To up the "potential for a nuclear meltdown" quotient, the lot fell to me to respond to Andy Hutchins' questions, and to formulate questions of my own for him. His answers to my questions are posted here; my answers to his questions will be posted later today at Alligator Army. I'll post a link to that article here -----> Happy Clicky Linky <------- when it goes live. (NOTE: I tried to play nice. I mostly succeeded. I just can't troll hard in the paint in big games, I guess. What can I say? I'm a Georgia Bulldog.)
Vineyarddawg: Is senior RB Mike Gillislee the real deal? And if so, where was he during the years when the Gators couldn't run their way out of a wet paper bag?
Andy Hutchins: He was on the sideline, ostensibly because he couldn't handle pass protection well enough to make plays with him on the field look like anything but obvious runs. And it kills us, too: There was a hue and cry about him not being used in 2011, especially at Auburn, because he was averaging more than five yards a carry for his career to that point.
Of course, he also didn't play against Georgia in either 2011 or 2010 -- but he did run for 57 yards in the 2009 game, breaking a 49-yards run on Florida's final clock-killing drive. I think many Florida fans knew then that he would be something, someday.
VYD: How has Florida's defense gone from being mediocre to one of the best in the country in one season?
AH: It's funny that you say Florida's defense was mediocre in 2011: it wasn't. Florida ranked eighth in total defense in 2011, one spot behind the seventh place the Gators currently hold, and was giving up under 300 yards then. The difference is scoring defense: Florida's allowing 12.1 points per game in 2012, down from 20.1 in 2011 (still good for 20th nationally, mind), largely on the strength of resistance in the red zone, where they've allowed just nine TDs in 19 trips by opponents, much better than the 24-for-40 performance last year.
In a non-statistical sense, Florida's gotten a lot better at playing as a team with individual players doing their jobs and nothing more or less. The defensive line knows how to rush without leaving huge holes for quarterbacks to scramble; the linebackers play run support very well; the defensive backs seem to have largely broken the habit of defending with their hands so obviously that flags must fly. And everyone's older, bigger, stronger; the only players gone from the Florida defense from 2011 are Jaye Howard, now in the NFL, and Ronald Powell, who is out for the year with a torn ACL.
VYD: What's the key(s) to winning the game for the Gators? (Other than merely putting on the uniforms and running onto the field in Jacksonville, that is.)
AH: Running the ball to win and not allowing Aaron Murray to throw them into a hole early. If Florida's at least within striking distance at the half -- and I think Florida will be -- the Gators' demonstrated second-half success, premised on adjustments and stamina, makes me think they're gonna come back from a modest deficit or protect a lead.
VYD: I've set the line on "number of seasons before Will Muschamp has a stroke on the sideline" at 2.5. Are you taking the over or the under?
AH: Technically, Muschamp's been coaching since 1995, so I think I'm taking the over. Strokes are way less likely than popped blood vessels.
(Ed. note: I wonder if Andy realizes that a stroke can, in fact, be caused by popped blood vessels?)
VYD: So, let's be honest. Jacoby Brisket (he ain't foolin' nobody with the "Brissett" thing) is really just a sentient side of beef that Charlie Weis decided to try out at QB rather than eat, right? Do you wish that Weis had eaten Brisket instead of trying to turn him into an SEC quarterback?
AH: Nah. I think Brissett's going to be a good quarterback somewhere that isn't Florida; he has tremendous poise in the pocket, a calm that I thought was going to win him the job in 2012 until I saw Driskel develop a lot of the same composure and accuracy. I'd put money on Brissett leading a team to at least eight wins at some point in the near future, but it won't be Florida, and I doubt it'll be Kansas.
Thanks again to Andy for participating in this exchange.