Gators Win In High Scoring Offensive Game

Florida and Florida State have been playing since 1958 and only seven times have the Gators been held to less than 10 points. In the Mickey Andrews era the Seminoles have only held Florida to single digits once in 2000 (FSU 30-7 victory). In the last five games between these two teams at least one squad has gotten to 30 points and in the last encounter in Gainesville both teams broke the 30 point mark.

You may wonder why I am bringing this up? Because with all the concerns about both offenses, I think this game may be headed to the 30-point night for one team. In this rivalry both teams seem to play looser against each other and the coaches seem to let it hang out because it is a non-conference game. A win and your season is more palatable; a loss and the next twelve months becomes tougher to live in your neighborhood. There is still much at stake for both squads this week and isn't interesting that the shoe is finally on the other foot for FSU? Nole fans would you rather beat Florida or win the ACC title and go to a BCS Bowl game? Tough question isn't it?

The BCS seems to be clearing up but the bowl picture after that is a mess. Three BCS conferences do not have enough teams to fill their allotted spots. The Big 12, SEC and Pac-10 are short on teams and the SEC will give up 2 of their 8 spots. This is interesting considering the top three teams in the AP poll are from these three conferences. I think the Big 10 and ACC may be better overall conferences than all three. Florida my go to Shreveport or the may end up in Atlanta or Tampa. Think of this, UF needs to win and root for FSU to win the ACC title if they want any shot at Atlanta. That's just one of the strange twists to this year's bowl picture.

One final thought on the BCS and the top two in USC and Texas: Is it conceivable that either Texas or USC could lose a game the next two weeks and still remain in the Rose Bowl picture. Penn State is considerably behind and has no games left to play. LSU is next but like Auburn a year ago in that it has a win over a 1-AA team and a loss to 4-6 Tennessee. Va Tech has two decent opponents left but needs to jump three teams in the computer polls with wins over FSU and UNC.

OFFENSIVE MATCHUPS:

Quarterback: Chris Leak has played very well vs FSU and is 1-1 as a starter. He probably should have won two years ago in one of his best performances. Last season Leak took a hit from Ernie Sims and went 0-9 during one stretch including the third quarter. Leak has won 20 times and averaged two touchdown passes per win. In the 11 losses he has averaged just above one touchdown.

Drew Wetherford needs 294 yards to set a freshman record for yards by a Seminole. He has seven interceptions in his last three games and is now third in the country with 15. He is a tough kid who will stay in the pocket but like most freshman he locks on to his receivers early. Xavier Lee has struggled off the bench in big games against quality opponents.

Edge: I will take Leak based on experience and the fact that he should already be 2-0 vs. the Noles.

Running Backs: DeShawn Wynn and Markus Manson have given the Gator offense a boost since the Georgia game. Combine Kestahn Moore with those two guys and the backfield by committee has rushed for over 1,000 yards. Billy Latsko provides a solid lead back and the Gator backs will look to capitalize on missed tackles by FSU's defense.

FSU has Lorenzo Booker and Leon Washington along with freshman Antone Smith. Washington is their best threat and he returns from a two game hiatus due to injury. The Noles have struggled on the ground and there best play has been the draw. Keep an eye on Washington who was left out of last year's game plan.

Edge: I get a sense Washington is going to have a big game but give me the running back by committee. Gators.

Wide Receivers: Chad Jackson could catch Carlos Alvarez with two huge games to finish his season. He had 10 catches versus South Carolina but it was the deep ball that he missed that he must get this week. Dallas Baker and Jemalle Cornelius should be healthy as UF has backed out of it's four receiver set and gone with two and three receiver sets. Tate Casey should get some looks at tight end with FSU struggling against good tight ends all season.

FSU has a terrific corps of receivers who may have peaked early in the season. If healthy the corps of Willie Reid, CC Davis, Decody Fagg and Greg Carr is very tough to match up with. They also have Rod Owens, Kenny O'Neil and Fred Rouse who have played a bunch this year. If FSU goes four wide they will cross one guy shallow and run one guy deep down the middle of the field. This will force UF to play Greg Carr man to man on the outside. He has been injured lately but if healthy look for Carr inside the red zone.

Edge: Noles have more talent and depth if healthy.

Offensive Line: Florida will start the same offensive line for the past six games versus FSU. This unit has improved but overall has underachieved. Butler and Hand have both battled FSU's speed before and that experience will help them. As long as UF stays out of third and long and empty sets, this unit should be able to protect long enough.

FSU has lost three major players from there offensive line and the Noles are coming in with a thin unit. This group, like the offense, was making progress until the loss at Virginia. They have trouble protecting against a four man rush and cannot open holes for the run game.

Edge: Florida is the lesser of two evils and is healthier and deeper than FSU.

DEFENSIVE MATCHUPS:

Defensive Line: The Gators still have three guys playing at a high level. Jeremy Mincey, Marcus Thomas and Jarvis Moss give the Gators plenty of talent to attack FSU. Without Ray McDonald UF will have to go almost exclusively with a two-man rotation at tackle. UF needs four sacks to reach the goal of 30 on the season.

FSU has a terrific defensive tackle in Broderick Bunkley. He will be very difficult to handle. It looks as if Kamerion Wimbley will not play which hurts FSU's pass rush. The Noles have 33 sacks and recorded nine against Miami in the opener. Alex Boston could provide some pressure but this unit is not as imposing as it was six weeks ago.

Edge: I will give a slight edge to Florida but we all know Mickey's guys will be ready to bring heat.

