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Bowling Green Rant

Not Much To Rant About This Week

As Always, it’s Great to be a Florida Gator.

Texas A & M Rant

The Florida Gators 20-17 win over Texas A&M in College Station, denying the Host Aggies a win in their debut game as an SEC school.

I said last week that Florida’s progress would be measured by whether or not the Gators could beat A&M and this week’s opponent Tennessee on the road. I have to feel good that Muschamp has the program on the rise after Urban Meyer’s mediocre 2010 finale season and Muschamp’s coaching re-boot last year. It was a huge win for Coach Will Muschamp and his program.

Although the Gators got pushed around on defense by the determined Aggies during the first half of the game, one never got the feeling that UF was “out” of it, even though they trailed 17-10 at halftime. Whatever adjustments were made at halftime worked as the Gator defense came out and pitched a shut-out denying A&M any offensive consistency and forcing the Aggies into punts on their first six possessions of the second half.

Several defensive players had impressive games, but senior linebacker Lerentee McCray may have had the biggest impact on Saturday. In the second half, he helped contain Aggie QB Johnny Manziel on running plays and put consistent pressure on him. McCray' biggest play came at the beginning of the fourth quarter when he sacked Manziel for a four-yard loss on third down. That play helped set the tone for the rest of the game for the Gators, as the Aggies offense failed the score in the final quarter.

Caleb Sturgis kicked a 25-yard field goal in the third quarter to cut the lead to 17-13. He initially missed the kick, but A&M had called time out and he was true on his second attempt.

UF quarterback Jeff Driskel looked indecisive most of the day and was sacked eight times. But he made play’s when he had to, finding Omarius Hines on a 39-yard completion to sustain a drive early in the fourth quarter.

Gator running back Mike Gillislee completed the drive, evading a couple of defenders and tight-roping down the sideline for a 12-yard touchdown run to put Florida up 20-17. Gillislee had a 4 yard score in the first quarter and finished with 85 yards. He injured his groin in the game and might not play this week against Tennessee.

To close out the game, Driskel came up with a big 21-yard run to give the Gators a first down and allow them to run out the clock.

Of note, UF was 0-5 under Muschamp when trailing at halftime. The Gators entered the game ranked 24th, but should rise in the poll when it is released this week.

Now Gator Nation’s eyes shift to Knoxville where UF takes on The 2-0 Tennessee Volunteers. UF has won seven straight versus their eastern division rivals.

Should be a good game. As Always, It’s Great to Be a Florida Gator!!

As Always, it’s Great to be a Florida Gator.

Tennessee Rant

The Florida Gators roared to a convincing 37-20 SEC victory over rival Tennessee In Knoxville Saturday night. The Gators “quietly amassed 555 offensive yards against the Vols.

I was a most interesting game to watch. The three-point underdog Gators took a 7-0 lead following an interception, but Tennessee stormed back to take a 14-10 margin into halftime behind the passing of their outstanding quarterback Tyler Bray.

The Gators tacked on a field goal off of their opening drive of the 2nd half, but UT countered with a touchdown (missed xpt) to extend their lead to 20-13.

Last week, I ranted that the true measure of this years Gator squad would be determined by their performances in back-to-back road games against worthy competition. In previous years, the Gators has gotten off to 4-0 records on the strength of beating Tennessee and three patsies. This writer gave Gators Coach Will Muschamp the benefit of the doubt after the lackluster opening week 27-13 win over Bowling Green.

The Gators have now handed in three superb second half performances, coming from behind against two SEC foes in hostile environs. UF was pushed around in the first half at Texas A&M last week, but came back in the second half with a dominant defensive effort to pull out a 20-17 win.

The Gators used the same script against the Volunteers. UF trailed in the game until the 3:15 mark of the third quarter when Trey Burton ripped off an 80-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 20. From that point on, the Gators used a series of big plays to put the game away and extend their mastery over the Vols to eight consecutive games.

Gator quarterback Jeff Driskell demonstrated continued improvement, completing 14-20 passes for 219 yards, including fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Jordan Reed (23 yards) and Frankie Hammond (75 yards). Driskell also rushed for 80 yards, was not intercepted and was not sacked in the game. Burton rushed for two touchdowns.

Next up for UF is hapless Kentucky. The Gator have beaten the Wildcats 25 straight times since 1986 and the average score during that skein has been lopsided in UF’s favor 42-17. UK will enter the game with a 1-2 record, having lost their opener to Louisville 32-14, and losing Saturday to Western Kentucky in overtime 32-31.

