Comparing Florida Gators ‘08/‘20 Offenses; Significance of Defensive Issues

Brandon Carroll

To begin an already battle-tested season, both on and off the field, the Florida Gators offense has seemingly completed the full reconstruction that head coach Dan Mullen was brought in to achieve.

Ranking 18th in total offense despite playing in only three games, the Gators have shown signs of elite play early on.

The passing game has emerged amongst the best in college football led by Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts, while the rushing game has been sufficient when called upon despite limited utilization.

Overall, this unit has been good; some may say even great, but exactly how good are they?

To get a true feel for the significance of production this Gators offense has seen, I went back to Florida's last time competing for a national championship, 2008, to look at the numbers against their first three SEC opponents.

Ranking 4th in the nation amongst qualified FBS programs in total offense for the season as a whole, the 2008 team was equipped with the generational talents of Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin leading the attack.

Averaging 400 yards and 32.7 points per game, the unit moved the ball with ease and carried a balanced run-oriented attack.

Running 194 total plays in these contests, the Gators threw the ball just 82 times and rushing the ball the remaining 112 for a total of 1,200 yards from scrimmage.

With 11 total touchdowns through the first three SEC matchups—six passing and five rushing—the 2008 offense showed early signs of great success.

Now, there’s the 2020 offense.

Significantly different in terms of play-calling tendency, the Gators have become less balanced and lean towards the passing game for production.

No longer with the luxury of Tebow and Harvin toting the rock, the Gators, instead, are lead by the nationally acclaimed Kyle-to-Kyle connection.

So far this season, the Gators offense has amassed a total of 1,392 yards and 42.3 points per game.

The last time a Gators offense averaged 42 or more points per game in their first three matchups against SEC opponents, it was 2001 (46.7 PPG) when head ball coach Steve Spurrier was at the helm.

Equating 342 pass yards and 122 rush yards per matchup, a different style of play call has proved successful to begin the year. Despite seeing seven fewer snaps on offense to this point, yards per play is up 1.3 yards from 6.1 to 7.3, and scoring has increased by five total touchdowns.

Overall, the 2020 Gators outdoes the 2008 squad in nearly every statistical category of total offense.

Having a better completion percentage, more passing yards, near-identical yards per carry, more touchdowns, fewer plays, more points, and a 2-1 record, the similarities, and improved play is striking.

This shows that Florida could be in a position to contend for a championship, at least offensively.

The categories that do not compare include points per game allowed, point differential, and the turnover battle.

Points per game allowed have increased significantly to 33.3 from 14.7—which could have been lower but is skewed due to a 31-30 loss to Ole Miss (Florida allowed 13 combined points in other contests)—point differential has dropped to plus-27 from plus-54. Meanwhile, the turnover battle is being lost by three, compared to being won by two.

All of which can be blamed on one unit, the defense.

With the 2008 offensive squad having the luxury of a top-five ranked defense as their complementary unit, they equally fought their way to hoisting a national championship trophy.

The same cannot be said for this season, with Todd Grantham’s unit currently ranked 72nd in total defense.

With Florida football currently in the midst of a two-week hiatus due to the outbreak of COVID-19 that has swept through the program during October, the opportunity to partake in copious amounts of film study has arisen a positive in an otherwise negative situation.

As a unit that has experienced an uncharacteristic beginning to the season, the time for Grantham to make significant adjustments schematically to his defense is now.

Abominable play defensively is holding back a championship level offense through three games, and with the shortened season resulting in less room for error, the Gators already find themselves with their backs against the wall.

In must-win mode for the rest of the season, improvement defensively is imperative. Starting with Missouri on Halloween night, signs of growth in any area have to appear.

Grantham’s unit doesn’t need to be great—or even good for that matter—at this point, mere mediocrity would elevate Florida to meet preseason expectations and find themselves in a position to contend the way they did in ‘08.