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Free Fallin'

GAINESVILLE -- I’m pretty sure this is not what Tom Petty meant...

 

But make no mistake, the Gators -- now unranked (and probably a week too late) -- are in a dizzying tailspin with few solutions in sight. 

The rabid ramblers -- across message boards, Twitter and local radio programs -- have their pitchforks ready and want blood following UF’s 36-17 trashing at Missouri on Saturday.   

The 2013 season is lost for the (once) mighty Gators. There will be no trip to Atlanta -- but if you’d like to make plans for Shreveport I’ve heard it’s absolutely lovely around late December -- no BCS bowl game, no winning the state.

With so much uncertainty surrounding the program, the future and what Will Muschamp could possibly be eating for breakfast Monday morning, here are some muddled thoughts as the Gators enter a much-needed bye week.

* The dreaded vote of confidence. Muschamp isn’t going anywhere -- for now.

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Jeremy Foley, UF’s athletic director, handpicked Muschamp back in 2011 and the two reportedly have a close and open relationship. The hot seat scuttlebutt may be Speakerboxxx-loud everywhere outside of the Heavener Complex, but Muschamp would be owed upwards of $8 million is he were fired at season’s end. Also, the Gators don't want to get into any sort of potential bidding war for coaches with Texas (possibly) and USC. 

* And yet Foley is in the unenviable position of juggling the past with the present and future. The track record of elite successful SEC coaches reaching (or not) Atlanta by their third season is well-documented, but does Foley err on the side of prudence and the big picture or history? Either way, no (drastic) changes are coming now even if the Gators are regressing.  

* “Lost time is never found again,” 2013 is full of what-ifs for the Gators. The Cocktail Party in two weeks will be more like a funeral for all the fallen comrades on both Georgia and Florida. But while the two teams have been decimated by injuries and their collective failures have been coupled together nationally, the situations are much different. The Bulldogs -- at their peak in mid-September -- showcased as one of the nation’s most dynamic offenses with a young (and shoddy) defense and one of the worst special teams in the country. But overall, the Bulldogs were a good team, and the college football world knew who Georgia was at (mostly) full strength. 

Florida??? We still don’t know, and that’s Foley’s scariest food for thought moving forward. The Gators, winners of 11 games in 2012, were ravaged by injuries before Boom even tried out a new whistle on the first day of training camp this summer. Jeff Driskel’s preseason appendectomy was like a bad omen from The Ring. From there, the injury situation only snowballed, as the Gators eventually lost five starters to season-ending injuries while another half dozen contributors (some starters) have missed a number games due to ailment(s) X.  But did the injuries cripple a potentially solid team or was Florida -- with its yearly dumpster fire offense -- destined for a major regression and similar results anyways? We don’t know. We’ll never know. And that probably terrifies Mr. Foley.

* About that offense… Following the Missouri disaster, Muschamp told reporters, “I want to spread it out like everyone else does. But we can’t block anybody.”

Jim-Halpert crushable.com
(Courtesy crushable.com) 

Shrewd, Muschamp. But no. I’ll let the brilliant (or something like that) Spencer Hall of Every Day Should Be Saturday sum up Florida’s offensive philosophy during Muschamp’s regime:

“The recipe for what Florida wants to do in total leaves so little room for error that missing just one or two ingredients destroys the whole dish, since smashmouth manball assumes the ability to dominate at the line of scrimmage, and does not treat it as a luxury on just one side of the ball, much less both. It likes points, but it likes them in the context of control, not as pressure applied throughout the game on the opposing defense. It is SEC football from the 1980s--the kind Steve Spurrier all but ended for good, and that Nick Saban explicitly schemed against when assembling his LSU teams.

… At this point Florida is Virginia Tech under Frank Beamer: an outstanding defense, good special teams, and indifferent by design to the notion of offense.” 

For 2+ seasons, Muschamp has spit incessant fire of "THE SEC IS A LINE OF SCRIMMAGE LEAGUE,” and his Gators -- with a meat-grinder approach -- pummeling those pansy spread offenses. No doubt, Muschamp wants to score more, but only in homage to Herman Boone.

 

The GatorNation probably needs another shot immediately. And six plays? There's no need for a joke here. 

* As Bryan Holt, of Rivals.com's Inside the Gators, correctly pointed out every offensive coach aside from Joker Phillips is likely on notice. Florida’s offensive ineptitude yesterday was best illustrated in its drive (yards) chart: 18, 6, 12, 6, -2, 9, 6, -2, 70, -1, -10, 3, 19. Guess which drive freshman tailback Kelvin Taylor piloted for 53 rushing yards on one series only to tally just a single carry the rest of the game? Offensive coordinator Brent Pease has been much-maligned, and now (offensive line coach) Tim Davis has joined the public's (wrath) party too.   

* Florida’s problems run deeper than a rash of injuries. UF’s losses (on the lines of scrimmage) the last two weeks highlight Florida’s failure to recruit (just a total of six OL in ’10, ’11, ’12) and develop top-flight offensive linemen over the past several seasons. The Gators can’t run, can’t block, can’t pass, but damn they are consistent:

2011

Total offense: 105th

Total defense: 8th

2012

Total offense: 104th

Total defense: 5th

2013

Total offense: 106th

Total defense: 4th

* Florida -- despite three top-five recruiting classes in the last four years -- is the fourth best team in the state. Fun fact: Florida State, Miami and UCF have all developed a quarterback.

* Before the season, I listed linebacker, offensive line, turnover margin, kicker and rush defense as major question marks for Florida's 2013 team. 

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(Courtesy moviespad.com)

* UF’s defense really, really misses defensive tackle Dominique Easley. The Gators miss Easley’s energy, infectious personality, constant motor, but most importantly, his sheer dominance inside. Easley best embodied Muschamp’s persona: tough, nasty and a little crazy. Without him though, UF’s run defense has been gashed for consecutive 100-yard rushers, as the Gators don't have anyone else who can consistently hold the point of attack. Florida allowed just a single tailback (UGA’s Todd Gurley) to go over the century mark in its previous 17 games before the LSU and Mizzou contests.

I'm sure I glossed over some things, but it's late. 

As always, the floor is yours.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

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