2011 record: 7-6 overall, 3-5 in SEC (3rd in East)
2011 postseason: Gator Bowl (24-17 win over Ohio State)
2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: unranked/unranked
Head coach: Will Muschamp (7-6 in one season at Florida)
Offensive coordinator: Brent Pease (first season at Florida, first as OC)
2011 offensive rankings: 73rd rushing offense (143 ypg); 89th passing offense (185.7 ypg); 105th total offense (328.7 ypg); 71st scoring offense (25.5 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: seven
Defensive coordinator: Dan Quinn (second season at Florida, second as DC)
2011 defensive rankings: 40th rushing defense (132.7 ypg); 7th passing defense (166.8 ypg); 8th total defense (299.5 ypg); 20th scoring defense (20.3 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: 10
Location: Gainesville, Fla.
Stadium: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (88,548; grass)
Last league title: 2008
2011 statistics: [view]
The Charlie Weis Era as offensive coordinator is over, replaced by former Boise State assistant Brent Pease. Ask just about any member of Gator Nation and that will be the first … and second … and third, etc., thing mentioned if asked why they’re optimistic Florida will turn it around in the second season under Will Muschamp. Well, that and the 10 starters returning from a unit that finished 8th and 20th in total and scoring defense, respectively, in 2011. The schedule also bears mentioning as the Gators’ three toughest SEC games are all at home or at a neutral site — LSU and South Carolina in The Swamp, Georgia in Jacksonville.
Did you not watch the Gators in 2011 or see the stats above? The offense was offensively bad, bordering on the criminal. Two of the few talented bright spots offensively for Florida — running backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey — are gone. Then again, so is Weis, so the slate is officially clean on that side of the ball. And there is talent at the skill position. And Weis is gone, too, so it might not be as bleak as first blush suggests.
One of the biggest and most talented reasons for such a staunch 2011 defense was the presence of defensive end/freak Ronald Powell. Unfortunately, the junior tore an ACL during the spring and will be unable to make a return until, at the earliest, mid-October. The loss of a talent like Powell for half a season will have an effect; losing that talent for the entire season will indeed put a dent in what’s shaping up to be one of the best defenses in the SEC. Perhaps an even bigger unknown is at the quarterback position as Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel attempt to shake off the Weis malaise and solidify a position that’s been lacking since you-know-who blessed the Gainesville campus.
Make-or-break game: vs. South Carolina, Oct. 20
The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party against Georgia could easily have been placed here, but the game against the Gamecocks will serve as the first real SEC East test for a team quietly holding increased expectations in its second season under Muschamp. A 17-12 loss in Columbia last season will serve as additional motivation as the Gamecocks come to The Swamp.
Heisman hopeful: None
No apologies are really necessary, but, sorry, “Heisman hopeful” and “2012 Florida football” don’t even belong in the same library let alone in the same sentence.