This week we bring you another numbers-centric breakdown of the SEC’s biggest game of the week. Guest analyst Ralph Miranda provides us with a quick Tuesday breakdown of CBS’s Game of the Week or another important contest.
Ralph knows the game. He was a walk-on linebacker for Notre Dame’s 1977 national championship team and he also served as color analyst for Vanderbilt football games on television in the 1990s. His own site can be viewed here.
We think his short breakdowns — focusing on stats that coaches often say are the most important stats in football — will give you a little something extra as we wrap up one week and roll into the next.
And now, we turn it over to Ralph for his breakdown of Florida’s 37-26 win over Florida State…
Florida — 1 (1 fumble, 0 interceptions)
Florida State — 5 (2 fumbles, 3 interceptions)
1st-and-10 Plays Covering 4+ Yards:
Florida — 31 1st-and-10 Plays / 15 of 4+ yards (48%)
Florida State — 31 1st-and-10 Plays / 12 of 4+ yards (39%)
3rd Down Conversions:
Florida — 8 of 15 (53%)
Florida State — 7 of 13 (54%)
Explosive Plays Covering 20+ Yards:
Florida — 7
Florida State — 5
Three Keys To Victory:
1. Numbers Never Lie
ESPN has a daily show with this same title. While I am not enamored with the ranting on that show, I do believe that the phrase has meaning when it comes to football games between two evenly matched teams. The Gators and the Seminoles both have great athletes, both play stifling and intimidating defense, and both were top ten teams entering Saturday’s game. But FSU turned the ball over five times to Florida’s one. Each FSU turnover contributed directly to the Seminoles’ loss. Whether it led to a Gator score or stifled the Noles’ momentum, each had its effect. Time of possession (Florida 36:20, FSU 23:40), rushing yards (Florida 244, FSU 112), commitment to the run (Florida 47 rushes, FSU 25 rushes) — all these numbers helped determine the outcome.
2. To Run Or Not To Run?
Florida State prides itself on being able to stop the run with its front six, allowing the Seminoles to play zone coverage with a fifth defender on the back end. But they couldn’t do that against the Gators and Florida made them pay for it. UF lulled the Seminoles to sleep early in the game with play-action passes and then gashed them late with 244 yards on the ground and a robust 5.2 yards-per-carry average. The Noles never committed an extra defender to the box and their tackling was poor (especially by the linebackers). Conversely, while Florida stayed committed to the run (47 rushes), the Seminoles did not. They ran for only 112 yards but on just 25 carries. That’s actually a nice average of 4.5 yards-per-rush. Had FSU stayed more committed to the ground game, Jimbo Fisher’s team may have been able to force the Gators to crowd the box and open up more passing lanes for quarterback EJ Manuel. As it was, the lack of run commitment allowed Florida to stay in zone and Manuel threw three picks into the heart of it.
3. Championship Timber
When a team faces adversity in a football game (and every team will) it is how you handle it that determines your character as a team. The Gators saw their 10-point halftime lead disappear after a poor punt and good Seminole return set up one touchdown and a Florida fumble on the next possession contributed to another FSU score. Facing a 17-13 deficit just seven minutes into the third quarter, the Gators didn’t panic but stuck to their game plan… and pulled away. FSU on the other hand lost all its composure after a vicious hit on Manuel led to a fumble that set up a go-ahead score for the Gators. FSU never found any rhythm after that and it was over. Will Muschamp’s team would run off 24 straight points before allowing a meaningless Seminole touchdown on the game’s final play.
Florida is an eight-point loss to Georgia away from an undefeated regular season and a spot alongside the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in the BCS title game. They are a seasoned, tough football team.
Florida State lost to a weak NC State team at mid-year and then turned the ball over five teams to its rivals from Gainesville. Year in and year out, no team underachieves like the Seminoles.
On Saturday, the team that kept its composure earned a year’s worth of bragging rights in the Sunshine State.