Gators Swamped With Imbalance

Florida has won back-to-back SEC East titles under Jim McElwain, but the Gators offense has lagged far behind the defense. (Getty Images) Back-to-back division championships in the first two seasons of a new coaching era would typically be a cause for celebration. For Florida, managing to outmaneuver Tennessee and Georgia to get to Atlanta provides some satisfaction, but the Gators have nevertheless been in the strange position of succeeding in the SEC East standings while continuing to inspire angst about the product they put on the field.

Such is life as the anti-Texas Tech, the team that has been dominant on defense while often appearing to be lifeless on offense, an agonizing trend for what used to be one of the most forward-thinking and modern programs in college football.

In stark contrast to the golden ages of the Gators — Steve Spurrier’s 1990s teams and Urban Meyer’s 2000s teams — Florida cannot get out of its own way when in possession of the ball. Just as defense carried Florida to the Sugar Bowl in Will Muschamp’s second year in 2012, defense has carried the Gators to the SEC title game in back-to-back seasons under Jim McElwain, despite the fact that he is a former Alabama offensive coordinator who built a prolific attack as head coach at Colorado State. McElwain inherited fantastic depth on defense from Muschamp, but the offense started from scratch. The rebuilding process continues into Year 3.

In the past five years, in fact, no FBS team has had a defense further ahead of its offense than Florida. Let’s look at it a couple of ways. Average yards per play ranking disparity, defense better than offense

First, there’s yards per play, a simple measure of how well an offense or defense performs on a per-play basis. Via data on cfbstats.com , we compiled the yards per play and yards per play allowed rankings from the past five seasons (2012-16) and found the difference between each ranking for every team. We then took the average to figure out who has had the greatest difference between offensive performance and superior defense.

1. Florida, -87.4
2. Connecticut, -74.8
3. Wake Forest, -73.8
4. Virginia Tech, -67.6
5. Northwestern, -64.4
6. Iowa, -56.0
7. Minnesota, -52.6
8. Penn State, -51.6
9. Vanderbilt, -50.8
10. Tulane, -49.8

On average over the past five seasons, Florida’s offense has ranked 87.4 spots lower in yards per play than its defense, a difference overwhelmingly greater than the rest of the FBS. Nobody else is even close. That speaks to both how great Florida has been defensively (top 10 four of the past five seasons) and how poor it has been offensively (no better than 92 nd ). The Gators had the third-greatest disparity in the 2016 season, behind UCF and Boston College, and have had a difference of at least 68 spots in the rankings in favor of the defense each year in this span.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, New Mexico’s offense has, on average, been 83.8 […]