Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What’s Different This Time

Since my Gator experiences began in 1984, the Gators have made the 6-0 mark on only 2 other occasions – 1995 and 1996. Both other seasons ended with SEC Championships, 1 loss records, and one AP/Coaches Poll National Title.

But something feels different this season. Gator fans, ever the opinionated lot, seem to feel as if something is not quite right with their team at this point. I have heard criticisms of the offense, of the special teams, and of the number of penalties.

Let me suggest this – none of those things matter if the point of success that has been critical to this team continues.

What is different this time, friends, is defense.

In 1995 through 6 games, the Florida Defense was surrendering an average of 20.5 points per game. They would end the season with an average of 20.2. However, giving up 37 points to Tennessee matters little if you score 62 (and they did). Average points scored on offense through six games was 42.3.

In 1996, through 6 games the defense was averaging only 14 points scored against. However, this relatively impressive number was buried in the noise of the offensive firepower, which was averaging an incredible 52.5 points through six games. The team ended the year averaging 17 points surrendered per game.

This year, our offense is averaging a seemingly tame 29 points per game through six wins. However, defensively the average is a national second best of only 9.5 points per game (second to Ohio State at 9.3).

The graph below shows how impressive this is. Since 1984, the best seasonal average on defense for the Gators has 13.8 (1998).

The Gator’s defensive prowess raises two immediate questions – can we keep it up, and how significant is it?

First, can the UF defense keep it up? Well, the following is a list of total offensive leaders (in points scored) for the SEC through October 7 –

1. Tennessee
2. LSU
3. Florida
4. Kentucky
5. Georgia
6. Auburn
7. Alabama
8. South Carolina
9. Vanderbilt
9. Arkansas
11. Mississippi
12. Mississippi State

That’s right – thus far offenses number 1, 2, 4 and 7 are behind us. Numbers 5, 6, 8 and 9 lie ahead. Statistically speaking, most of the good offenses are already in the “W” column.

What does it mean? Well, if we can keep our defense to holding opponents around 10 points, history would suggest very good things. Below are some of the defensively famous national title teams, and their average points against, as well as the most points given up during the season (in brackets).

Alabama 1992 – 9.4 (21)
Miami 2001 – 9.8 (27)
Ohio State 2002 – 13 (24)
LSU 2003 – 11 (24)

Florida's worse thus far was 20 points scored against the team in Neyland stadium.

Now, I am in no way ready to pencil in this Gator team as national contenders or even SEC Champs at this point. However, we are witnessing something special so far, something unique in Gator history, and something Gator fans are quite unaccustomed to – winning by stopping the other team from scoring.


ALGator said...

Offense wins games, but defense wins championships!

Here's to us keeping it up!

Todd said...

Our defense rules! The "Weak" link has 7 picks in n the 3 games that count. Nelsen is superman, I hope he doesn't go pro.