By MIKE DAROZA
Living less than 30 minutes from Florida Field, it's pretty easy for me to keep a finger on the pulse of Gator Nation.
And, despite popular belief, the Florida Gators do still have a pulse, they're just not very happy campers at the moment.
Fans are disgusted with offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, upset that Head Coach Urban Meyer seems too emotionally detached and downright sick about having one of worst offenses in the SEC - if not the country.
All of this, of course, is a normal day in the life of a college football team and fan base that expects to win championships - both conference and national - as much as most programs expect to have a green football field to play on.
Some of those fans have bombarded the talk-radio airwaves, message boards and blogosphere with rants, solutions and fire(fill in the bank).com websites.
|Florida fans haven't had much to cheer about this season, and haven't had much trouble expressing their feelings when given the opportunity.|
Ask them what's wrong with Florida and every one of them can tell you, even if none of them has ever suited up or played a down of football in their life.
So, what is wrong with the Gators?
In my opinion, the first sign that things were going to go south was when the preseason polls were released and Florida was ranked as high as third.
Are you kidding me?
Take a look at the 11 players in the list below that left last year and are not only currently on NFL rosters, but in many cases are contributing rather significantly.
If you are even remotely familiar with the Gators, you recognize at least six of those names, and that's just from the first two rounds of the NFL Draft back in April.
|Former Gator All-America cornerback Joe Haden was the seventh overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, making him the first of three Florida players taken in the first round.|
For those more familiar with Florida, I would be willing to bet you can think of at least one instance where any one of those 11 players directly contributed to an SEC or National Championship at one point or another.
Forget the fact that three of them were first round picks, one of them - and I don't care if he ever throws another pass in the NFL - will go down as one of the greatest players in college football history.
|With two national championship rings, two SEC titles and a Heisman Trophy, Tim Tebow is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in college football history.|
If you need a clearer picture, those 11 players accounted for a combined 3,898 all-purpose yards, 241 tackles, 22 QB sacks and nine interceptions in 2009 alone.
No one - I repeat, NO ONE - loses THAT much of THAT kind of talent and shouldn't expect major drop off.
So, the expectations were set too high for this team.
Secondly, the loss of quality assistant coaches has also effected the Gators immensely.
How much does that have to do in the grand scheme of things?
Just ask Florida State.
The loss of quality assistants and continuity on their staff contributed to the collapse of the Seminoles' dynasty of the 80's and 90's as much as anything else.
|During the period 1987–2000, Bobby Bowden coached Florida State to 14 straight seasons with 10 or more victories, and his team had a final ranking of fifth or higher in both of the major polls.|
For FSU, it was names like Mark Richt and Chuck Amato who left to become successful head coaches elsewhere.
Three former Florida assistant coaches (Dan Mullen, Charlie Strong and Doc Holliday) have left to become head coaches elsewhere in just the past two years alone, not to mention several others who have moved on in that same span.
The Gators introduced as many as four new coaches heading into this season.
Now, on the other hand, this team has also not played anywhere near its potential, either.
|The much-maligned Florida offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Steve Addazio.|
All Addazio's Fault?
Blame it on Addazio all you want - and correct me if I'm wrong - but doesn't the head coach run the show?
It's not like Meyer is idly standing by on the sideline each Saturday listening to the "OK, let's run the dive play here" or "Run John Brantley on the option" without an opportunity to veto.
Or, is he?
I think Meyer is still trying to balance his old, "ultra hands on" approach (the one that reportedly sent him to the hospital following the loss to Alabama in the SEC title game last December) with his new laid back approach.
And, in my opinion, Meyer is stressed every bit as much as before, but now it appears he is internalizing it, holding it all in.
If you ask me, that's more harmful than outwardly burning the candle at both ends.
|Citing health reasons, Meyer resigned as head coach of Florida for one day before returning to say he was taking an indefinite leave of absence to "re-evaluate his priorities of faith and family."|
Meyer has to decide what or who he is - relentless recruiter/special teams guru or laid back CEO head coach.
Speaking of identity problems, and we need not stray too far from the coaching staff here too, but Florida needs to decide whether it is a spread-option team or a drop-back passing team.
Like Meyer's personality conflict, you simply cannot be both.
And unfortunately, that means a tough decision has to be made, possibly leaving Brantley - a guy who has waited patiently for three years - in the cross-hairs.
