Sugar Bowl Preview

(Author’s note: I want to dedicate this season’s articles and analysis in loving memory of my mother, Lenore Papas, who was always supportive of any of my endeavors in life.) 
If you’re wondering why this review came out so late, I wonder if it’s because of a little bit of news involving the Florida football program outside of just the game……you think?  LOL.
Drama has followed this program for at least 40 years, and it may have reached a crescendo this past week with the news of Coach Meyer’s “resignation”, followed the next day with his decision to accept a “leave of absence”.  Not to mention the health issues, the possible recruiting impact, the coaching staff in flux, and other minor things……geez.
How do you focus on only the game with all of this going on?  That’s the task of the players and coaches as they face Cincinnati in the final game for one of the great recruiting classes in Gator history.  After the disastrous performance against Alabama that shattered any hope of becoming one of the few teams in history to win 3 national championships in 4 years, what’s left?  Hopefully, the will to show the country and each other that they truly are a great team, and send out the seniors and some coaches on the winning note they deserve.
On offense, the Gators should be able to do whatever they please, as the Bearcat defense is suspect at best, and sometimes just plain bad.  I certainly think that after the debacle of play-calling in the SECCG, that the running game should be unleashed again, including more of the speed option to the edges to let Tim Tebow, Jeff Demps, and Chris Rainey dictate the tempo of the game.  The OL had jelled the last 3 games with Xavier Nixon at LT and Carl Johnson at LG, and even the pass protection had begun to come around.  UC’s secondary has holes as well, and Aaron Hernandez and Riley Cooper should be able to break some big plays when called upon.
The defense has no excuse to not play lights-out after their embarrassing collapse against Bama, and also should send Coach Strong out in style.  Cincinnati has a high-scoring offense with Bunnell native Mardy Gilyard having an A-A season at WR.  Tony Pike has a decent arm at QB, but has zero mobility and scrambling ability, and could be a sitting duck if the Gator secondary can lock down the WRs for a few seconds.  I would not be surprised at all to see Zach Collardo getting certain series to try and confuse the Gator defense with more spread running plays.  Pead is a solid RB, but nothing the Florida defense can’t handle.  Brandon Spokes needs to lead the defense in an emotional display.  The return of Carlos Dunlap will be felt — by the Bearcat offense.
Will Florida put on another putrid show, like Bama did against Utah last year?  I just can’t see it.  There is too much leadership to allow it, and the fact that Coach Meyer may be out of the spotlight for a while after this game should be more than enough extra impetus for an inspired Gator effort.
I’ll be back with a National Signing Day recap in February, which (unfortunately) will be more stressful than originally thought, as Florida tries to keep together what was until a week ago the #1 class in the country.
Prediction:           Florida 45        Cincinnati 28