Back in 2007, the UCLA Bruins and Oregon Ducks played what I posited at the time was the worst game ever. Many other stinkers have been played in the five years since, but Saturday’s tilt between the seventh-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks and the second-ranked Florida Gators may have stolen the title of Rumors and Rants’ Worst Game Ever, not because it was a worse game statistically, though there is that. It may have stolen the title because it was uglier and featured two top-ten teams who many expected to be national title contenders.
These two top ten teams combined for 374 total offensive yards. Oregon and UCLA combined for 368 in 2007. But, and I will repeat this throughout, Florida and South Carolina are supposedly TOP TEN TEAMS. UCLA wasn’t even ranked and Oregon was ravaged by injuries to Dennis Dixon and others before that game.
South Carolina averaged 1.4 yards per rush on 26 attempts. Florida, the team that won 44-11, averaged 1.9 yards on 48 attempts. Sure, both teams were heavy rushing teams in their previous games, so one can assume both teams planned to stop the run. This ought to have opened up opportunities to pass, but no, because quarterbacks Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson for South Carolina and Jeff Driskel for Florida were A-W-F-U-L. For the record, Oregon and UCLA averaged a combined 2.21 yards per carry, well above the 1.65 ypc average in the UF/USC game.
The South Carolina quarterbacks were a combined 17 for 40 for 155 yards and one interception. That’s 3.9 yards per attempt. Jeff Driskel was 11 for 16 for 93 yards and four touchdowns. Ignoring the touchdowns for a second, the three quarterbacks in this game combined to go 28 for 56 for 248 yards, four touchdowns, one interception, and a 4.7 yards per attempt average. The quarterbacks in UCLA/Oregon were much, much worse, but all were backups. Connor Shaw and Driskel have been starters for the entire 2012 season.
South Carolina and Florida were a combined 10 for 30 on third down, and South Carolina gained more first downs (17) than Florida (14). The reason? Four brutal South Carolina turnovers that gave Florida an extremely short field for most of its scores, meaning it could hide Driskel’s inability to throw well while South Carolina could not hide Shaw or Thompson.
This was also a game that featured eight possessions in which the team on offense lost yards before turning the ball over or punting. That’s 28 percent, or more than one quarter, of all the 29 possessions in the game. It is also the exact same number of negative possessions as UCLA/Oregon. In their 13 possessions, South Carolina possessed the ball for over one minute in less than half (6) of them. The Gamecocks only had double-digit plays in a possession three times. Overall, more than half (16 of 29) of the possessions in the game ended in a punt or turnover (South Carolina had five turnovers total).
You may have seen on ESPN College Gameday Final that Florida is the first team in a hell of a long time to score 44 points without having 200 yards of offense. Just how bad was South Carolina to make this happen? The Florida offense’s longest drive was 59 yards, and it took them 10 plays to go that far!
Florida running back Mike Gillislee had been averaging over five yards per carry this season until his 19 carry, 37 yard, 0 touchdown performance on Saturday in a Florida win. He was the leading rusher in the entire game.
The thing that put UCLA/Oregon over the top in 2007 was the nearly 1,000 yards of punts that happened over the course of that debacle. South Carolina’s turnovers made sure that didn’t happen, but the 657 yards of punts in Florida/South Carolina is still an incredible amount. Worse, both punters only managed to keep the ball inside the 20 yard line twice in 14 punts.
In sum, this game did not feature the incredible amount of awfulness that happened at the Rose Bowl five years ago. However, this game was nearly as rough and featured something UCLA/Oregon didn’t: two top-ten teams that were only missing one injured star (South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore, who had 3 carries for 13 yards), as opposed to two third-string (or lower) quarterbacks five years ago in UCLA/Oregon. Hell, Florida was ranked number two (oddly appropriate) before the game.
South Carolina’s defense played fairly well considering how awfully the rest of the team played at Florida. Obviously, Florida’s defense played well too. However, both teams begged the question that was brought to the fore in January’s abomination of a national championship game in which LSU played the worst starting quarterback in the nation for the entire game and LSU gained 92 yards for the entire game.
We must stop propping up these bulls–t SEC teams that have no offense whatsoever, but manage to play defense against the uber-conservative offenses so everyone thinks they’re much better than they are. Whether Florida loses at some point this season or not, they do not, under any circumstances deserve a shot at the national title. If they played anyone with a real offense, they would lose.