Assuming UF defeats Kentucky, the Gators will have an open week prior to its October 5 game versus the LSU Tigers. The Tigers will likely move up to #2 behind Alabama in this weeks poll after Southern Cal fell to Stanford Saturday. LSU has won three games all at Baton Rouge, rolling to easy wins against North Texas, Washington and Idaho. Next up for LSU is a road game at Auburn, currently 1-2 and on track for perhaps their worst season in decades. LSU throttled Auburn last year and there is no reason to believe it won’t happen again.

LSU’s final tune-up before Florida will come against Towson in Baton Rouge. LSU’s game against Florida is a perfect “trap game.” The Tiger will surely be 5-0 and likely will have scored 40-plus points on each of its previous foes. However, none of the teams leading up to Florida will have provided any serious competition. LSU beat the Gators last year 41-11 in Baton Rouge, so it is likely the Tigers will come into Gainesville brimming with confidence – much of it false confidence – and if they take this Gator team lightly, could get their stripes handed to them.

This is why we play them instead of mailing in the scores.

As Always, it’s Great to be a Florida Gator.

Kentucky Rant

OK Gator Nation… The mid-terms are in and the 2012 Florida Gators have gotten an “A” grade… a perfect score, a 4-0 record…

I would really like to spend some time savoring the 38-0 rout of Kentucky -- UF’s 26th win in a row over the Wildcats. But it’s not going to happen. Yeah, it wasn’t pretty and yeah there are some problems to be worked out. This week’s open date comes at an advantageous time. Banged up players get a chance to heal. I like the approach Coach Will Muschamp is taking, “scouting” the Gators to determine trends and tendencies, weaknesses, and areas where improvements are needed. I believe he will have the team ready to play at a new level when LSU hits town Oct. 6.

Just as this year’s two SEC road victories were crucial to Muschamp’s short tenure, so will it be for October. It just last year that UF was 4-0 and averaging 40 points per game. After one play, the Gators led Alabama 7-0 after QB John Brantley connected on a 65 yard TD to Andre Dubose. Life was good.

UF played even with Bama, 10-10 through the first quarter. Then Brantley threw a pick-6 interception and not long after, He went down and out with a high ankle sprain… To that point, Brantley had completed 11 of 16 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown.

The Tide rolled and never looked back. It didn’t get any better. Top ranked LSU spanked UF 41-11 the following week in Baton Rouge, followed by losses to Auburn and Georgia. Suddenly, UF was 4-4 and suffering through its first four-game losing skein since 1988. It was an October to forget.

LSU will be ranked #2 when it enters the Swamp Oct. 6. What should greet them is a deeper, stronger, rested, more confident and more mature Gator team. This game will be the season best measure of where Florida’s program sits on the measuring stick among conference and national powers.

Should be a good game, I hope the Gators prevail.

As Always, it’s Great to be a Florida Gator.

LSU Rant

Who is going to be the first one to say it? You know what I’m talking about… With the Gator’s first victory over a top-10 team in the post-Tebow era, UF has moved into the rarified atmosphere of the top five of the current national poll. But there is still this hesitation… this reticence… as if the mention of it might just a quickly upset the apple cart and send it all back down the drain.

What the hell… I’ll say it. The Mighty Gators are back. BACK baby! Just when you thought it was safe to play an east team, the Gators are 5-0…

Whew… it felt good. Heck it sounded good...

Florida’s hard fought 14-6 win over fourth-ranked LSU in the Swamp is the signature win of the Will Muschamp era thus far. Consider that UF beat the defending SEC champs, a team that whipped them by 30 points last year, a team that went 13-0 last year and played for the BCS title, a team that had won 18 consecutive regular-season games.

And they did it in what is becoming a familiar fashion. For the fourth time in five games, UF had to rally after trailing in the 2nd half. The Gator offense was largely ineffective in the first half, unable to sustain drives, and barely able to eke out positive yardage against a powerful, physical LSU defense.

As inconsistent as the offense was, Florida’s defense gave up some yardage, but held LSU to a pair of field goals, one of which was gift-wrapped by a fumble by UF quarterback Jeff Driskell on UF’s 7-yard-line. But UF trailed only 6-0 at intermission.

