it's not like he blindly lets Addazio and quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler call the plays. If you fire Addazio, who would you replace him with?
In truth, the best two replacements have been in The Swamp the past two weeks -- MSU head coach Dan Mullen and LSU receivers coach Billy Gonzales. Those two have the best grasp of Meyer's system, and what Florida has now is a shell of its former attacks.
At the least, Meyer needs to get on Addazio about his offensive line. That's his specialty, and the line was expected to be the team's best unit this year. Instead, the blocking has been very poor, and that effects every facet of the offense.
-The offensive philosophy has to change
Florida is trying to plug a lot of round holes with square pegs. Quarterback John Brantley doesn't need to be running the option because he isn't a runner. Trey Burton is a good runner, but turning the offense over to him isn't a good idea either because he can't throw. The Bulldogs knew that, and they blitzed Burton heavily last night.
Also, enough of putting Brantley at receiver when Burton is in the wildcat. Yes, Brantley standing out there means a defender has to go with him, but a wideout would demand attention too and could actually block/catch, so why not just do that?
Meyer always says he wants to fit his offense to his players. Well, Brantley is supposed to be a whiz at reading defenses and a great downfield thrower. Time to make that his focus. The common excuse this year has been that defenses are dropping deep into coverage, so UF is staying short with passes and "taking what the defense gives us." How often do defenses hand out touchdowns? It's time to make Brantley man up and take what he wants.
-Deonte Thompson has to at least be scaled back
He was supposed to be the big-play wideout, but Thompson has been a flop. A couple more drops last night, including one that was picked off. Deonte has had his moments this year, but Frankie Hammond has looked better. Hammond made five catches for 69 yards last night and looks every bit as effective as Thompson. He and Carl Moore should be the top targets on the outside moving forward, with Debose filling the hybrid role if he's healthy.
-Time to bring Rainey back
Get over it people. Rainey sent a stupid text message and paid the price. His legal troubles are behind him, and what he did was far more dumb than it was violent (go read the victim's statements). He deserves to be made fun of for a while, but there's also no reason he can't come back for the Georgia game in two weeks.
Rainey was underwhelming in the first two games, but the Gators are in no position to leave fast people standing on the sideline just to please a public that has a very loose grasp of the situation.
If given the keys to the Florida program, what would you do? I suppose the good news is that the Gators have two weeks to get healthy and try to figure something out before facing Georgia, but there's a lot that needs doing.