Braving the Storm

Florida prepares for Hurricanes as biggest underdog since 1988...

Listen to the critics, let them wash through your head for a moment, and here's what you'd know about the Gators football team.

You'd forget about their 62-point win against San Jose State six days ago. Instead, you'd remember the 14 points they're picked to lose by against No. 3 Miami on Saturday.

You'd forget about their depth at wide receiver and running back, and you'd remember the inexperienced quarterback unit.

You'd forget about their chance at winning all together. And realize the Gators had every reason to lose.

"But in reality," defensive end Travis Harris said, "they're not doing anything but motivating us. If they stop criticizing, we might not be as good as we will be. But the critics can criticize all they want. It'd just motivation for us to get better."

Sure, it's motivation. Sure, UF can preach against the critics. But there must be a reason.

How can a team win by 62 points a week earlier but be so buried in the minds of so many seven days later?

Figure this. Since 1988 – two years before Steve Spurrier even took over in Gainesville – the Gators have not been picked to lose by this many. So what gives?

"Somebody has to be picked," senior safety Daryl Dixon said. "They're highly ranked. They're a good football team. And we're going into their place. They have the advantage, but we really don't have anything to lose."

The critics' explanation may be more involved. For starters, the Hurricanes haven't lost in the Orange Bowl in 22 games – the nation's longest home win streak.

Also, in the past two meetings – the last of which was in The Swamp -- Miami has outscored the Gators 78-36.

Not to mention, UF will continue to cycle through its quarterback lineup – comprised of starter Ingle Martin, Chris Leak and Gavin Dickey -- without knowing who will take the last snap.

"We've still got the same 45 young guys there that are going to be coming out of that tunnel," Zook admits. "It will be a little different tunnel obviously, a little different environment, but I think it will be exciting to see how we perform down there.''

Among the benefits of having a youthful team, though, may be that they didn't suffer through last year's trauma against Miami. The Hurricanes pounded away for 306 rushing yards compliments of Willis McGahee.

Now, McGahee is gone, but the key to a UF upset remains the same: hold off the run. Some say tailback Frank Gore is as talented – if not more talented – than the former tailback.

But regardless of all the odds, the Gators refuse to set themselves in the losers' bracket just yet. After all, there'd be no reason to play if everyone assumed they'd lose. And the Gators are not willing to be considered the exception.

"I don't really see them as a favorite," defensive lineman Darrell Lee said. "Me, personally, I don't see them winning the game."


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