ACK: Gators Excited About Outback This Time

Florida returns to the Outback Bowl to face Iowa once again and this time they will actually be excited to be there. The game sold out in 24 hours and the Gators will have some interesting factors in there favor in this game. In all bowl games, the team that practices and focuses the most will have a good game. Sometimes in bowl games one team is more caught up with the "fun stuff" and not on the game and that could cause them to get beat.

In this game UF has two things going for it that it did not have two years ago. First the Gators have the "payback" opportunity because of the loss. Iowa manhandled UF and embarrassed the Gators. It's these types of things that can motivate a team and help them retain their focus. Secondly UF comes into this game with the better defense than Iowa. That was not the case last time so I think this is a good matchup for Florida.

These teams are similar in they have a couple of close losses that could have changed there seasons. Iowa lost to Michigan and Northwestern while UF lost to LSU and South Carolina. Both quarterbacks have similar numbers after having huge pre season expectations. Drew Tate was a 19 touchdown/6 interception guy while Chris Leak was 18/6. Leak hit 63% for 2361yds and Tate hit 63% while throwing for 2,482 yards. Both guys can lead their team. Tate missed most of the Iowa State game which cost them dearly in that loss.

Iowa averages around 30 points per game and gives up 19. The offense has Albert Young who ran for 1,714 yards and the defense is anchored by the two linebackers, Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge. The defensive line is not as good as it was a year ago and that has been the problem on the defense that gave up 376 yards per game. One other stat favors Florida in this game: Florida is among the national leaders in turnover margin while Iowa finished the year at -1.

Some thoughts on other bowl games: The Rose Bowl will be a good game and without one team turning it over should not be a blowout. The Texas defense is really good and if there front can dominate they could slow down USC.

The Fiesta Bowl is the perfect offense versus defense matchup with Notre Dame and Ohio State. I think Brady Quinn vs. Troy Smith is a great matchup.

FSU has a shot to beat Penn State because they can stop the run and the Lions passing game took a hit when Derrick Williams was injured and lost for the season.

West Virginia can run the football on anyone and will test Georgia's average run defense. Miami will probably take apart LSU in the Peach Bowl. The Canes don't want to be embarrassed and I am not sure Les Miles can coach a bowl game. (He was 1-2 at Oklahoma State) Auburn is better than Wisconsin and it may not be as close as some think. Oklahoma will want to win its bowl game versus Oregon so expect Stoops to have his team ready to snap the losing streak in bowl games. Northwestern and UCLA may score 100 points combined in the Sun Bowl. Congrats to UCF and USF for making bowl games and working on making this state the Big Five.

All-Conference Teams: The All SEC teams were announced by the media and the coaches this week with a few surprises. I mentioned earlier the quarterbacks, but what about Brandon Siler and Marcus Thomas? Siler did not even make honorable mention and there is no way Thomas should not have been on at least the second team. Thomas had a terrific year and will be a candidate to be preseason first team next year. I thought Tennessee's defense was good but got too much credit for a 5-6 team that lost to Vanderbilt. Florida could have as many as four players on the first two teams next season. Jarvis Moss, Thomas, Siler and Reggie Nelson all will be on this team next year. Three of the top four receivers were underclassman which also speaks volumes for the lack of offense in the conference. Chad Jackson was the only upperclassman on the two teams. I think both Tyrone Prothro and Andre Caldwell were two guys who would have made the first two teams had they not been injured.

Recruiting: I am not recruiting expert, but on paper UF is having a tremendous year. Urban Meyer has proven to be a very strong recruiting head coach. The name everyone wants to know about is Tim Tebow from Nease. I am doing the State Finals this week for Sun Sports and can't wait to see him in person. My research this week tells me he is a great kid who is a team first type of player. He really likes to study film and more importantly study game plans. Film work is fine, but putting together a plan and having input is more like NFL quarterbacks than high school signal callers.

Here are the two things I got from my questioning this week. First he wants to go somewhere he could play right away and have a shot as a freshman. (Ack's analysis: Alabama loses Croyle and Florida returns Chris Leak). My other question led me to Florida's offense and Urban Meyer. The offense struggled this year so do you think it can work in the SEC? The answer I got is Tim Tebow is the perfect fit for Urban Meyer's offense and he can make it work. It's obvious they are playing it close to the vest. I think he has good parents and reminds me of Danny Wuerffel. He will announce on Tuesday and I still think he is a Gator but as we all know anything can happen!

Numbers: The SEC got six teams into bowl games in what is considered by some a down year. The conference was unable to fill its eight spots which opened the doors for other teams. But if you look at the oddsmakers opinions of the SEC they think the league is still pretty good. The SEC is favored in four of five bowl games with no line yet on the LSU-Miami game because of Jamarcus Russell. I think Miami may be a slight favorite but it should be a great game. The one underdog is Alabama, who will match up with my friend Mike Leach and Texas Tech. Auburn is the biggest favorite by 10 points over Wisconsin.

More Numbers: UF did not have a great offensive year but they did have some solid numbers when you look at the overall conference standings. UF was fourth in scoring offense and fourth in total offense. The Gators were number one in turnover margin and had only five fumbles and seven interceptions all season. The Gators finished fourth in rushing offense in the SEC. Florida was fifth in first downs. The Gators finished 11-19 on fourth downs, fourth best in the SEC. Chris Leak was third in passing and third in total offense. Chad Jackson led the SEC in receptions.

Not a bad first year for Dan Mullen and the offense considering the injuries and the new system. Look for improvement in third down conversions, points and red zone offense in year two for Mullen.

Next week I will re-cap some of the top prospects that I will see in this weekend's FHSAA Finals. Check out Sun Sports Friday night when #1 in the country Lakeland takes on #4 St. Thomas Aquinas.

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