Peach Bowl will give new UF coach an eyeful

Florida will have a new coach in place when the Gators face either Virginia or Virginia Tech in the Peach Bowl on December 31. Both of these ACC foes would allow the new coaches an excellent early evaluation opportunity for spring practice. Official invitations are not out yet, but barring something totally unforeseen, it will be the Gators against one of the two big in-state rivals from Virginia.

The bowl game will allow the incoming coach and or a trusted member of his staff a front row opportunity to see how the players and assistant coaches prepare in practices, pre-game, and on the sidelines for the big game. It is also beneficial in giving the Gators additional practice time, something pathetic decisions at Clemson and South Carolina, have nixed. The quality of Florida's Peach Bowl opponent should provide plenty of footage to help set the spring stage. Both Virginia and Virginia Tech are much improved over last season.

Here's a quick look at both Virginia and Virginia Tech.


The Cavaliers have one of the nation's strongest offensive lines led by All-American guard Elton Brown. Center Zac Yarbrough (son of Gator great Jim Yarbrough) is a three-year starter who Coach Al Groh labeled as one of the most underrated players. Like Brown and Yarbrough, left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson is in his third year as a starter. Brad Butler is a two year starter at right tackle. The group has led the Cavs in giving up the fewest sacks (12) in the conference. They have also cleared the paths for tailbacks Alvin Pearman and Wall Lundy. Virginia leads the ACC with 246.6 yards rushing per game. Both backs rank in the top five in the conference.

Virginia quarterback Marquis Hagans leads the ACC in total offense. No first year signal caller has accomplished that feat since Florida State's Danny Kanell in 1994. Hagans is a tremendously accurate passer with a 63.6% completion percentage. He also averages 4.7 yards per rush.

The Gators haven't faced a tight end as talented as Virginia All-American Heath Miller. He led the nation in receptions by a tight end in 2003 with 70 catches for 803 yards. Miller is currently third in the ACC in receptions and fifth in receiving yards per game with 44.

The Cavs would also bring a couple of very talented linebackers in Darryl Blackstock and Ahmad Brooks. Blackstock leads the conference with 10.5 sacks. Brooks is fifth in the category with 5.5 sacks.

Virginia Tech

Despite having not yet played either Virginia (Saturday) or Miami (next Saturday), the Hokies do bring the ACC's second best defense to the table. Tech does an outstanding job of keeping opponents out of the end zone. They lead the ACC in red zone defense allowing only five touchdowns in 18 opportunities. Defensive coordinator Bud Fosters' boys lead the ACC in scoring defense allowing only 13.1 points per game. Junior defensive end Darryl Tapp is among the conference leaders with 7.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss.

Virginia Tech is second in the conference in pass defense, led by Jimmy Williams. The cornerback is tops in the conference with passes defended. To date, he has broken up 14 with a conference-leading four interceptions. They have a solid +12 advantage in the turnover ratio.

Offensively, the Hokies lead the ACC in scoring offense at 34.7 points per game. They are also extremely efficient in the red zone where they lead the ACC with an 89.4% success rate. Tech has scored on 42 of 47 red zone opportunities. The Hokies are third in the conference in rushing with an average of 194.5 yards per game.

Don't forget about those Virginia Tech special teams which always rank among the best in the nation. The Hokies have blocked three kicks this season already, with two regular season games remaining.

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