The two teams traded punches for seven minutes of the third quarter when UF running back Mike Gillislee took over. Running behind an offensive line that seemed to get stronger as LSU’s vaunted defense began to wilt, Gillislee capped an eight-play, 85-yeard drive with a 12-yard touchdown run to put UF ahead 7-6.

The Tigers had one last gasp during the ensuring drive, completing a 56-yard pass that was stripped by UF cornerback Matt Elam and after review, the Gators were awarded the ball.

The better-conditioned Gators simply lined up and dared LSU to stop the run in the fourth quarter, with Gillislee scoring again from 12-yards out to make the final 14-6.

So dominant was the UF line that ESPN analyst Mark May – a notorious Gator skeptic – awarded the unit a “helmet sticker” on the Sunday CFB roundup.

The Gators remain tied with South Carolina atop the SEC East division standings after the Gamecocks stunned fifth-ranked Georgia 35-7, knocking UGa from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Also, third-ranked Florida State was upset by N.C. State, 17-16, paving the way for UF’s rise in the polls. FSU was averaging 50 points per game, but were shut-out the final three quarters against NCSU.

This week UF travels to Vanderbilt for a SEC tilt against the perennial cellar-dwellers. UF should be able to name that score against Vandy, but needs to beware of injuries. Meanwhile, Carolina travels to Baton Rouge to play LSU as it’s tune-up for its Oct 20 date with UF.

Now that Georgia has been exposed, the UF-USC game should be the game that determines who wins the east. I can’t wait… See you at the Swamp.

As Always, it’s Great to be a Florida Gator.

Vanderbilt Rant

The Florida Gators move to 6-0 and sit alone atop the SEC East Division standings after defeating Vanderbilt 31-17 in Nashville in a surprisingly hard-fought game. The win coupled with South Carolina’s narrow loss at LSU sets up a 3:30 showdown in The Swamp this week between Coach Will Muschamp’s Gators and Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks.

More surprising, is that UF was ranked 2nd behind Alabama in the initial BCS poll released Sunday. Six of the top 12 BCS spots went to SEC team, as LSU Came in #6, South Carolina #7, Georgia #11 and Mississippi State #12.

By coming in at #2, the Gators now wear “the bullseye” because an Alabama regular season loss isn’t likely. That means all of the “hater nation’s” psychic negative vibe is going to be directed at UF to lose, or else face another All-SEC BCS title game.

Gator quarterback Jeff Driskel turned in a performance worthy of Emmitt Smith – he of “Dancing With The Stars” fame. Driskel set a school record for quarterbacks, rushing for 177 yards on 11 carries, including touchdown runs of which he was untouched, of 37, 13 and 70 yards. In fact, on the two longer runs, the 6‘4” 237 lb. Driskel simply outran the Vanderbilt defenders to the goal line. Vandy’s defensive strategy had been to stop UF running back Mike Gillislee, the SEC’s leading rusher who finished the game with 67 yards and one TD. But the Commodores never adjusted to Driskel’s fakes to Gillislee, allowing UF’s QB the opportunity to get loose in space. All told, the Gators rushed for 326 yards behind a patch-worked offensive line that played without three starters.

Credit also must be given to UF special teams. After UF’s first TD, the team lined up in the “Swinging Gate formation and Vanderbilt got caught in a misaligned defense, allowing Trey Burton to take the snap and score the two-point conversion for an 8-7 lead. The Gators also pulled off a fake punt to set up another score, a Solomon Patton sped 54 yards around end. Andre Debose returned a kickoff 60 yard to set-up a field goal and UF blocked a Vanderbilt field goal try.

South Carolina will enter Saturday’s game bruised. In losing to LSU 23-21, it seemed that LSU’s physicality got the better of USC. Carolina has excellent weapons in running back Marcus Lattimore and quarterback Conner Shaw. It was Shaw who last year pulled magic out of his hat, consistently running out of harms way on third-and-long plays to sustain Carolina drives during the ‘Cocks 17-12 win at Columbia.

But Carolina’s most dangerous weapon may be Former Gator Superstar and Former UF Head Ball Coach Steve Spurrier who, as “The Evil Genius,” is known for developing attacks that exploit opponent’s weaknesses. All season long, the Gators have followed a script of putting the games in the hands of its stellar defense, while the offense logs a sub-par offensive effort during the first half. This might prove to be a recipe for disaster against Carolina. UF is going to need to capitalize on every possession and keep Shaw and Latimore on the sideline or else face the possibility that the game is out of reach by the third quarter.

