Two of the SEC’s powerhouses in LSU and Florida are 0-2 in bowl games against the ACC and Big East, and both lost to good teams from lesser conferences that wanted it more. Both SEC teams are marked by offensive woes.
Should we place major emphasis on lost bowl games? That depends on which team you are talking about. Wins certainly meant more to Clemson and Louisville than LSU and Florida, but the way each team lost was telling.
LSU and Florida are relatively parallel programs. Each team recruits top blue-chip athletes and wins with a nasty defense, conservative offense, timely pass plays and a power running game. But the Tigers and Gators got away from what worked all season on offense and reverted to the mindset of ‘this is what we’ve worked on during the layoff’ as opposed to ‘this is what got us here’.
While known for defense and a power running game, LSU and Florida both demonstrated a lack of ability at the quarterback position – namely in getting timely third-down conversions and making a few explosive plays down the field.
Miles has some decisions to make moving forward. He has a tall pocket passer in Zach Mettenberger who looks like he can make all the throws on the field, but he didn’t develop into the player everyone thought he would be. The biggest thing about LSU’s offense isn’t just Mett, though – it’s consistency and balance. There were times when LSU looked like they would finally pull through in the passing game to a more balanced offense. That lasted all of about three games.
The biggest personnel problem was the injuries to the offensive line that made for a patchwork position group over the course of the season. It hurt in pass protection, and it hurt in the running game.
LSU went three-and-out eight times against Clemson, who was allowing over 400 yards of total offense per game. That’s unacceptable for any offense, much less one that has as much talent as the Tigers.
But the one thing that stood out for LSU in the waning minutes of the Chick-fil-A Bowl had nothing to do with the players – rather, it was the coaching staff inexplicably going to the passing game late in the fourth quarter over the power running game to milk clock and make Clemson burn timeouts. The Tigers had second- and third-and-two, and Miles went to the passing game with Mettenberger, which resulted in two missed opportunities, a punt and ultimately a loss.
Above all, Miles must figure out which direction he wants to go on offense with respect to coaching personnel. Current offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa could be the scapegoat, but so could the entire offensive coaching staff. There’s no identity on offense under Studrawa, and Miles could choose to go in a different direction.
Either way, developing Mettenberger is #1 on the list for the offseason.
Florida’s offensive woes have been well documented all season and largely overshadowed by the 11 in the win column. There’s a combination of reasons for the woes, and underdeveloped quarterback Jeff Driskel is part of the problem. The offensive line is also an issue, but the biggest problem is the Florida receivers. All three combine for a terrible passing game, ranked a whopping 118th in the country.
The Gators had a strong running game with first-team All-SEC Mike Gillislee. But that’s all they had. After three weeks into the season, we were talking about Driskel’s emergence, development and growth. Exiting 2012, however, we are talking about his regression. He showed flashes – more in the running game than anything – but he locks on to one receiver and doesn’t handle pressure in the pocket well at all.
The offensive game plan against Louisville was head scratching, too. Florida’s a conservative power running team that has lived off controlling the tempo on the ground and limiting turnovers. So, what does Florida open up with in the Sugar Bowl? A pass play to a receiver in Andre Debose who hasn’t caught a pass in two months resulting in a pick-six. Much like games against Louisiana-Lafayette and Jacksonville State, Florida tried to come out passing in order to develop that aspect of their game and totally abandoned what got them there.
Florida’s staff in its entirety will be retained, including offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who has been good all season. Pease’s task will be developing Driskel over the winter, spring and summer in time for next season. It won’t be easy, either. Can his pocket presence improve with coaching? I’m not so sure it can. Driskel has had an entire season and five additional weeks of bowl prep to develop his game. He’s definitely more experienced, but I’m not so sure he’s a better quarterback than when he took the field against Bowling Green.
Still, Driskel is only part of the problem, as the offensive line must take a big step forward and wide receivers must create some type of separation.
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