Linebackers: Florida's Brandon Siler and Earl Everett have had good years. Everett is second on the team in tackles and Siler has six fumble recoveries. Todd McCollough is the only other linebacker who could and should play in this game. Florida could be in nickel a lot based on FSU's formation. I think Siler had his worst game as a Gator versus South Carolina and will look to make some noise on Saturday.

FSU's corps is deep and fast. AJ Nicholson is their best player and leads the team in tackles. He is a three down linebacker that will disrupt UF's short passing game. Buster Davis is the second leading tackler and played very well. Ernie Sims disappeared for a while after early season injuries but has played better of late. This unit has missed some critical tackles and caused big plays. They cannot afford to do that and win with the play of there secondary.

Edge: FSU's unit is faster, deeper and better. If they dominate Florida's offense will struggle.

Secondary: Florida's unit has struggled since the loss of Vernell Brown. Dee Webb is losing confidence and Reggie Lewis is just not an elite corner yet. The free safety play has been below average all season. Reggie Nelson did not play great versus South Carolina but he and Jarvis Herring have been the best players for the Gators. We should see Avery Atkins this week and he may provide a spark.

The Seminole corner backs have none of the nine interceptions by the FSU defense. Without Antonio Cromartie they have struggled especially over the last five games. Tony Carter has played the best of the group but he has been saddled with a shoulder injury most of the season. Kyler Hall plays the run well from the safety spot and Pat Watkins has experience at the other safety spot. This unit has been in position to make plays but has not. Will Mickey Andrews elect to play like South Carolina and Vandy and back way off in zone coverage? Or will he continue to play typical aggressive coverage?

Edge: Florida has played better overall and if Dee Webb can regain his confidence he could be the difference maker this week.

Coaching and Intangibles: I think both teams have a lot to play for and with FSU being on the road all the pressure is on the Gators. UF needs to win to salvage a season lost much like last year. It can help Urban Meyer transition into year two with a lot of positive momentum. An FSU win will give them confidence going into next week's ACC game where they can play loose and still pull an upset to get to the BCS. Intangibles are even with UF being at home being a big advantage. Coaching edge goes to Bowden who is 4-1 versus first year Gator coaches. He has won his last three against first year UF coaches. Meyer is unbeaten at home and has shown after a bye week that he and his staff can make the adjustments to go out and win a big game.

KEY PLAYERS:

For Florida to win: Chris Leak has to pass for 225 yards and not turn the ball over. Marcus Thomas must dominate inside like he did last year in Tallahassee. He committed first during the recruiting process to FSU before becoming a Gator. His stat line should read five tackles, 2.5 TFL's and a sack.

Dee Webb has struggled lately, yet leads the SEC in pass breakups. It's time for Webb to step up and hang on to the ball. He should have more interceptions and will get tested this week. Webb needs two interceptions and a couple of tackles/PBR's to help UF win

For FSU to win: Drew Weatherford will need 300 yards and 4 touchdowns to lead the Noles. Look for him to find a healthy Greg Carr in the red zone area. Wetherford must avoid throwing the ball up for grabs and take a sack if he has to. Broderick Bunkley is the only elite defensive lineman playing for FSU this week. He must be close to 10 tackles to stop the Gator ground attack. AJ Nicholson has had big games this year and will need a huge one Saturday. AJ had 19 tackles and 2 interceptions at Boston College earlier this year and will need to duplicate that performance.

HOW WILL IT PLAY OUT?: I think this will be an entertaining game played at a much higher level than these two teams have shown in recent weeks. I think the two coaches on the hot seat this week are both defensive coordinators. Greg Mattison and Charlie Strong must get there unit back to play physical football. UF did not rally to the ball well in Columbia and some players looked uninspired to me. On the other side Mickey Andrews unit has given up 20 points or more in five straight games and is looking for answers for the Seminoles. This is the key area to me in the game. I think if Florida can somewhat handle Bunkley they can get some big plays in the offense and score some points. If Maryland, Duke and Clemson can get 20+ points, I think UF at home can get to the 30's this week. Chris Leak will be efficient and I think the Gators may finally get a short field once or twice due to turnovers and special teams. I also think this will be a game where Dan Mullen finally lets a trick play out of his playbook. Gators find holes in a struggling FSU defense: I like Florida 35-28.

STATS: Broderick Bunkley of FSU has 17 tackles for loss on the season. Marcus Thomas has nine tackles for loss and three sacks this season … Greg Carr has nine touchdown catches which ties an ACC freshman record ... Chad Jackson needs 16 receptions to tie Carlos Alvarez for the UF record (88) … Drew Weatherford leads the nation in touchdowns by a freshman (15) … Chris Leak is 20-11 as the starting quarterback at UF.

FSU will be without sack leader Kamerion Wimbley (7.5 sacks) … Jarvis Moss leads Florida with six sacks in nine games this season ... Brandon Siler leads the SEC with six fumble recoveries ... Ernie Sims had seven individual tackles vs. Clemson in his last start ... Florida has outscored its opponents 94-40 in the second quarter ... FSU has outscored it's opponents 110-27 in the fourth quarter ... Florida has converted 38% on third downs this season ... FSU has converted 40% on third downs this season ... Florida has lost three preseason starters due to injury.(Vernell Brown, Andre Caldwell, Ray Mcdonald). McDonald not officially out but may be gone for this game ... FSU has had 28 players in their two deep miss at least one game due to injury.


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