As big as the LSU game was two weeks ago, this one is even bigger. I hope that the fans turn up the volume on this one. We should be in for one hell of a show at the Swamp. I can’t wait.

As Always, it’s Great to be a Florida Gator.

South Carolina Rant

Sometimes stats don’t tell the story one only needs to look at the Florida Gators’ 44-11 win over BCS #7 ranked South Carolina as the definitive example. For a game that featured 55 points scored, it was a titanic defensive game, as neither team generated 200 offensive yards.

Fortunately for Florida, it didn’t have to. One the game’s first play, Louchiez Purifoy blitzed USC QB Conner Shaw, stripping him of the ball which was recovered by UF at the USC two-yard line. Fifty seconds later UF scored to take a 7-0 lead.

Carolina scored a filed goal to cut the lead to 7-3, but neither team did much else until late in the second quarter, when USC fumbled a punt which was recovered by Florida at the Cock’s 29. Gator quarterback Jeff Driskel converted a 13 TD pass to put Florida up 14-3. On the ensuing kickoff, USC fumbled the ball and UF returned it to the ‘Cock’s one yard line where Driskel hit Jordan Reed over the middle for a 21-3 lead.

At that juncture, the Gators had run 24 plays for a net 29 yards… but had 21 points. Carolina tacked on another field goal at the half, after a UF interception was nullified by an offsides penalty.

Driskel threw for a career high 4 TD passes, but only totaled 93 yards passing. In the second quarter, a 29-yard TD pass from Driskel to Omarious Hines – who mad a tremendous one-handed catch in the end zone -- was nullified by a penalty.

Remember the name Louchiez Purifoy. Of late, Purifoy has been a beast on special teams, has done a credible job as a cornerback on defense and came oh-so-close to catching a TD bomb from Driskel in the third quarter, a play that was broken up at the last moment.

In what has become a familiar script this season, UF put the game away in the thjird quarter. The Gators marched 59 yards to a TD on opening drive of the 2nd half, but the PAT was blocked and was run back by Carolina for 2-points. UF also scored on its next two possessions to take a commanding 37-8 lead. During the quarter, UF outgained USC 133 yards to zero, as USC Coach Steve Spurrier benched Shaw in favor of Dylan Thompson. Once again, UF exerted a noticeable physical dominance at the lines of scrimmage in the second half.

Carolina added a meaningless field goal followed by Jordan Reed’s return of an on-sides kick to the USC 11 to set up the final touchdown, making the final 44-11.

The win improved UF to 7-0, which matches the team’s win total for all of last year, and cements its #2 position in the current BCS standings. The Gators can clinch the Eastern Division title and a trip to Atlanta with a win this week against Georgia.

Florida and Georgia have played thee common opponents UF defeated Tennessee 37-20, While Georgia beat the Vols 51-44. The Gators beat Kentucky 38-0 while Georgia beat the Cats 29-24. And UF trounced USC 44-11 while Carolina Whipped Georgia 35-7.

Draw your own conclusions about all of that… Should be another great game in Jacksonville.

As Always, it’s Great to be a Florida Gator.


Florida’s undefeated season came to a conclusion with a resounding thud on the grass of Jacksonville’s Gator Bowl* as turnovers, uninspired play and a fired up Georgia team defeated the Gators 17-9.

It appeared that Georgia just wanted it more than did Florida. That was evident from the time the two teams took the field. It was also evident to even casual observers Florida was the more physically gifted team, however poor execution against an enthusiastic opponent spelled doom for the Gators.

Florida turned the ball over six times, with two interceptions and four fumbles. The Gator’s woes began from the first series, when UF quarterback Jeff Driskel was hit while attempting a pass and Georgia recovered at the Gator 22. That set up a short TD drive that Gave UGa the lead with little more than three minutes played.

It is fair to note that Georgia turned the ball over four times – three interceptions and a fumble.

Despite trailing the entire game, the Gator defense kept the team within striking distance. The last gasp for the Gators occurred with just over two minutes to play. Driskel completed a pass over the middle to tight end Jordan Reed who turned and ran toward the goal, enroute to what appeared to be a “gimme” touchdown. While attempting to hurdle a tackler at the two-yard line, the ball was stripped from Reed and was recovered by Georgia in the end zone for a touchback.

A UF TD and two-point conversion would have tied the game at 17 and momentum and a superior kicker would have shifted the advantage to the Gators in overtime.

