Sunday, September 30, 2007

Florida: By the Numbers

Florida's first three games look very different from their last two. But there is one common theme across all five contests - Tim Tebow is Florida's offense. Throwing and running, Tebow has accounted for a huge chunk of Florida's yardage this season.

(3-2) Western Kentucky 3, Florida 49

Western Kentucky has beaten West Virginia Tech (by 87 points!), Eastern Kentucky, and Middle Tennessee. They lost last week to Bowling Green. Tebow threw for 300 yards and 3 touchdowns, and ran for another.

(3-2) Troy 31, Florida 59

Troy has lost to Arkansas and Florida, and beaten Oklahoma State, Lousisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe. Tebow threw for 236 yards and rushed for another 93. He had 5 touchdowns (3 throwing and 2 running). The Gator defense held the Trojans to 53 yards rushing, but gave up 283 yards passing and 31 points.

(2-2) Tennessee 20, Florida 59

Tennessee has lost to Cal and Florida, and beaten Southern Miss and Arkansas State. They had a Bye this week. Tebow threw for 299 yards and 2 TDs, rushed for 61 yards and 2 TDs. Percy Harvin had 75 yards rushing and 120 yards receiving. Florida's defense held the vols to 37 yards rushing, but gave up over 260 yards in the air.

Florida 30, (1-4) Ole Miss 24

Ole Miss beat Memphis 23-21 in their season opener and haven't won a game since, losing to Mizzou, Vandy, Florida, and Georgia. Tebow accounted for 427 yards of offense by himself, with a school record 166 yards rushing. He ran 2 TDs and threw for another 2. Percy Harvin caught 11 passes for 121 yards. The Gators were penalized 14 times for 127 yards. The Gator defense once again were stingy against the run but gave up over 300 yards in the air. Ole Miss scored 18 points in the third quarter to close within 3 points, but penalties and an interception stalled the Rebels' bid for an upset.

(3-2) Auburn 20, Florida 17

The Tigers/Plainsmen/War Eagles started their season by beating the same Kansas State (3-1) team that knocked off #7 Texas this past weekend. After subsequent losses to South Florida (4-0, beat #5 W. Virginia this weekend) and Mississippi State, the Tigers crushed NM State before beating the Gators in the swamp. The Gators trailed 14-0 at halftime and 17-3 in the fourth, before Florida scored two unanswered TDs to tie the game. Tebow had a solid game, with 201 yards passing and 75 yards rushing, but he had little help, which apparently was by design. Florida had two turnovers (1 fumble, 1 int) and 7 penalties. Florida's defense gave up less than 100 yards rushing, but allowed 227 yards passing. Auburn owned time of possession, giving Florida's defense little chance to rest.


Florida's center of gravity, if you will, is Tim Tebow. Harvin is a threat as well, but Tebow is the team's leading rusher, averaging 87 yards per game. He's also throwing for 259 yards per game.

Florida's run defense is 5th in the nation, giving up just 63 yards per game. Their passing defense isn't in the top 50, giving up an average of somewhere over 250 yards per game. As for scoring, the Gators are giving up an average of 20 points per game.

Basically, the Gators are winning (or losing) on the strength of their offense and the performance of Tim Tebow. Ole Miss and Auburn were able to find ways to frustrate the Gators offensively, holding them to three touchdowns short of their early season averages. Ole Miss nearly upset the Gators, and Auburn did.

LSU's impressive defensive stats will take a hit against Florida. However, it seems clear that holding the Gators to under 300 yards of offense and under 20 points total will go a long way towards victory. But of course, there are questions.

One question is, can LSU's passing game, with it's gimpy starting QB and ailing starting receivers, take advantage of Florida's permissive pass defense? Another question is, will LSU's stingy run defense be able to contain Tebow and Harvin, who are used to putting up 212 yards per game?

LSU's passing game against Florida's secondary, and Florida's running game against LSU's front seven - the two matchups that I think will tell the tale of this game.

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