The Gators are looking to rebound against SEC newbie Missouri on Saturday and go 2-0 against the newcomers from the Big 12. A Sugar Bowl berth is still very much in the picture, and an 11-win season is the new goal. Ultimately, the defining game on whether Florida makes it to the Sugar Bowl won’t be the SEC Championship game, but instead, all indications point to the matchup with top-ten ranked Florida State on the road.
A modest goal for Florida before September was nine wins. Now, with 10 wins within grasp, the new goal is to notch 11 and make a BCS appearance. But in order to get that 11th win against Florida State, several things need to happen in the next three weeks, aside from the obvious “taking care of the football”. These three improvements have to be made Saturday against Missouri.
1. More Playmakers Please
The Gators must identify another playmaker on offense not named Mike Gillislee or Jordan Reed. Reed has been the biggest threat in the passing game at tight end. He’s a hybrid player who can be used in several different ways to create mismatches. He’s caught 30 passes for 355 yards and three touchdowns. Whether it’s Frankie Hammond, Quinton Dunbar or Omarius Hines, one of the three has to play a bigger role in the passing game. Most of the air attack hinges around the maturity of Jeff Driskel and the offensive line’s ability to pass block, as both let them down against Georgia. Solomon Patton is out for the year with a broken arm, and former five-star, blue-chip recruit Andre Debose will get his shot to make an impact in some facet of the game. He’s underachieved throughout his career, and he’ll get an opportunity to pick up where Patton left off. If Debose is ever going to put it together, now would be the time.
2. Get Better On First Downs
It’s okay to have an identity of running the football, but be creative about it. In fact, Florida has run the ball 78 percent of the time on first downs this season. You think defenses haven’t been keying on this the last few weeks? Georgia sure did. On 21 first down plays against the Bulldogs, Florida was successful five times. Creating long down and distance situations for a young quarterback – 2nd and nine – is just asking for failure. Florida has to mix up the play calling on first downs to get in more situations like 2nd and five, which creates more opportunity for successful drives and completing third-down conversions. Florida ran 18 times on 21 first-down attempts. More creativity on first down will create more success and sustain longer drives.
3. Jeff Driskel’s Maturity
Obviously, the Georgia meltdown isn’t all Jeff Driskel’s fault, but he did turn it over four of the six times on offense. A sign of maturity, however, is that he did lead the Gators on a successful drive late in the game after having those prior turnovers. So I think he can bounce back, but we truly won’t know until Saturday. He was out of his element and looked intimidated against Georgia from the first snap of the game. The time for making progressions and growing up as a quarterback is now, nine games into the season. He has to put the loss behind him and bounce back with a strong performance Saturday.