Oh well… I hope this loss burns in bellies of the players and much like the Ole Miss loss in ’08, serves as the springboard motivator to go on to greater things.

This week the Gators host Missouri. UF’s SEC finale kicks off at noon, which means hopefully most of my section will have adjourned to Lillian’s for drinks by 3:30. The Tigers picked up their first SEC win last week against Kentucky, but will be huge underdogs to Florida.

As Gator Coach Will Muschamp commented after the loss, we’ve seen how this teams copes with winning… now we’ll see how we cope with a loss,

Or something like that.

For me, it’ll be breakfast with the Gators! See you at the Swamp!

(*Yeah, yeah I know… Everbank Field, Alltell Stadium… whatever. When you been around as long as I have, you get to call it the freaking Gator Bowl.)

As Always, it’s Great to be a Florida Gator.

Missouri Rant

The Florida Gators improved their record to 8-1 and claimed a share of the SEC’s Eastern Division title along with Georgia by beating Missouri 14-7 in the Swamp.

For UF, it was the same old script… the Gators struggled against a lesser-talented opponent before rallying to win in the second half.

UF trailed Missouri 7-0 at halftime but took the lead in the third quarter on a beautiful 36-yard speed sweep run by Omarius Hines to tie it at 7-7. From there, the Gator defense locked down Mizzou on six straight drives, including blocking a field goal try after the Tigers had driven to the UF seven-yard-line. UF took the lead in the fourth quarter on a 45-yard screen pass from Jeff Driskel to Mike Gillislee. This score came after a 59-yard touchdown pass was nullified by a holding penalty, the second time a holding call has nullified a long TD pass.

It was UF’s first win against Missouri. The two teams met only one other time, the 1966 Sugar Bowl, a game in which Mizzou got off to a 20-0 lead and withstood a furious comeback led by QB Steve Spurrier to make the final 20-18.

Not much else to say about this game. With two “Lillian’s” games (early kick-off, easy outcome, head to the bar) at home against Louisiana-Lafayette and Jacksonville State the next two weeks, the Gators should be 10-1 before traveling to Tallahassee for the regular season finale. This should give several key players time to heal as the infirmary list is beginning to look like a ‘who’s-who’ of key players, including Andre Debose, Caleb Sturgis, Matt Elam, Mack Brown, Jon Halapio, James Wilson, Xavier Nixon and Lerentee McCray are all banged up to one degree or another.

Looks like we’ll get to see a lot of new faces in the line-up over the next two games. See you at the Swamp.

As Always, it’s Great to be a Florida Gator.

Louisiana Rant

The Florida Gators pushed it about as far as you can push it, scoring two touchdowns in the final minute-forty-two to snatch a 27-20 victory from the jaws of defeat over underdog Louisiana Lafayette.

The visiting Ragin’ Cajuns were a 27-point underdog in Florida’s homecoming game. Yet the visitors played relatively even with UF throughout the hotly contested game. Florida led 13-3 early in the 3rd quarter and could have had more had Clay Burton hung on to a beautiful toss from tight-end Jordan Reed on an end-around pass. But the Cajuns put together an impressive drive to cut the lead to 13-10 and after an exchange ULL blocked a Kyle Christie punt and ran it back for a TD to take a 17-13 lead into the fourth quarter. So it wasn’t just my imagination that Christie has been overdue to get one blocked due to his lackadaisical punting approach. Bet that gets fixed pronto this week…

Not long after that, UF QB Jeff Driskel rolled his ankle and limped into the dressing room while backup Jacobi Brissett assumed control of the sputtering UF offense. ULL extended its lead to seven on a field goal and UF appeared to be dead. On its final “must have” drive, Brissett drove the Gators 49 yards to ties the game, highlighted by a 39-yard pass to a wide open Reed over the middle that carried down to the three yard line. The TD pass to Quinton Dunbar came with 1:42 to play, and it appeared the teams were headed to overtime.

Florida kicked off and held ULL on three plays to force a punt from inside the 30 with under half-a-minute to play. With an all-out block on, Safety Loucheiz Purifoy slapped the ball as it came off the punter’s foot and the fluttering ball landed in the arms of UF linebacker Jelani Jenkins who took it 36 yards to the end zone with just 0:02 on the clock.

The win (is a win is a win) improves UF to 9-1 and maintains their 6th place standing in the current BCS poll.

