The Post-Tebow Gators
JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK
FLORIDA FACES FIRST SEC TEST OF THE POST-TEBOW ERA
For awhile there, it was looking like Florida might have its hands full this week with the Tennessee Volunteers in their first SEC contest of the post-Tebow era.
- Florida looked horrible in their season opener against Miami of Ohio, with defensive scores and a couple of big plays helping to hide what was largely a 40-minute debacle considering how bad the opponent was.
- Florida still looked sluggish in the first half of the South Florida game last week, before seeming to get things in gear after the break.
- Tennessee looked good for a half at home against two-touchdown favorite Oregon. The game was tied at 13-all...and you could tell the crowd was starting to think about what might happen this week when the hated Gators came to town.
Maybe the players started thinking about that too...because they forgot to come out for the second half against the Ducks. The Vols were run off their own field 35-0 in the last two quarters, reminding everyone that they have a long way to go before rejoining the elite of the sport.
Though last week's second halves may be suggesting that order has been restored, and Florida is going to go back to dominating the SEC East for the foreseeable future, we want to spend some time looking at the key boxscore numbers from the three games we just discussed. We believe they'll shed light on expectations for this Saturday afternoon's meeting (nationally televised on CBS), and on how the rest of the season is going to shake out for both teams. You'll be seeing a lot of Florida on TV the rest of the way, and you're likely to run into Tennessee a few more times too.
We start with week one, and one of the most stunning season openers from a national power we can remember. Sure, Michigan lost to Appalachian State a few years ago. Michigan wasn't a national power, just an overhyped Big Ten team from a media base that was ignoring reality. FLORIDA WAS A LEGIT NATIONAL POWER based on coaching and recruiting who suddenly looked like a bunch of high school kids running through drills for the first time ever.
FLORIDA 34, MIAMI OF OHIO 12
Total Yardage: Miami 212, Florida 212
Rushing Yardage: Miami 4, Florida 99
Passing Stats: Miami 26-46-4-208, Florida 17-25-0-113
Turnovers: Miami 4, Florida 3
Halftime Score: Miami 6, Florida 21
Vegas Line: Florida by 38, total of 54
Comments: As we mentioned in our review of misleading final scores a few days later, Florida was a 38-point favorite who hadn't even gained 30 offensive yards by the time the fourth quarter started. They couldn't snap the ball on a straight line. They seemingly couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time. This was MIAMI OF OHIO they were playing, who went 1-11 last year in a bad conference against a bad schedule. The Gators did break some fourth quarter plays to add to the cheap points off turnovers and special teams they had already scored. This is still a very talented team in terms of having superstar athletes all over the field. If the studs are just standing there watching bad snaps with the rest of us, it's going to be a disappointing season for Gator Nation.
FLORIDA 38, SOUTH FLORIDA 14
Total Yardage: S. Florida 330, Florida 423
Rushing Yardage: S. Florida 244, Florida 251
Passing Stats: S. Florida 6-23-4-86, Florida 18-31-0-172
Turnovers: S. Florida 5, Florida 0
Halftime Score: S. Florida 7, Florida 7
Vegas Line: Florida by 16, total of 50
Comments: The defense has now forced nine turnovers in two games...which tells you that THAT side of the ball is still playing at a national championship level. Sure, rushing yards were a concern here...but you never got the sense that the South Florida offense was controlling its own destiny. Florida struggled through another bad first half before once again making some big plays and pulling away. To viewers, the second half here ws the first time Florida looked like Florida. They won 31-7 in those 30 minutes, showing off the depth of talent that had the polls ranking them so high to begin with.
Were the first six quarters of the season a "Preseason"that nobody will remember a few weeks from now? Is South Florida actually pretty horrible (possible in a coaching transition year), and the Gators only fooled themselves last week? Can a team that had trouble snapping the ball and executing in the peace and quiet of home against big underdogs deal with the noise and bedlam in a road game against a crowd that hates them with a passion? Imagine the decibel level if the Volunteers fans ARE able to disrupt the Florida offense from the stands!
