After another narrow victory in which his offense put together an underwhelming performance, it seems Florida coach Will Muschamp has grown tired of answering questions about the subject.
The Gators lagged to a 14-7 victory against Missouri (4-5, 1-5 SEC) on Saturday. The offense, once again, was woeful outside of two big plays. Even though quarterback Jeff Driskel came out throwing, Florida was again outgained in the first quarter, bringing the total to nine straight games -- or, every game this season. That's just the beginning.
The struggles have been well documented -- I've written about it twice (here and here) since Saturday's game. Plenty of writers who cover the team have dedicated inches in print or space online to critique the lack of firepower. However, when asked Monday about the lack of playmakers, Muschamp seemed to have had enough of the criticism.
"It is what it is. We’re where we are. We’re 8-1, alright?" he said. "It’s easy to go pick at that and that’s what everybody’s decided to do at this point. We’re not scoring 60 points a game, so obviously we’re all upset. I want to score 60, too, but I want to win first of all. That’s really what’s important, and that’s what we’re trying to do."
But when your offense is ranked 103rd in the country and no team ranked in the BCS Standings carries a worse point-per-game average, then questions and stories are bound to come. No. 23 Rutgers and No. Florida are tied for 79th nationally scoring an average of 26.0 per game.
Notre Dame is the only other team ranked in the BCS Top 10 that scores fewer than 29 points per game. Both the Irish and the Gators have been able to get away with such low outputs on average because of dominant defenses -- Florida and Notre Dame are two of only four teams (Florida State, Alabama) to allow fewer than 110 points this season.
But if the offense has a bad day, like it did against Georgia with six turnovers, or if the defense is matched up against a dominant offense, like it will face against Florida State at the end of the month, then what?
Florida this season has played only one of the top 20 scoring offenses, and that was Texas A&M in the team's first game under new head coach Kevin Sumlin. The Aggies still managed to score 17 points to tie a season-high against the Gators, and they did it all in the first half. Muschamp and Dan Quinn made great adjustments to confuse freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel at halftime, but will they be able to do that against a more-balanced and just-as-dangerous Florida State team? Or against Alabama in the SEC Championship game should Auburn surprise Georgia this week? That remains to be seen.
Muschamp has been honest about the need for improvement on offense, and he should recognize it's probably not coming this season. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease has as well, and he was honest last week when asked if he thinks the Gators have a big-time playmaker at wide receiver on the roster.
"Do I see a big-time? I don’t know if I’d say that but I feel confident in with some of the kids that we have," Pease said. "Do we’ve got to get better? Yeah, we’ve got to get better everywhere."
"You run a route, you get open. ... In this league you’ve got to win on man-to-man coverage. I mean it’s easy, zones are easy. You just know the coverage you’ve got to beat."
Redshirt sophomore Quinton Dunbar leads the unit with 20 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Of the team's ranked in the BCS Top 10, Dunbar's numbers are the lowest for a leading receiver. Here's how the rest shake out:
No. 1 Alabama - Amari Cooper - 32 catches, 472 yards, 5 touchdowns
No. 2 Kansas State - Chris Harper - 35 catches, 542 yards, 2 touchdowns
No. 3 Oregon - De'Anthony Thomas - 29 catches, 277 yards, 4 touchdowns
No. 4 Notre Dame - TJ Jones - 31 catches, 383 yards, 3 touchdowns
No. 5 Georgia - Tavarres King - 27 catches, 551 yards, 6 touchdowns
No. 7 LSU - Jarvis Landry - 31 catches, 292 yards, 2 touchdowns
No. 8 South Carolina - Ace Sanders - 24 catches, 270 yards, 5 touchdowns
No. 9 Louisville - Damian Copeland - 33 catches, 414 yards, 1 touchdown
No. 10 Florida State - Rashad Greene - 28 catches, 374 yards, 2 touchdowns
Of those 10 teams, Florida (186 attempts, 1,261 yards) and Kansas State (196 attempts, 1,930 yards) are the only two to have attempted fewer than 200 passes this season, however the Wildcats have not had the same issues with production. While most of those teams have a quarterback more established than the sophomore Driskel, he can't be the sole recipient of blame for the lack of production.
The line hasn't held up at times, and the backs and tight ends have struggled in pass protection as well. And, frankly, as Driskel and Muschamp have said, the Gators haven't really yet needed to open up the offense and push the ball downfield to win. But that also means that there's no proof that they can when and if necessary.
The good news is Florida has its two easiest opponents of the season coming up in the next two weeks at home in The Swamp. It's a chance to get right offensively, pad the stats a little bit and, most importantly, develop some rhythm and confidence in the passing game against lesser opponents.
So, with all that said, tell me: What do you think? Can the Gators compete on offense with the big boys of college football? Is the defense good enough that it doesn't matter? What would happen if Florida somehow found itself in a game against Alabama for the SEC or national championship?