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What's Wrong With Florida?

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Poor red zone play.

UF came into the game against Mississippi State at eighth in the SEC with just an 80% red zone conversion rate, and they blew two more chances with a missed field goal and Tim Tebow's 100-yard pick six. A year ago, Florida was deadly inside their opponents' 20 yard line, more often than not getting touchdowns. Predictable play calling has turned many of those touchdowns into field goal attempts, and poor execution has turned some of both into...

Turnovers.

Florida was +22 in turnover margin last season, and it was +24 in its wins. This season, Florida is -1 and turnovers have played a huge role in the Gators' close scrapes over the past two weekends. They lost three fumbles in Arkansas territory (two in the red zone), and 13 of Mississippi State's 19 points came on interception returns for touchdowns. It's extremely difficult to win games by the big margins that Florida did last year when you turn the ball over multiple times per game.

A depleted receiving corps.

Last season, Florida lost Cornelius Ingram for the season in August and lost Percy Harvin for a game and a half. That's it for the front line players, and the receivers were a strength for the team. This season, Florida lost Carl Moore and Andre Debose for the season in August, and each was projected to be a starter. Deonte Thompson missed some games. Riley Cooper has been slowed sometimes by various injuries.

For Florida's offense to operate at its highest level, it needs to have at least five legitimate receivers. UF only has four this year thanks to losing Moore and Debose, and even they've got  even fewer when guys miss time or are slowed. That means that running backs have had to moonlight out wide quite a bit. Whenever that happens, it means defenses can rush Tebow with abandon because they only have to seriously cover three of the five guys on the perimeter.

Tebow has not been great.

Tim Tebow is getting a lot of Heisman poll votes because he's the quarterback of the No. 1 team and because they are doing it out of habit, I suppose. He hasn't been playing like one of the most outstanding players in the country though, as he's been one of the primary sources of turnovers and red zone struggles. He doesn't go through his progressions enough, and he doesn't throw it away when no one is open enough.

To be fair, he hasn't been helped out by the deficiencies of the receiving position. Playing quarterback is harder when you don't have a lot of great options. He also hasn't been helped out by...

A crisis of offensive strategy.

Things looked great in the first two games against the cupcakes. They went downhill against Tennessee's great defense, where the offense went overly conservative in response to it. With Thompson out and Cooper slowed, the offense went extremely run heavy against Kentucky, and that ended up the most coherent offensive game of the conference season. They went back conservative against LSU thanks to Tebow's concussion and being on the road, and now against Arkansas and Mississippi State it had problems finding balance and a good mix.

Part of it is undoubtedly growing pains under first year offensive coordinator Steve Addazio. During the Kentucky telecast, Bob Davie (who employed Addazio on his Notre Dame staff) mentioned that the Gator OC's background has a lot of wishbone in it. That fact would explains why the option-based bonanza against the Wildcats was the most fluid the offense has been all conference season. Addazio has struggled re-integrating the passing game post-LSU, though things would look a lot better without the turnovers.

Spotty offensive line play.

Florida's offensive line didn't play all that well at the beginning of 2008, and it showed. It didn't gel until late in the '08 Arkansas game, which uncoincidentally was the point at which the offense as a whole took off. It has yet to gel this season, and until it does, we're not going to see a lot of fireworks from the Gator O.

Addazio is not just the offensive coordinator; he's also the offensive line coach. It's probably now time to ask whether his expanded role as coordinator has taken away from his ability to coach up the line. He's not done it many favors either since two of the five positions have been revolving doors for reasons other than injury, and he keeps begging for it to be overwhelmed with blitzes with his play calling (i.e. going five wide with two running backs at receiver). Addazio also used to have an associate offensive line coach to help him out in John Hevesy, but he left to follow Dan Mullen last off season.

They're feeling the pressure.

The team just looks tense on the sidelines. Meyer looks the most tense of anyone. He keeps calling each win a "good win" (no matter how ludicrous it may sound in situations like after the Arkansas game) to try to help take some pressure off, but the burden of trying to repeat appears to be getting to them. They better find some other way to deal with it because it's only going to grow with every passing week.

A regression to the mean.

I already mentioned the Gators' outrageously good fortune in the turnover department last year. They also aren't blocking nearly as many kicks; they had three blocks in the '08 Kentucky game alone, but they've gotten to just two this year.

Even when they weren't necessarily taking the ball away from their opponents or blocking kicks, someone in 2008 always came up with big plays when it counted (except against Ole Miss, of course). Percy Harvin broke off big runs. Louis Murphy would catch long passes. Ahmad Black would come up with improbable interceptions. Brandon Spikes would flatten somebody. When a game could break in favor of either team, someone always made a play to break it in Florida's favor. Good luck and good timing are fickle, and you don't get them in spades two years in a row.

Definitely not the defense.

It has allowed four touchdowns all season, and one was on a 31 yard drive after a fumble by the offense. Only two teams have cracked 240 total yards on it, and one was Charleston Southern in a game where the coaches emptied the bench in the second quarter. It has allowed 20+ points once—and it was exactly 20 points—and that was the game with the 31 yard TD drive. It has been doing all of that despite a plague of injuries on the defensive line and Brandon Spikes out or limited in most games.

Say what you want about the offense (and most of it is true), but you can't fault the defense. The Gators could easily have two or three losses if not for the play of the Charlie Strong's men.