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Sitting down with enemy to answer some questions on the non-rivalry rivalry game.
Andy Hutchins writes for SBNation's fabulous Florida blog, Alligator Army. First off, read these questions of mine he was kind enough to answer. Then go read his site, too.
1. How surprised are you by the play of the Gators this season?
Personally, I'm not that shocked by this 4-0 start, but that was because I was bullish on this team this year: I thought that if Florida got past Texas A&M, it was going 4-0 in September. But I also didn't think Florida would be this far along the path to Will Muschamp's ideal team just yet, winning by running the ball, playing suffocating defense, and prevailing late in games, so I'm genuinely and pleasantly surprised by that.
2. Florida's defense has been one of the most productive units in the SEC so far. What is the key to their success?
Depth. That's the easy answer, but the Gators have been without Ronald Powell all year, without Jelani Jenkins for the better part of three games, without Cody Riggs for two games, and without Dominique Easley for a game ... and I haven't been able to see a lot of difference in the defense's play. Credit scheme or conditioning or coaching for that, but Florida's been able to rotate young players and reserves in all over the defense without drops in performance, and that's a great thing.
3. Jeff Driskel has earned plaudits this season, yet he's put up similar numbers as our Zach Mettenberger. Is this just the expectations game, or is there something special about his play?
I think Mettenberger being disappointing is all about expectations, but Driskel's praise has a lot to do with play. His transition from skittish freshman to sophomore playmaker has been remarkable, but Driskel makes flashy plays with his feet, has a very good arm, and looks like a quarterback and not a young one right now. It's also worth noting that Driskel's run game production (148 yards on the season, 81 against Tennessee) obviously outstrips Mettenberger's, that his passing yards per game and per attempt are both slightly better, and that Mettenberger's last two games have been his worst two and the two that the nation paid attention to.
4. On a scale of Ron Zook to Steve Spurrier, how do you feel about Will Muschamp?
I think Muschamp's well on his way to having Florida in contention for national titles, which would put him up with Spurrier and Urban Meyer in the rarefied air occupied by the best Florida coaches. I personally like Muschamp, who seems smart in a folksy way and dedicated to the work in an honest way, better than Meyer, but it'll be a while before he's as accomplished as his predecessor and/or Spurrier. Let's just say I think he might eventually get there.
5. How do y'all feel about playing LSU every year while Georgia and South Carolina, the other primary East contenders, get a slightly easier cross-division rival?
I love the LSU game, because I would rather play the devil we know than the other devils that always seem to give Florida trouble. Ole Miss gave Florida its only loss in its best season; Mississippi State won the "Who Let The Dogs Out?" game; Auburn ... well, screw Auburn. Arkansas and Florida have little history, Texas A&M and Florida have even less, and Alabama's scary. LSU's the perfect annual crossover rival for the Gators.
That said: Florida fans are well aware of how Georgia has skated with its West foes in recent years (had Aaron Murray been injured by 'Bama in early October, I wonder how the Florida-Georgia game goes), and the price paid for LSU on the schedule every year is a team that recruits and plays at the same level Florida does. I wouldn't have it any other way, but I'm not blind to the minor injustice of playing a perennial power.
6. How do you see this game going? Score prediction?
I think it's a close game that turns on one or two big plays, and I think it turns in the second half. Florida's domination of second halves will serve it well in a 27-23 win.