The BCS sustained a major shakeup when Texas A&M upset top-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa 29-24, dropping the Tide to 4th and jeopardizing the SEC’s string of playing in six consecutive BCS title games. Unbeaten Oregon moves into the top spot, followed by 10-0 Kansas State and #3 Notre Dame also 10-0. The next six spots in order go to SEC teams, led by #4 Alabama, #5 Georgia, #6 Florida, #7 LSU, #8 Texas A&M and #9 South Carolina. Florida State rounds out the top ten coming in at #10.

Say what you will about Florida’s lack of offense this season, the fact is that the Gators have beaten three of the four Top 10 BCS teams it has faced. (Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina, losing narrowly to Georgia). Incidentally, Georgia secured a trip to the SEC title game by beating Auburn 38-0 on the Plains. The Dawgs tied UF for the best record in the east, but gets the nod to play for the title by virtue of their head-to-head win over UF. the Dawgs will likely face Alabama which still must defeat Auburn to earn a trip to the title game. Finally, congratulations to Vanderbilt, which rallied to beat Ole Miss 27-26. For the first time in its school history, the Commodores are now bowl eligible for the second straight year.

Next week is Florida’s home finale against another huge underdog… Jacksonville State (Alabama) Gamecocks. I won’t even try to predict this one.

See You at the Swamp. As Always, It’s Great to Be a Florida Gator.

As Always, it’s Great to be a Florida Gator.

Jacksonville State Rant

Florida beat Jacksonville State (Alabama) 23-0 in the Swamp Saturday. The win improves the Gator’s record to an improbable 10-1 for the season. And while they haven’t achieved that mark in traditional slam-bang offensive fashion, it is only the third time UF has gone 7-0 at the Swamp and just the seventh time UF has won 10 of its first 11 games…

As has been the case all season, UF rode a mediocre offensive effort to the win thanks to the lock-down Gator defense that gave up a huge 76-yard pass play on the 2nd play from scrimmage and then shut down the visitors for the remainder of the game.

Backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett did a satisfactory job subbing for the injured Jeff Driskel, leading the Gators to their only offensive TD. Mike Gillislee capped the drive with a 7-yard run to give UF the lead 7-0. Gillie would finish with 122 yards rushing. Caleb Sturgis added three field goals and Linebacker Jon Bostic scored on an interception to tally the rest of UF’s points. Significantly, the Gators did not turn over the football. Annoyingly, UF led only 10-0 in the third quarter but had a first-and-goal at the four-yard line. However the team squandered that opportunity when Sturgis had a rare field goal miss.

Its rivalry week and it’s been a long time since rivalry games figured so proiminently in the national title conversation. Top-ranked Notre Dame travels to LA to face banged up Southern Cal. Alabama hosts hapless Auburn. Georgia hosts Georgia Teach, while #12 South Carolina travels to #11 Clemson -- a game crucial to Florida’s strength of schedule.

But no rivalry game will be bigger than UF versus FSU. The Gators will travel to Tallahassee to play the 10-1 Florida State Seminoles. The Gators are currently ranked #4 in the current BCS standings while FSU is ranked 10th. It is the first time since 2000 that both teams will clash while ranked in the top 10 since 2000.

A week ago, UF was ranked #6 and after Alabama’s stunning upset at the hands of Texas A&M, it appeared that the SEC’s string of appearing (and winning) six straight BCS title games was over. However, both top-ranked Kansas State and #2 Oregon were upset Saturday, lifting Bama, Georgia and UF to 2-3-4 in the rankings and back into title game contention. With #2 Bama playing #3 Georgia in the SEC title game, a Gator win over FSU would likely vault UF into a BCS bowl game. The Noles will play in the ACC title game next month.

If Florida is to continue its magical winning formula, it will have to put forth another defensive effort akin to last year when they held FSU to under 100 total yards of offense. In that game, Gator turnovers doomed the Florida to what appeared to be a deceptively decisive 21-7 loss. If Florida is to win, it must improve upon the dismal two-for-11 3rd-down conversion rate it had against lowly Jax State. But as we have seen, with only one exception, UF seems to save its best effort for the biggest games.

There are several scenarios that would enable Florida to play for the national title. But they all begin with disposing of FSU this week. When and if that happens, we can rant about that next time. Let’s hope Coach Muschamp and Coach Pease have some scoring plays left in the playbook.

Should be a dandy! As Always, It’s Great To Be a Florida Gator!

