For the second week in a row, Florida’s defense stepped up in the second half on the road in a tough environment. By no coincidence, the Gators are 2-0 in those games. The latest was a 37-20 win tonight over SEC East rival Tennessee.
Against Texas A&M in Week 2, No. 18 Florida held the Aggies to just under 50 yards of offense and no points in a come-from-behind win. Tonight against the No. 23 Vols, the Gators D allowed a mere 118 second-half yards and one touchdown — and that came on a long first drive in the third quarter. After that, Tennessee never sustained an offensive possession of more than five plays.
While defense allowed the Gators to stay in the game, and later pull away, it was Florida’s offense that was the biggest surprise of the night. Quarterback Jeff Driskel played surprisingly efficient. It helps when your team grinds out 336 yards rushing and your receivers rack up yards-after-catch, but this was without a doubt the best Driskel has played in this young season.
You could view this game as a total second-half meltdown on both sides of the ball by Tennessee and coach Derek Dooley, who we should note has yet to beat a ranked opponent as a head coach, and yes, there’s some truth to that. But give credit where it’s due: this Florida defense has played phenomenal the past two weeks when it matters most.
As for Dooley? It’s not that he can’t win the big games; it’s that he can’t win a big game at all. And, now, Florida has won eight straight over Tennessee dating back to 2005. Tennessee looks like an improved program from the past couple of years, but there is no signature win on Dooley’s resume since coming to Knoxville to verify it. That simply cannot be ignored.
Florida, on the other hand, is 2-0 in the SEC nearing a tough October stretch with games against LSU, South Carolina and Georgia. How UF fares in that span will be interesting, but this is a team that’ s been getting better each week against continuously better competition.
The question is will it continue?
What has long been rumored became fact Friday, as Wisconsin announced a 10-year agreement with Under Armour.
“I am absolutely thrilled about our new partnership with Under Armour,” AD Barry Alvarez said in a statement. “Kevin Plank and his team have established a brand that fits perfectly with the Wisconsin athletics story and culture. Our primary focus at Wisconsin is, of course, our student-athletes, and Under Armour’s passion and commitment to high quality and innovation will benefit our student-athletes for years to come. Our entire department is looking forward to a long and mutually productive relationship with the Under Armour team.”
The new deal will pay the Badgers a total of $7 million in cash and product in 2015-16 and is valued at $96 million over the life of the contract, good for second in the Big Ten, trailing only Nike’s new contract with Michigan.
Hidden within the contract are two nuggets that UA offered to sway the Badgers away from Adidas, from the Portland Business Journal:
Wisconsin will get as much as $500,000 from Under Armour to “rebrand” athletic facilities. It’ll get $150,000 to build out an Under Armour retail space in a campus gift shop called Bucky’s Locker Room. It also gets two summer internships for students at Under Armour’s Baltimore headquarters.
“The University of Wisconsin is an institution built on the highest values of academic excellence, and we are extremely proud to be teaming up with one of the most vibrant, distinctive and successful athletic programs in the country to help elevate the performance of all Badgers with innovative footwear and apparel,” added Plank.
Wisconsin’s departure continues to weaken the stronghold Adidas had built in the Midwest after losing Michigan to Nike and Notre Dame to Under Armour in recent years (the company still owns apparel rights for Indiana and Nebraska). The Badgers are now the 41st Division I athletics department and 17th FBS program to join UA.
In the minds of some in the media and even more in the fan base, Ohio State in general and Cardale Jones specifically have been underwhelming through the first five games of the 2015 season.
Jones, in particular, has been a rather large target of much of the angst. Coming off a Cinderella-like three-game postseason run that helped OSU to a national championship, the perception is that Jones has been underwhelming and underperforming; even head coach Urban Meyer appeared to be leaning in that direction as he considered making the switch to J.T. Barrett prior to the Western Michigan win before reaffirming his commitment to the redshirt junior.
Is that perception valid? Statistically, he’s not that far off from where he was in the 2014 postseason, at least in a couple of categories.
He’s completing 61.3 percent of his passes this season compared to 59.4 percent in the games against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon. It was 9.9 yards per attempt in that three-game stretch last season, 8.2 in five games this season. When it comes to scoring and turning the ball over, however, that’s another matter entirely.
He threw a touchdown pass every 15 pass attempts in the 2014 postseason; this season, it’s one every 21 attempts. Even more glaring, he’s currently throwing an interception every 21 attempts as well. During the run that made him a household name, it was one pick every 37.5 throws.
So, fewer touchdowns plus more turnovers equals validation of the angst, right? Not so fast, at least as far as the college arm of Pro Football Focus goes.