The Canes are banged up and hurting. The only healthy guys are Chris Myers, Joel Rodriguez and Eric Winston. And of these three only Myers has played a whole bunch. With Vernon Carey and Carlos Joseph banged up it gives the Gators a chance to win the battle. Florida must get 30-35 snaps out of Maurice Mitchell at the defensive tackle spot this week. Charlie Strong did a nice job of rotating the tackles with Mitchell, Ray McDonald, Kenny Parker, Eric Holcombe and Ron Dowdy. In effect, UF can match up with Miami because of numbers. The defensive ends are on the hot seat after playing terrible last season. Darrell Lee and Bobby McCray should be able to handle Winston and Rashad Butler. Winston is going to be good but this is the time for senior lineman. Miami does as good of a job as any line at blocking in space and their players never give up on blocks.
Florida's offensive line vs Miami's defensive line:
Miami DT Vince Wilfork is a load and one of the best in the country. He may be the top pick in the draft next year. He plays with tremendous heart and is very fast. This is why UF will have two guys on him most of the night. He plays the shaded nose and Mike Degory along with Shannon Snell or Max Starks will have him. UF must not allow him to split the double team. Orien Harris and Santonio Thomas are no walk in the park at the other spot. The defensive ends are not as good as last year and the Gator tackles are better than last year. Randy Hand and Tavares Washington must handle the speed rush that dominated the Gators in passing situations. The move of Max Starks to right guard was predicated on this game.
Miami secondary vs Florida's receivers:
The best secondary in the nation resides in South Florida. With Maurice Sikes and Sean Taylor roaming each half of the field it can make you see double. Antrel Rolle had an interception for a touchdown last week and Kelly Jennings and Alfonso Marshall have experience and speed. It is a risk taking secondary that can give up a big play if you bait them the right way. UF's Kelvin Kight and Carlos Perez had nice games last week but the Gators need breakout games from at least two other guys. Andre Caldwell, Dallas Baker, Jemalle Cornelius or Ben Troupe need to have a huge day if the Gators are to pull the upset. Look for UF to pick on Jennings and Sikes.
Florida secondary vs Miami receivers:
UF has a talented and experience secondary. Keiwan Ratliff is more physical this season and Guss Scott could be an All American, especially if he has a big game on national television. Daryl Dixon is solid but Johnny Lamar is a question mark. It is one thing to have a big game against San Jose State and to do it against Miami would be a real surprise. I think Miami will get Lamar in a bind with Ryan Moore or Roscoe Parrish and that could mean trouble. Demetrice Webb, who was scheduled to play half of the game last week but missed it due to an ankle injury, will be back but how much he plays depends on the comfort level of the coaches. I expect Devin Hester to be more involved this week for the Canes and that could cause UF some problems. The Gators will have to play some man coverage to allow for more guys to stop the run.
Miami running game vs UF run defense:
Well, you have to assume the Gators will play the run better this season. Reid Fleming will be on the hot-seat at middle linebacker and he will have his manhood challenged early. Channing Crowder will be on the field a lot and needs to play big in his first college game. Todd McCollough is back outside where he will stay and if he can hold up health wise will help versus the run. Miami was not sharp in their run blocking in week one but that is to be expected. That said, Frank Gore is healthy and a tough runner to get a good lick on. I think Miami still can run the ball and Gore is a special back.
Florida running game vs Miami run defense:
The Gators had success last season with the zone play inside and the draw and draw trap a year ago. A lot of this had to do with the respect that Miami had for Rex Grossman and his ability to beat them. The best linebacker is DJ Williams he can do it all and is nasty. Jonathan Vilma is coming off an injury but is outstanding at the middle spot while the strong side spot is by committee right now. Without a lead back in the offense, it will be tough to account for one of the outside backers and the tight ends must block well. The Gators did not have a dominant running game against San Jose State because they did not committ to the run. Saturday will be a better test or barometer for the Gator running game.
Miami's QB vs Gator defense
Brock Berlin is the subject of many story lines this week and will lead the Canes against his former team. He struggles with middle pressure and on short throws in the flat. He will excel getting the ball down the field especially against zone. He has a big arm and good football IQ. The fact that he understands it is not about him and the team means he has a chance to be real good. The front for Florida will dictate how good Berlin plays because if he gets comfortable with the speed of his receivers he will pick UF apart.
Florida QB's vs Miami defense
This could be the key to the game. Can Ingle Martin handle the pressure and get the ball down the field? Will Chris Leak become shell shocked the first time Vilma plants him into the turf? There is no way to tell but certainly based on last week they have a chance to succeed. Chris Leak gives the Gators the best chance to stretch the field and run the shotgun offense. The one problem is Ingle Martin knows the run checks better and can read coverages better. Since the game plan may call for running early we may have to wait another day to see Chris Leak lead a team. Leak is expected to play every third series or more if Martin struggles.
Miami is terrific in the return game with Roscoe Parrish, Antrel Rolle and Devin Hester. They also cover kicks very well because of their speed and quickness. The Gators were much improved in special teams a week ago and may have a better kicking situation considering Matt Leach has more experience. Jon Peattie will be the achilles heel for the Canes in big games this season. If UF can make this a tight game it may be a factor. Eric Wilbur may see some serious heat from the Canes who like to put pressure on the punter. This area of the game may decide the outcome.
Florida really has nothing to lose. They could lose some confidence if they are blown out, but that is only if they are over confident. Ron Zook's team could use a moral victory to keep the team improving. The Canes seem to be dealing with a lot of injuries but Florida's player comments may have caught their attention and awakened a sleeping giant. If UF approaches the game properly and not put all it's eggs in one basket they have a slight edge with less pressure.
How will it play out?
I think Florida has a puncher's chance in this tilt. They must get 3-4 turnovers, cover all their kicks on special teams, win the field position battle and run the football. The Hurricanes are not as good as they were last year but they are as fast. To simulate the speed of the game, Florida Coach Ron Zook let the ones practice versus the ones this week to move the tempo up. A great techinque but not quite enough as the Canes have too much on defense and they are at home in the Orange Bowl where they have won 22 straight.
Canes win, 30-16