HB: Five Keys To Victory In Tally

The SEC East Champions head to Tallahassee Saturday for a matchup with No. 20 Florida State in a game that has a lot at stake for both teams. The Gators are looking to survive and advance in the BCS sweepstakes. Winning this game is imperative for any shot at a birth in the BCS Championship Game. FSU wants to halt a four game slide against Florida and has their best team in five years.

Florida would like nothing better than to win five in a row over the Seminoles and to do that they will have to play much like they have been for most of the season. I would consider Florida State one of the top three teams on the Gators regular schedule this season and this will be the first time in two months playing in a hostile environment like one the Gators will see in Tallahassee on Saturday.

With that in mind, here are the five things the Gators need to take care of to win again and continue this outstanding season.

Win the turnover battle...

The Gators come in to the game with Florida State with the second best turnover margin in the country. The Gators are (+18) on the season. The Noles come in an even zero in turnover margin and ranked in the dead middle of the country at 60th. The weather calls for a high possibility of rain which is conducive to a slippery ball.

Stuffing the run...

FSU has improved their rushing offense dramatically this season from the last few years. Ranked at 28th in the nation at 190 yards a game, the FSU rushing offense has been key in big games and big wins for the Noles all season long. The Gators Rank 13th in the nation in rush defense allowing just 102.8 yards a game on the ground. If the Gators can stop the FSU running game, they will make the Noles one dimensional and in a not so comfortable passing mode.

Stuffing the run starts with senior Antone Smith. The running back from Pahokee has had his best season as a Seminole by far this year rushing for almost 00 yards and 14 touchdowns on the season. The wild card here is quarterback Christian Ponder who has done a great job most of the season breaking the containment of the defensive line and making yards on the ground with his feet. Ponder has 390 yards and four touchdowns on the ground this season.

If it gets to a passing game for the FSU offense, Florida is ranked third in the country in pass interceptions and the Gators' defense has reeled in 20 interceptions on the season. Ponder has thrown only six touchdowns against division one opponents in 2008, while throwing 11 interceptions. Making the Noles pass the ball should really skew the results in the Gators' favor.

Tebow must stay aggressive...

I'm not talking about through the air. Florida's Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Tim Tebow needs to stay aggressive with his feet and not get caught behind the line of scrimmage. FSU leads the country in tackles for loss and is ranked fourth in sacks in 2008 with 35 on the season (more than three a game). Tebow needs to know he cannot sit in the pocket for long periods of time as Florida State will blitz and send more than the Gators can block more often than not.

If he can keep the chains moving with his feet, the defense will start setting back on it's heels and not come after him as much. Tebow and company have done a pretty good job not taking sacks this season ranking 23rd nationally and only giving up 14.

Don't give up the big play...

Florida ranks third nationally in scoring defense on the season and a lot of that has to do with their ability not to give up the big play. Highly susceptible to it last season, the Gators have really not given up huge chunks of yardage on big plays very often since the Ole Miss game in week five. Florida is scoring 12 points more a game than FSU this season and allowing 6.5 points a game less than the Noles. The 18-point differential is indicative of the efficiency of both sides of the ball for the Gators. A long run given up or long pass not defended well, negates that efficiency. If one thing is true about this defense is they have played smart for most of the season. If that continues on Saturday this could be a lopsided win for the Gators.

Kickoff coverage needs to step up...

Seminole kick off return man Michael Ray Garvin leads the nation in kick off return average (32.23 yards per return. He also almost returned one for a touchdown two years ago that would have tied the game late against the Gators. The Gators have improved their kickoff coverage dramatically late in the season. They had a couple of bad coverages against The Citadel, and that can't happen against Garvin who is one of the fastest football players on the field and participates on FSU's national champion track team.

If the offense keeps it's pace it has been scoring at this season, the Gators will be kicking off a lot in this game. They need to make sure they aren't giving the Noles good field position by keeping tabs on Garvin.

The bottom line is the Gators have played well in all phases of the game including all the areas listed above. If they come out and win most of the battles above, they win. If they lose two or three of the key components above, this game stays close and anything can happen.


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