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November 17, 2012; Gainesville FL, USA; Florida Gators linebacker Jon Bostic (1) points during the second half against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Jacksonville State Gamecocks 23-0. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Monday Morning Quarterback: In Defense of Defense

Well it’s been a short, bittersweet season for the Florida Gators and for the Monday Morning Quarterback.  A 10-1 record going into the season finale against hated rival Florida State, 7-1 in the SEC, and 7-0 at home.  Imagine where this team would be right now if they had just held on to the football against Georgia. They’d likely be the consensus number one right now instead of Notre Dame.

Either way they’re still sitting pretty right now at number four in the BCS with number two and three having to play each other and Notre Dame still having to play USC.  I know, Barkley’s out, but remember Pitt had Notre Dame beat… twice.  If not for specious time management and porous late game defense, we’d not be talking about the Irish as a consensus BCS number one. Strange things happen at this time of the year… every year.

Spent last night, much like last Saturday night, mourning another seemingly uninspired, closer than expected victory by the Gators while debating some Oregon fans via twitter about merits of the Gators BCS standing. Specifically, I’ve been having to defend the Gators in the face of their seemingly inept and inconsistent offense.

Oregon fans, like many other fans of teams from conferences whose acronym is not SEC (heretofore referred to as NSEC), just don’t seem to get “it”.  By “it” I mean DEFENSE.  Listening to fans try to denigrate the Florida Gators impeccable record by referring to everything that is seemingly wrong with their offense, I calmly throw out that one word that makes all NSEC fans cringe: “defense”.  I might as well be Charley Brown’s parents. All they hear is “wha, wha, wha, wha, wha…”

When I pointed out the truth in the old cliche that “offense wins games, defense wins championships”, I actually had a guy respond, and I kid you not,

“Oh please, enough with that. Ask Alabama how it’s like playing a decent spread offense once in awhile.”

Now I assume he meant TAMU but unknowingly he proved my point.  Yes, TAMU won a game, but how many championships?  Alabama has won two of three with great defense, solid special teams, and safe conservative, run-first football kind of like the Gators are doing this year.

When Florida won two of three between 2006 and 2008 they won it on the strength of tough defense.  Yes they had a great offense in ’08, but it was their defense that won it for them.  Oklahoma came into that game averaging 50 points per game but were held to a mere 14 points in the title game.  In ’06 Ohio State came into the game with an “unstoppable” offense as well but could only muster 14 points and only 7 on offense. The “great” Oregon offense of two seasons ago came into the title game against the Auburn Tigers, which arguably had the worst defense of all the SEC title contenders in their six year winning run, and promptly put up 19 measly points.

It should be pointed out that margin of victory means nothing to anyone but biased poll voters.  A win is a win is a win regardless of if it’s one point or a thousand.  All you got to do is get into the game, then it’s a one game playoff and usually in a one game situation the team with the best defense is going to come out on top. The immovable object invariably wins out against the irresistable force. At least in the BCS era it does.  The last big shootout in a BCS title game?  Texas-USC in 2005 the year before Florida began the SEC’s 6 game title run on the strength of it’s suffocating defense.

Speaking of margin of victory, known simply by the acronym MOV, which is a big catchphrase right now as fans complain that MOV was taken out of the computer algorithms that make up the BCS computer rankings. The claim, of course, is that the rankings are somehow flawed because there is no MOV built in.  First of all , they took them out because there was so much complaining that it flawed the system to begin with by forcing coaches to play for “style points”. The argument then was that coaches would be apt to run up scores because every point counts and they might need them later.  The funny thing about the MOV complainers is that they forget or simply don’t understand that two thirds of the rankings are made up of human polls which, like it or not, do incorporate some sense of an MOV into their rankings.  That’s why Florida is 5th and 6th in the human polls and 2nd in the computer rankings.

The computers love Florida because they focus on wins first and then the quality of wins and with Florida having the toughest schedule in the nation having played 4 BCS top ten teams beating three the computers correctly recognize Florida as the best one-loss team in the nation. This absolutely enrages NSEC fans because they dont’ want their teams “penalized” for playing a weaker schedule.  Insert your favorite cliche here “if you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best,” etc… All I got for you on that front is my favorite cliche, “would you like some cheese to go with that whine?” Go play an SEC schedule then you’ll understand why strength of schedule matters more than MOV.

Now certainly all this argument is for naught as, in true playoff fashion, almost all contenders have some sort of semifinal game to play in the next two weeks.  As it usually does, the BCS will work itself out between the rivalry game season finales this weekend and Championship Weekend the next.  Notre Dame plays USC, Florida and Florida State play each other, Alabama and Georgia have rivalry games this weekend and then square off against each other next weekend.  Oregon has ‘the civil war” and then the PAC 12 title game.

Right now most major prognosticators have Notre Dame and Alabama penciled into the BCS title game, but last weekend they had K State and Oregon and that matchup only lasted a week.  The reality is there is probably six teams that right now have a realistic shot at making it to the big game and they all have tough games ahead to have a shot.

Florida’s chances?  Fourth, right where they are ranked.  Obviously all the Irish have to do is win this weekend and they’re in.  Next up is the winner of the SEC title game assuming they both win their rivalry games this weekend.  If Florida wins it’s rivalry game and Notre Dame loses, they likely punch their ticket to Miami regardless of what happens in the SEC championship and elsewhere.  If Notre Dame wins and Florida wins, they’ll need help plain and simple. Either way they’re guaranteed a BCS bowl game simply by beating FSU as BCS rules ensure top 4 teams get a BCS berth.

It’s been an interesting and somewhat frustrating ride this season as Florida, in true phoenix fashion, rose up from the ashes of a 7-6 season last year to 10-1 this year. They rode in on the strength of a suffocating top 5 defense, phenomenal special teams, and a serviceable conservative run-first take-care-of-the-football offense. Fans, media, and NSEC fans alike have groused that Florida’s offense is inept and they are not a championship worthy team but we’ve heard this chorus before.  In 2006 fans and analysts complained about Chris Leak and the Gator offense, that is until they came out and put up 42 against Ohio State to win the BCS Championship game.

They said Florida couldn’t get there and then they did.  Once they got there they said they couldn’t win it, and then they did.  With one game left this season Florida has a chance.  And if they get there… well let THE MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK go on record as saying he’s not betting against them. Why? All you NSEC fans cover y0ur ears and close your eyes: defense and special teams.


Tags: BCS Championship Game Florida Gators Gator Football The Monday Morning Quarterback

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