As Always, it’s Great to be a Florida Gator.

Florida State

The Florida Gators followed the script for a stunning 37-26 victory over arch-rival Florida State in Tallahassee Saturday.

As it has all year long, the Gators trailed in the second half but staged a rally to claim the victory. UF improves to 11-1 for the season and remained #4 in the BCS poll. Unfortunately, Because Notre Dame won\, UF will not play for the national championship. The Irish will face the SEC champion, either Alabama or Georgia.

Despite Florida’s superior standing in the BCS poll few pundits gave the Gators much of a chance to win. The 10th-ranked Seminoles had groused for weeks over their perception of being “snubbed” by pollsters and saw their game against UF as a chance at vindication.

All the X-factors pointed to an FSU win. UF hadn’t won in Tallahassee when both teams are ranked. FSU brought the nation’s top rated defense, including limiting teams to 70 yards rushing per game. The FSU band would play the annoying “war chant” theme throughout the game… On the other hand, Florida has demonstrated problems sustaining offense, scoring just one offensive TD versus lowly Jacksonville State…

Didn’t matter, didn’t happen. The Gators simply padded their resume and likely earned a BCS bowl bid. UF has a 4-1 record versus teams ranked in the BCS top 12 best among all current BCS ranked teams. Conversely, FSU only win over a ranked opponent was its win against Clemson, ranked #14 after Saturday’s 10-point loss to Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks. The loss dropped the Seminoles to #13 in the poll.

In fact, Saturday was a disaster for the Atlantic Coast Conference as the leagues marquee teams all tasted defeat. In addition to UF trouncing FSU on their home field, Georgia undressed Georgia Tech 42-10. FSU and Tech will square off to determine the ACC champion next week.

The Gators came out focused and dominated time of possession in the first half, holding the ball for 22 minutes. Despite feasting on three FSU turnovers, UF led just 13-0. The Noles tacked on a field goal on the final play of the half to cut the margin to 13-3.

That Seminole field goal began a 20-point onslaught that saw FSU take a 20-13 lead late in the third quarter, assisted by senseless UF penalties and turnovers. At one point UF had committed 10 penalties to zero for FSU. With UF apparently disorganized and reeling, it appeared that FSU was poised to take control of the game.

However, the Gators began to get back on track at the end of the third quarter, putting together a drive that culminated in another field goal to cut the lead to 20-16 early in the fourth quarter. If there was a true turning point it came with 11:09 to play. FSU

quarterback E.J. Manuel was scrambling and took a big hit from UF safety Antonio Morison. Manuel’s fumble was recovered by Dominic Easley and on the next play, UF running back Mike Gillislee ran up the gut 37 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

The Gators shredded FSU for 202 rushing yards. Gillislee finished with 140 rushing yards and became the first UF back to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards for a season since 2004. Matt Jones added 81 yards in a back-up role.

Manuel missed FSU’s next offensive series. Meanwhile, Driskell led UF on another drive culminating in a 14-yard TD pass to Quinton Dumber to extend UF’s lead to 30-20. Matt Jones tacked on a nifty TD burst to extend the margin to 37-20 and complete the 24-point 4th quarter onslaught. Manuel scored on the games’ final play to cut the margin to 37-26.

The Gators finish the regular season 11-1 and will likely face Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, the team it defeated 24-14 for the 2008 national championship.

As Always, it’s Great to be a Florida Gator.

Pre Sugar Bowl

It’s official… The University of Florida has earned its ninth Sugar Bowl bid and will face the Big East Conference champion Louisville Cardinals Jan. 2nd.

It was the one match-up I didn’t want to see. The Cardinals are coached by Charlie Strong, a former defensive coordinator at UF under Coaches Spurrier, Zook and Meyer.

It should be a great game, but barring injury or turnovers, 11-1 UF should easily prevail over 9-2 Louisville… assuming the Gators don’t take the Cards to lightly…

If you missed watching the SEC championship game, you missed a dandy. Alabama defeated Georgia 32-28 withstanding a furious last-ditch UGa drive that ended at the Bama 4-yard line as time expired.

The lead changed four times in the second half, despite Bama rushing for 350 yards, but it was a crucial two-point conversion in the third quarter that eventually spelled doom for the Dawgs. Trailing 21-10, Bama scored a TD and two-pointer to cut the margin to 21-18. On the first play of the 4th quarter, Bama scored on a 32-yard run to go up 25-21. Two minutes later, Georgia regained the lead 28-21 on a 10-yard TD run.

