Gators Looking for Lucky 13

It's safe to assume there are few if any people on the Gator football team that suffer from triskaidekaphobia. After all, winning 13 games in 2006 and again in 2008 there's no fear of the number 13 in Florida's camp. And that's a good thing since the Gators will be going for their 13th win of this season Friday night in New Orleans.

The Gators take on the undefeated Cincinnati Bearcats and the winner of this game has an excellent chance to finish as high as No. 2 in the final polls. Both teams are also playing under the shadow of a strange coaching situation. Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly left the team for Notre Dame and interim coach Jeff Quinn is the new head man at Buffalo. The Gators have defensive coordinator Charlie Strong busily trying to get things going as the head coach at Louisville while Zack Azzanni has replaced Billy Gonzales in tutoring Gator receivers. Plus there's the whole situation involving Gator coach Urban Meyer and his health issues.

With all that the game itself has been overshadowed in the coverage leading up to the kickoff New Year's night and that's a shame.

Cincinnati has one of the top offenses in the country and has scored 40 or more points six times. In fact, Cincy has scored at least 28 in every game. They have decent balance with 144 rushing yards and 320 passing. They average five offensive touchdowns a game.

The offense is led by senior QB Tony Pike (2,350, 26/6) who is one of the top passers in the nation. Pike is projected as a probable second round pick in the upcoming NFL draft. He missed four games during the season and his back up Zack Collaros is effective throwing (1,434 10/2) and running with the ball (344, 4). Pike is the main guy but Collaros will play and they'll mix in some option when he's on the field.

Cincinnati boasts superb receivers led by Mardy Gillyard (80-1,150, 11), Armon Binns (56-859, 10) and DJ Woods (47-594, 4). Gillyard and Binns are every bit as good as the better receivers in the SEC. They also make use of their tight ends who have combined (33-492, 4) to be very productive. Cincinnati throws effective to their backs, too (35-323, 4).

The running game is solid with a lot of draw plays. Isaiah Pead (758, 9) and Jacob Ramsey (421, 4) do a good job keeping defenses honest. The total yards are not overwhelming, but 5.1 yards per run is pretty impressive. They run single back most of the time.

The offensive line is solid all the way across, but not overly powerful. They rely on the passing threat and speedy backs to make the running game go and the focus of the O-Line is to protect the QB. They do that well, allowing just over a sack a game. Senior center Chris Jurek is probably the best of the unit, but it's a solid group with no glaring weakness.

Overall this is the best offensive team the Gators have faced this year. It'll be quite a challenge to see if the Gators come out in their "joker" package from the very beginning to see if Cincinnati can run on it. If they can' it could be a long night. Florida's defense will try to rebound from its worst effort in almost two years in the Alabama game.

Fightin Gators Top Stories