- The only way to really stay sane in trying to balance being a fan and someone who tries to look at teams semi-clinically is this: What is this team, and what are they trying to do, and does the meeting of those two make sense? In other words, don’t see the potential or the aspirational when watching your team. See what’s there, and then figure out if it’s being managed well enough to pass as smart or sensible.
- Those three questions should be basically true when looking at any team, really. If Auburn fans are mad at Gus Malzahn for underachieving in 2018, then that’s feeling the right way for the wrong reasons. Auburn underachieved much earlier than this year at recruiting an offensive line and running backs capable of keeping Jarrett Stidham upright and dealing. Everything in 2018 is a symptom of that, not the cause.
- What you see is Auburn coping pretty well with crippling roster issues it created, or the perfect case of “Well you made this mess, and you’re also doing a decent job floating it for a second before the repo man and the cops come in to clean it up.”
- That’s just one example. It is not the example that lost to Georgia by nineteen points on Saturday in Jacksonville, the one that still somehow sits at 6-2 despite dire predictions for the coming season after an early loss to Kentucky. That would be Florida, a team that should also be evaluated for what it is, not what it isn’t, at this point in the life cycle of the program.
- Do you hear the seething sanity here? The deliberate attempt by us to grit teeth and be — siiiiiiiigh — fair after a loss. It’s so hard, but this is the only way to process having to take canned shit from the Hivemind of Chads and Bradfords that is the Georgia fanbase without committing acts of street violence.
- Or tax fraud. Let’s be honest, the preferred crime for any Gator fan is tax fraud, and we’re not immune.
- Doing that really isn’t that hard here. The mistakes were big, and they were basic.
- Example one: Turnovers. A team like Florida — with a slightly squarish peg in Feleipe Franks placed in this particular QB slot — can’t afford to turn the ball over much. Florida turned the ball over three times, and Georgia cashed those in for ten points total. In terms of damage mitigation by the defense, ten points out of a possible twenty-one is okay! In terms of potential points Florida could have had on offense, it is disastrous.
- Example two: Not keeping pace. After a great kickoff return and quick TD strike to open the second half, Florida came out and gained just 78 yards on offense for the rest of the game. With Georgia figuring out how to evade pressure and exploit certain players in the secondary — hiiiiiii C.J. McWilliams — the game opened up, and Florida had zero ability to respond in kind with points. Part of that is on the Georgia defense locking down and daring Franks to throw in the second half. Part of that is on Florida not being able to adjust or credibly pose a threat in the pass game.
- Example three: Injuries, and by implication depth. Cornerback C.J. Henderson went out in the first quarter with a back injury. His replacement, C.J. Williams, gave up two TDs singled up against his man. Florida’s been covering the loss of Marco Wilson in part by throwing blitzers in waves at opposing QBs and relying on pressure from the defensive front. To be clear: Todd Grantham would do the first part anyway, because he is an emotional blitzer with rage issues and an addiction to A-Gap blitzes. T
- To find the exact point where this stopped working really well, rewatch the Georgia game. The first QB Florida faced with the accuracy and a release quick enough to beat pressure and make throws in single coverage is Jake Fromm.
- And though Georgia called a good enough game, my god, Georgia fans: The Jim Chaney Lifestyle is WILD. The refusal to use a running back properly in a goal line or short yardage situation borders on something like a cognitive disorder. Like, Jim Chaney might be missing the part of the brain that redzones effectively, but fortunately for y’all he seems to recognize that by calling passing TDs at range. The goal line stand by Florida was impressive as hell, but having Jim Chaney calling plays in that particular situation can be like having a twelfth defender on the field.
- A FLY SWEEP ON THIRD AND NOTHING MY GOD MAN DO YOU REALLY CARE NOTHING FOR THE LIVES OF THOSE AROUND YOU JIM. Apologies for the yelling, but damn, that is going to bite Georgia in the ass so hard in a big game.
- All that about Florida isn’t a criticism. That is just what was and is, and there weren’t many options given the materials on hand. It’s hard to even be mad at Todd Grantham, as right as that might feel. Despite being our designated blame-bearer for anything and everything this year, there wasn’t a lot left to throw at Georgia. The Bulldogs ran enough to keep the ragged secondary honest, protected Fromm well, and made catches one-on-one when it counted.
- Those are still pretty good materials, but they’re not as good as Georgia right now. That is a market correction Florida was probably due after a 6-1 start and some genuine irrational exuberance about this team’s ceiling. We are chewing through particle board right now saying that, just a whole big sheet of it, but that is where things are at until some recruiting and organizational catchup happens.
- Which it might not! Don’t go look at Florida’s recruiting class, it’s not even in McElwain territory yet. Life is about panicking about one thing at a time, and there’s a long list of panic items to get to before that.
- But still: In all this, nothing really happened that shouldn’t have happened. Georgia is a good three years ahead (at least) in terms of recruiting and development, and until the fourth quarter Florida was right there in striking distance. In year one, that’s not fun, but that’s facts, and they’re hard to avoid when stacked eleven-on-eleven on a football field. This is still a tightly managed team of tightly managed players generally put in the best place to succeed. Getting 6-2 out of them feels like a small miracle, and that’s all anyone can ask at the moment. Not miracles, but small miracles.
- We’re going to eat the rest of this slice of drywall now. It’s healing us, one gypsum-y bite at a time.
DRYWALL IS THE NEW PEANUT BRITTLE