Bama regained the lead on a 45-yard TD pass with just over three minutes left. The teams exchanged punts before Georgia began its final drive at its own 15-yard-line with just over a minute to play and no time outs left. The Dawgs marched to the Alabama 8 yard-line, first and goal with 15 seconds on the clock. Rather than spiking the ball to stop the clock, Georgia threw a pass into the flat which was caught at the four. The receiver slipped and fell before scoring or getting out of bounds and the clock expired before the ball could be reset for play. Game over.

Alabama (12-1) will face Notre Dame (12-0) in the BCS championship game.

Gainesville Sun Columnist Pat Dooley put forth this great little gem: I know this won't happen, but the case can definitely be made that Florida deserves to be in the national championship game more than the winner of the SEC Championship Game. If it was one of those blind resume tests, anyone with a brain would pick the Gators. Gator opponents this year went 92-50. Alabama's opponents went 70-72 and Georgia's opponents went 71-71. Florida beat three teams in the BCS top 10 (facing eight bowl teams) while Alabama and Georgia each beat one BCS top 10 ranked team, although the winner will add a second. Florida can't win the SEC. Neither did Alabama a year ago…

Muschamp addressed both of those issues after the FSU game, saying Florida has only itself to blame for the Georgia loss. He told reporters that is one part of the culture he is going to continue to work on at UF is getting the players not to take some games lightly. “It's been frustrating,” Muschamp said. “The mental mindset going into some games, how we approach some games, that has to change.”

I find it interesting that Bama Coach Nick Saban complained about the loser of the SEC title game being passed over by a team not being in the game for a BCS bowl berth when the same thing happened in his favor last year.

Georgia wound up in the Capital One Bowl, a non-BCS bowl.

Finally, the Orange Bowl game will feature ACC Champ Florida State and… wait for it… Northern Illinois. Would you go out of your way to watch that game?

As Always, it’s Great to be a Florida Gator.

Post Sugar Bowl

Congratulations to Coach Charlie Strong and his Louisville Cardinals on their stunning 33-23 Sugar Bowl victory over the Florida Gators. ESPN analysts called it the greatest win in Louisville’s history. Coach Strong served as an assistant football coach and defensive coordinator at UF for 15 years before assuming the head coaching job at UL.

For Florida, it was a puzzling end to an unexpectedly great 11-1 Jekyll-and-Hyde season that defies any compartmentalization. At times UF could be downright pathetic in eking out nail-biting wins against much inferior competition and absolutely dominant against some of the Southeastern Conference’s elite teams.

The ten-point margin was not indicative of just how soundly UF was thrashed. Louisville scored on a pick-six interception on the game’s first play and was never headed. From that point on, it seemed that nothing went right for the Gators as they amassed untimely penalties, turnovers and at times, completely lackluster play. For the most part, the Gators appeared to be a team simply going through the motions, a team with nothing to play for. For Louisville, it was just the opposite.

Time after time UF would get UL in a third-and-long situation only to watch helplessly as Cardinals QB Teddy Bridgewater made crucial pass completions. The statistics mean little, suffice to say Bridgewater simply shredded UF’s vaunted defense.

Perhaps that can be a lesson point for Gators Coach will Muschamp, as he goes back to the drawing board to figure out how to motivate his talented athletes. Whoever is going pro, thank you for your services. Whoever is staying, let’s go to work.

I hate to dwell on losses, and all of the “what if’s” and “coulda, shoulda, woulda’s.” Let’s just hope our coaching brain trust can make this a learning opportunity.

When Ole Miss beat UF 31-30 in 2008, I thought it was the end of the world. Turns out that loss was the springboard to greater things to come… like winning a national championship and the next 22 straight games.

In many ways this game reminds me of the 2009 Sugar Bowl. Alabama entered the game 12-1 after losing its previous game to the Gators in the SEC title game. The Tide had nothing to play for. They too went through the motions and got whipped 31-17 by that football powerhouse that is Utah. (Who?) Since that night, Bama has gone 48-5, winning two SEC and two national titles and will play for a third national title this week. (During the same period, Utah is 33-18).

Hmmm… Seems I recall from 2006-2009 UF went 48-7, won two SEC and two national titles and came within a game of playing for a third (each), I hope somebody in Gainesville is paying attention.

Ever more, As Always, it’s Great to be a Florida Gator.

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