Senior College Football Columnist

Breaking down how the Gators are breaking everyone else down

Florida is now ranked 24th in the nation in rushing after finishing 73rd last season. (U.S. Presswire)

The Florida Gators have been one of the pleasant surprises in college football this fall. A team that went 7-6 in Will Muschamp's first season in Gainesville is 5-0 and No. 6 in the country. The Gators are coming off their biggest win in a few years after out-muscling mighty LSU, 14-6 last weekend. As I wrote in the Big Picture Sunday, Muschamp has made it a priority for this program to be more physical and wear people down. And, if you watched the second half of the LSU game -- or another other Florida game this season -- you've seen that it's working.

A big key to that has been stoking up the Gators' ground attack under new offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who came to Florida from Boise State.

The new bread-and-butter of the Gators' power run game leans on “heavy” or unbalanced formations. For a much more in-depth explanation of how this works, check out the detailed breakdown by Mike Kuchar (a former college coach) has done this week on XandOlabs.com.

- It creates an extra gap in the run game that defenses have to account for. Pease will create an extra gap by using up to six lineman on the line of scrimmage and attack the voided gap by using gap run schemes like the Power O.

- Changes personnel groupings: When King Tebow held court at the Swamp, Urban Meyer mainly operated his offense out of 10 or 11 personnel (one running back and no tight ends or one back and one tight end.) Pease has the new Gator offense running various personnel groupings including the aforementioned seven linemen structure as well as a pure 21 personnel grouping (two backs, one tight end) and 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends) the personnel of choice while he was at Boise.

- It “creates a different picture” for the defense, one that they may not have seen in film. There were points late in the game on Saturday, when the Gators were undressing the Tiger defense, reeling off eight yards a clip in the run game. In fact, they ran the ball 19, yes 19 times in a row at the Tiger defense until they could adjust. They never did.

Kuchar explains both via diagrams as well as narrating over the film of the LSU game how each of these formations the Gators are using is causing headaches for rival defenses.

The upshot: Florida, which was No. 73 in rushing in 2011, is up to No. 24 this season. And in an era in which up-tempo offense has become hot, the Gators are playing old-fashioned, smashmouth football, grinding people out. They are No. 2 in the country in time of possession, holding the ball for more than 35 minutes a game, about three-and-a-half minutes more than anyone else in the SEC. The Gators have outscored opponents 41-0 in the fourth quarter this season, making them the only FBS team to not have allowed any points in the final quarter. Better still, they've outscored SEC rivals 31-0 in the fourth quarter. That's a big jump from being outscored 72-22 last season, a stat that still makes Muschamp cringe.

“All of this unbalanced stuff that they're doing is part of who Will wants to be,” one defensive coordinator who has faced Florida told me on Wednesday morning. “He knows it's a pain in the ass to prepare for during the week.

“It's a good mix he's got now. Before with [Gators 2011 offensive coordinator] Charlie (Weis), they were so predictable. Now, they've got this big-boy running game and it's mixed with that Boise-style passing game with all of that window dressing. Hiring Pease was a great move by him.”

 
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