GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Nearly 900 people have died in Haiti as a result of Hurricane Matthew. Six people died in Florida — and 19 overall in the U.S. — as a result of the storm. Patients were being evacuated to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, which is a pretty good use of police resources. Some things are more important than football, regardless of what Brent Musburger says.
But irrespective of why, the game was canceled. And there are clearly football-related ramifications from the decision to postpone/cancel the game. While the noise has mostly been focused on Florida trying to duck LSU, I think it’s more interesting to focus on a different aspect of the time off.
Going into the game, Florida was banged up at multiple key positions. The most apparent was the sprained knee of QB Luke Del Rio. But in addition to Del Rio, Florida also had significant injuries to tackle David Sharpe and defensive linemen Bryan Cox Jr. and Caleb Brantley.
The extra time off to get healthy is going to help. How much it will help is something I was curious about, so I decided to look at how Florida has performed since 2005 both before and after its bye week. The differences are stark.
Over the previous 11 years, Florida has gone 3-8 prior to their bye week while playing seven ranked opponents with an average Associated Press Top 25 ranking of 10. Conversely, the Gators have gone 9-2 in games after their bye week against six ranked opponents with an average AP ranking of 8.5.
So, against similarly talented teams, the Gators have been terrible prior to the bye week and fantastic after. This isn’t misfortune either, as they have outscored their opponents prior to the bye week by a total of 15 points compared to outscoring their opponents by 133 points following the bye week.
The difference in record and performance is the difference between playing like Vanderbilt before the bye week and like LSU after the bye week. Getting a bye week clearly makes a huge difference.
And now, Florida gets two of them.
There’s going to be a lot of chirping from Knoxville about how Florida should have to play LSU to earn its way to Atlanta. And you have to wonder whether the 7 turnovers against Texas A&M and their reliance on miracles to win and/or extend games is due to Tennessee being exhausted.
What Tennessee really needs is a bye week, and that won’t come until after it battles Alabama and potentially allows the Gators to regain control of the East.
It looks like the SEC may get involved and force the game to be rescheduled. But at this point, it doesn’t really matter.
Florida will be able to get healthy this week and then regroup again before playing Georgia. While it isn’t intuitively obvious that this would make such a huge difference, the previous 11 years indicate that the week off turns Florida from average to elite.
Florida already had an advantage over Tennessee to start the year due to the schedule. And even if the game against LSU is rescheduled, Florida has reaped the most significant advantage. Now, it just has to make it count.
Note: If you want to help those impacted by Hurricane Matthew but don’t know how, check out this article about how to choose the proper organization in Haiti or the U.S.