GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Welcome to the latest installment of Inside the Numbers, a weekly column that breaks down the stats and numbers you need to know about Florida Gators football heading into gameday. The Gators are 3-3 as they head into their bye week.
So with no opponent to scout and Florida sitting at the halfway mark of Jim McElwain’s third season leading the program, let’s take a closer look at the Gators’ performance through the first half of each of McElwain’s first three seasons.
Explanation: Obviously, two big things stand out here. First, the Gators have lost more games before the bye this season than in the previous two under McElwain combined.
Second, the point differential. Through six games, Florida has only outscored its opponents by a combined 2 points this season. The Gators’ three wins are by a combined 21 points with two being decided by 6 points or fewer. Their three losses were decided by a combined 19 points — a 16-point defeat against Michigan, the 1-point loss to LSU and the 2-point loss to Texas A&M.
During McElwain’s first two seasons, the Gators had just four total wins before the bye (out of 12) decided by 7 points or fewer while five were decided by more than 20 points each. The two losses — a 2015 defeat at LSU and a 2016 loss at Tennessee — came by a combined 17 points.
Granted, the 2015 and 2016 seasons do include at least one “cupcake” team in the early portion of the schedule — New Mexico State in 2015 and UMass and North Texas in 2016. If you remove them, the point differentials are still substantial in Florida’s favor, with the Gators at +52 over six games in 2015 and at +61 in 2016 through four games.
|Total offense (yards/game)||376.3||426.5||351.2|
|Passing offense (yards/game)||249.6||244.7||181.3|
|Rushing offense (yards/game)||126.7||181.8||169.8|
|Scoring offense (points/game)||31.6||30.3||23.7|
Explanation: Three stats stand out here.
First, the major regression in the passing game this season. The Gators sit at 103rd nationally and 12th in the SEC in passing offense. Starter Feleipe Franks, who was benched in the second half twice this season and regained the starting job after Luke Del Rio suffered a season-ending collarbone injury in the first half against Vanderbilt, hasn’t lived up to expectations. He has thrown for more than 200 yards in a game just once, and that only came to be because of a 63-yard heave to Tyrie Cleveland as the clock expired against Tennessee. In Florida’s first two seasons, McElwain found success early with Will Grier (2015) and Del Rio (2016). The offenses regressed heavily down the back halves of those seasons after Grier was suspended by the NCAA for using an illegal substance and Del Rio suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.
Second, the scoring offense. Florida has scored more than 25 points in all three of its wins this year. In the losses? The ceiling is at 17 points so far.
Third, fittingly, is third-down conversions. The Gators rank last in the SEC and 103rd nationally in the category and are on pace for he lowest third-down conversion mark for a Florida team since 2011, Will Muschamp’s first year at the helm of the program. Compare that to the 2016 team, which had a staggering 51-percent third-down efficiency after the first six games of the year. Florida’s third-down woes were on full display during the Texas A&M loss Saturday. The Gators converted just 4 of 15 attempts and had at least 9 yards to go on seven of those attempts.
Again, there are additional factors that play into this that the numbers don’t show. Florida’s top-2 playmakers heading into the season in Antonio Callaway and Jordan Scarlett have been suspended while being investigated for credit card fraud. The quarterback carousel is still revolving. The lack of depth at wide receiver behind the injured Tyrie Cleveland.
But at the end of the day, the numbers tend to start balancing out at this point, and it’s becoming noticeable that Florida is experiencing a drop-off this season.
A few more offense stats from this season
- The Gators are tied for 120th nationally with just 4 passing touchdowns. Only Rice, Troy, Georgia Southern and Army have fewer this season.
- Florida is one of five teams that is still perfect in red-zone scoring, but the Gators also rank just tied for 101st in trips into the red zone (15).
- A rare offensive highlight: When only looking at conference games, Florida ranks fifth in the SEC in rushing yards (201.6/game) and fourth in rushing touchdowns (11).
|Total defense (yards/game)||314.4||252.5||354.8|
|Passing defense (yards/game)||197.9||132.8||211|
|Rushing defense (yards/game)||116.6||119.7||143.8|
|Scoring defense (points/game)||17.3||12||23.3|
Explanation: It was anticipated that Florida’s defense would regress this season. That’s normally what happens when eight key contributors from the year before leave for the NFL and are replaced by a crop of underclassmen. Losing fifth-year safety Marcell Harris before the season started to a torn right Achilles tendon doesn’t help, either.
But overall, the Gators have held their ground and look to be potentially turning the corner.
The Texas A&M game is evidence of that.
Florida had allowed just 10 points through three quarters before special teams miscues and the offense’s inability to stay on the field allowed the Aggies to march down for three field goals. Overall, Florida held the Aggies to a season-low 263 yards and just 19 points when they came in averaging 34.3 points per game.
The Gators are still holding firm on third-down defense, ranking 18th nationally and third in the conference, and the young secondary that is playing as many as three freshmen at a time is starting to grow up.
The lack of forced turnovers is the biggest surprise thus far, but that should come with time.
A few more defense stats from this season
- Sophomore linebacker David Reese is tied for sixth in the SEC in total tackles (53).
- Florida is the only team in the country that has not recovered a fumble. The Gators are also last nationally in total forced fumbles (1).
- Senior Duke Dawson is second in the SEC and tied for 16th nationally with 9 total passes defended. Freshman Marco Wilson is tied for second nationally among freshmen with 7.