The Gators coaches have hinted about "tweaks" and "changes" to the offense over the bye week, but for the most part have been pretty tight-lipped about what those tweaks or changes might be.
|In what was arguably the Gators' best offensive game this season, true freshman Trey Burton scored a record six touchdowns against Kentucky|
To me, it's fairly simple, if they commit to continuing to be a true spread team, they must go with true freshman QB Trey Burton in favor of Brantley.
Otherwise, modify the offense to fully compliment Brantley's skill set.
Otherwise, modify the offense to fully compliment Brantley's skill set.
So, in comes Georgia, a team that (after losing four of their first five games) has won three in a row and are averaging over 40 points per game since star-receiver A.J. Green returned from a four-game suspension.
It would appear these two teams are headed in opposite directions.
|The annual Florida-Georgia game still ranks among the best neutral-site rivalry games in the history of college football|
Is there any reason to think Florida can win this game?
History is actually leaning heavily toward Meyer and his Gators, and here's why:
Florida has won 17 out of the last 20 meetings in this rivalry.
As a coach, Meyer holds a 30-3 record when having more than one week to prepare for a game, including a 15-1 record in that same scenario with the Gators.
Since arriving at Florida in 2005, Meyer is 12-1 against the Gators' chief rivals (Tennessee, Georgia and Florida State).
But, as they say, statistics are for losers.
Although, there is one statistic that simply cannot be denied, and that's wins and losses.
A loss virtually ends any chance that Florida can win an SEC East title, and the moaning and groaning will only intensify.
A win means the Gators still control their own destiny, clearing the way - for at least one more week anyway - to reach Atlanta.
And for the first time in nearly a month and a half, some happy camping.
CFRT's Pick 6
No.16 Florida State at NC State
Had these two played a little earlier in the year, the game might've been easier to pick. Both teams are coming off a bye-week, so both will be fully rested for what's starting to become an annual Thursday night affair. The Seminoles had to rally in their Thursday night win over the Wolfpack in Tallahassee last year. And, this time around, the winner may be in great position to take the ACC Atlantic title. Florida State, 31-28.
No.5 Michigan State at No.18 Iowa
If Michigan State can get past Iowa, they could easily capture their first Big Ten title since 1987 because they do not have to play Ohio State and their remaining conference games are against Minnesota, Purdue and Penn State (who are a combined 9-13). Iowa is coming off an emotional loss to Wisconsin and the Spartans are coming off an emotional win over Northwestern. Iowa, 28-27.
No.6 Missouri at No.14 NebraskaMissouri enjoyed what was likely one of the biggest wins in school history last week, knocking off the then-No.1 Oklahoma Sooners. That game marked the third time in as many weeks that the No.1 team in the land fell. However, the following week can be fraught with hangover-itus for teams that do in numero uno (see South Carolina). Cornhuskers, 35-24.
Florida vs. Georgia
The Gators have displayed on of the most lethargic offenses in the country thus far, and Georgia has averaged nearly 43 points in the past three weeks. However, those wins came against Tennessee (2-5), Vanderbilt (2-5) and a 4-4 Kentucky team that was suffering a little hangover-itus of their own after upsetting South Carolina. Plus, giving Urban Meyer more than a week to prepare is like spotting him 14 points. Florida, 27-21.
No.1 Auburn at Ole Miss
Could the No.1 team fall a fourth weekend in a row? It could happen. Now, whether it will is a different story. However, this one will be closer than the experts think for two reasons. First, Rebels coach Houston Nutt almost always finds a way of upsetting a ranked team when he isn't supposed to. And, Auburn has to be running on emotional fumes following three straight heart-pounding wins. I wish I had more nerve, but...War Eagle, 35-33.
No.2 Oregon at USC
Oregon up to this point has looked unstoppable on offense. USC appears to be on the decline amidst NCAA sanctions and a new Lane Kiffin coaching regime. However, the Trojans' only two losses were by a combined three points, making them one of the best two-loss teams in the nation at this point. Problem is, depth has been their Achilles heel, showing up in the second half of their games. If you think depth was causing them to run out of gas before, wait until they have to manage a team that averages about a point per minute and about two plays every 25 seconds. Ducks, 49-31.
Your Saturday "Couch Schedule"
Louisville at Pittsburgh at Noon on ESPN3
"Afternoon Remote Control Roulette Games"
Florida vs. Georgia at 3:30 p.m. on CBS
No.5 Michigan State at No.18 Iowa at 3:30 p.m. on ABC (East)
No.6 Missouri at No.14 Nebraska at 3:30 p.m. on ABC (West)
No.2 Oregon at USC at 8 p.m. on ABC