JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Solid.
That was the thought I kept having while watching Florida’s 24-10 victory against Georgia on Saturday. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t all that entertaining. It was — as I’ve complained about before — pretty boring.
But if you look up synonyms for boring, you’ll also see monotonous, repetitive and unvaried. If you were to put that in perhaps more favorable terms, you might call Florida consistent.
This is true if you look back on the season thus far. While the 24-7 and 13-6 wins against UMass and Vanderbilt were not impressive, Florida never trailed in either game. In fact, other than the fourth quarter against Tennessee, the only time Florida has trailed this season was after Jacob Eason hit Riley Ridley to put Georgia up 10-7 on Saturday.
Contrast that to the main competition in the East Division, Tennessee. The Vols have been playing with fire all year, trailing early against Appalachian State (13-6), Virginia Tech (14-0), Florida (21-0), Georgia (17-0), Texas A&M (28-7), Alabama (21-7), and South Carolina (7-0).
Tennessee has shown an ability to come back in many of those games. Indeed, Florida’s matchup against Tennessee showed the Vols have a better top gear than the Gators. But the season is showing that if you can’t consistently hit that top gear, inferior teams have a chance.
Because of this consistency, it is unlikely that Florida will lose to inferior teams. This is good news when you look at the upcoming schedule.
Based on their Pythagorean expectation (expected record based on point differential), Florida is better than every one of its remaining opponents except a potential rematch against Alabama in the SEC championship. These numbers indicate Florida has a chance against Alabama, which is not something I would have expected after watching both teams this year.
I still think Alabama is the better team and I think Florida may lose at LSU. But because of the huge assist from Will Muschamp’s Gamecocks against Tennessee, Florida can lose that game and still represent the SEC East in Atlanta.
Another example of Florida’s consistency is its quarterback play. Excluding the Kentucky game, I don’t think I’ve enjoyed watching Del Rio or Austin Appleby play all year. But if you look at the statistics, they have outperformed their counterpart in every game except against Tennessee.
To be sure, a QB rating of 125.3 is decidedly average. But with this defense, consistently average is good enough to win.
And so seven games into the season, Florida is almost exactly where it was last year: 6-1 and in control of SEC East. The key difference between this year and last is the offense has improved from consistently bad to consistently average.
That improvement has led to the point differential referenced above. That improvement has led to a team that should win nine or 10 games. That improvement means that Florida is not only a player in the East but has a real shot against Alabama.
And that is, perhaps, proof of the coaching acumen of Jim McElwain. Florida fans are used to winning with offense. What we’re watching this year isn’t the Fun ‘n Gun or Urban’s spread. But it is consistent. And yes, even a little boring.
But no matter what you call it, Florida is heading into November with a real shot at the College Football Playoff, while more talented but less consistent teams are not. The offense may not be that fun to watch, but it’s a a lot more fun than losing to South Carolina.