At halftime of the Oregon game...thinking analysts had to be considering a possible Tennessee upset of Florida. The Vols didn't seem overmatched by Oregon...and a team with something to prove tends to string together big performances. Let's see if we can figure out how it all fell apart...
OREGON 48, TENNESSEE 13
Total Yardage: Oregon 447, Tennessee 333
Rushing Yardage: Oregon 245, Tennessee 102
Passing Stats: Oregon 17-32-0-202, Tennessee 15-29-1-151
Turnovers: Oregon 1, Tennessee 1
Halftime Score: Oregon 13, Tennessee 13
Vegas Line: Oregon by 12, total of 52
Comments: You're probably thinking "How did Oregon score 48 points on 447 yards when Tennessee only had one turnover?"If you're not thinking that, you need to spend more time reading boxscores! Oregon had a 76-yard interception return for a TD...which means they turned the only Tennessee turnover into an immediate score. They also had an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown. Take those out and it's 34-13, which STILL doesn't really match the stats! Suffice to say, Oregon was much more efficient with its yardage than Tennessee was. The Vols should have done more with their yardage than they did. It also looks like they wore down in the second half fairly badly as well.
To us, that sets the stage for a big second half this week from Florida. They've closed well in both games, while Tennessee flunked its only real test. Florida is similar to Oregon stylistically in that a variety of weapons can go the distance to the end zone. If the Vols get tired again, how are they going to stop a variety of weapons?
Tennessee's best hope is to shorten the game, get and KEEP the crowd involved, and hope that the new players in the Gator's lineup are a bit overwhelmed by the environment in their first road game. The Vols can not only hang with, they can BEAT the Florida team that kept stumbling around during the Miami of Ohio game in a shortened low scoring game.
On the other hand, it could get ugly quick if Florida's talented defense keeps forcing turnovers. And, a replay of the 48-13 shellacking Tennessee just took on this field could be in the offing.
JIM HURLEY has been studying this game very closely. He knows his clients like winning TV games, but he doesn't limit himself to TV games when trying to find the best investments on the board. Maybe Florida is too inconsistent to deal with right now, and NETWORK will take it's first shots in the post-Tebow era later in the season. Maybe there are other live dogs on the board that are much more trustworthy in terms of head coach and quarterback than Tennessee.
The key to remember is that we're going to find you BIG JUICY WINNERS!
- Our SCOUTS and SOURCES across the country are bringing in information that most handicappers can only dream about. We know who's ready to play. We know who's injuries are more serious than the press is reporting. We know who was flat last week because they were looking ahead to this week. We know who's going to be flat this week because they're looking ahead to next week. Only NETWORK has this PROFIT PIPELINE
- Our STATHEADS have been crunching the numbers from the first two weeks. You'd be surprised how many analysts don't even read boxscores. They think the final score tells the story. As we've shown to you often over the years, the final score is often the most misleading thing about a game! The edges we uncover in both the rushing and passing numbers are worth their weight in gold. Throw in turnover tendencies (no, they're NOT random!) and outlining expectations becomes so much easier.
- Our COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS have been running simulations around the clock since last week ended...updated constantly by information coming in from the field. We've got your regressions. We've got your Bayesian priors. We were state of the art before Vegas knew what a spreadsheet was.
- Our WISE GUY CONNECTIONS let us know what the smart money is doing in Vegas and offshore, and how the dumb money from the public has warped some of the lines. We don't often need the free points being offered thanks to our team handicapping juggernaut. Nothing wrong with putting them in your favor so that you turn 65% into 70%...or turn a very strong 80% play into something approaching certainty.
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Back tomorrow in the NOTEBOOK to preview Texas at Texas Tech in the prime time showcase game on ABC. Sunday we'll preview the Battle of the Mannings when Eli and the Giants face Peyton and the Colts in prime time on NBC. Monday we'll preview the Saints and the 49ers in the Wee Two finale on ESPN.
Make sure you're with us EVERY DAY in the NOTEBOOK so you know what's really happening in the world of sports...and link up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK so you're getting the best plays on the board from a PROVEN WINNER!
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