First off, sorry about the delay in posting about the biggest game in Florida football for quite some time. For some reason work decided to stay open despite the fact that the Gators are playing for the National Title tonight against Ohio State in Glendale, Arizona. Bastards.
Anyways, we've all been waiting for this day. The "unstoppable" Ohio State Buckeyes come into Glendale tonight with a 12-0 record and 50-something days of rest to face the Florida Gators, a team with only one blemish and an SEC championship on their resume. I don't like to say that the Gators are out to "shock the world," but that's the way it is appearing right now...at least in the eyes of several of the ESPN and blog-dome "experts."
To start off, here are some of the "Key Questions of the Game" tonight in Glendale:
First off, how will Urban Meyer and his coaching staff do against one of the best big game coaches in the country, perhaps the best, Ohio State's Jim Tressel?
Jim Tressel has won championships, big conference games, big OOC games and has been especially dominant in BCS bowl games in his career. Urban Meyer doesn't carry the same track record, but still has been a great coach when it comes to getting his teams prepared for big games - especially with bye weeks under his belt. That being said, it's going to take a great gameplan and near perfect execution for Meyer to get the upper hand in this one.
In my mind Urban Meyer and his staff have only been outcoached in two games this season: the loss at Auburn and the narrow win over South Carolina. Against the Gamecocks we all knew that it was going to be tough to outcoach Steve Spurrier, one of the best head coaches in college football...but Auburn left us scratching our heads. Let's not forget that he and the coaches have learned a ton since last season, though, after they lost badly to Alabama, LSU and South Carolina.
Let's just hope that Meyer brings his A-game tonight, because staring at him across the field from the opposite sideline may be the best coach in the business. We will see how well prepared this team is and how perfectly they execute the gameplan tonight...until then we must worry about what Jim Tressel is bringing to the table with his team.
Will Florida be able to produce a running attack against a pretty strong Buckeyes front 7?
This, in my mind, will be the biggest question of the night. The Gators must have some sort of rushing success to keep the Buckeyes defense off-balanced and produce play opportunities for Chris Leak to get his athletic receivers the ball.
The Gators rushing attack has not been awe-inspiring this season stats-wise, coming in with an average of 160 yds/game and 4.8 yds/carry. The Buckeyes defense has given up a little more than 93 yds/game, but Michigan RB Mike Hart had a pretty big day on the ground in Ohio State's last matchup - giving us reason to believe the Gators could gain some yards on the ground.
The question is - how? Will the Gators use Percy Harvin in a RB role quite a bit tonight? How will DeShawn Wynn bounce back after having a pretty severe foot bruise that kept him out of practice a few times? Will the Gators O-Line get a good push consistently up front?
This is my biggest question mark because I really have no clue what is going to happen in this area. Percy Harvin has been a monster in his last two games - let's hope that it carries into tonight against the Buckeyes.
Can Florida convert good drives into points once in the red zone?
This has been a problem all season long. Getting into the red zone and not getting any points out of it due to a weak FG game (Hetland is 4 of 13 this season, enough said) and some poor execution on offense inside the opponent's 20.
Ohio State has been pretty good at keeping opponents out of the endzone once in the redzone...Herbstreit mentioned today that in 35 visits for opponents, they have only come out with 9 touchdowns...leading me to believe that the Gators may have to rely on Hetland at some point tonight.
They will need him to break through in the 14th game of the season. Hetland will need to forget the past and live in the moment. And anything else cliche.
Can the Gators stop Troy Smith?
The Gators have been playing well against some good WR's this season, though they have not faced a Heisman Trophy winner yet. Troy Smith is good. Real good. And he's good when you think that he's not going to do anything on a play.
Ohio State will try to spread the Gators defense out. It's been well documented. They did it against Michigan with great success and now will try it against Florida. Will Florida have enough to stop multi-WR sets and be able to contain the run at the same time? This is the big question, because this is what they'll have to do to win.
The key is containment. Don't let Troy Smith make the big play by slipping out of the pocket and finding time to throw to his big-play receivers. All the teams OSU has faced this season has made that mistake. The Gators must find a way to get pressure on him from the end positions, keep him in the pocket and hopefully get not one, but several, hands in his on every opportunity. Don't give the Buckeyes receivers time to get open, don't give Troy Smith a chance to buy time and find open receivers and make sure you TACKLE when the times comes to do that.
The National Championship Game. 8 pm. FOX. Holy Crap. More to come in a bit...
Update [2007-1-8 18:23:8 by GatorMark]:D'oh. In rushing to get this post up I failed to mention anything regarding Gators QB Chris Leak. Yeah. He better have a good game. Nothing like the second half of the Auburn game or the 3rd quarter of the Arkansas game. We'll take the 4th quarter of the Tennessee game, thank you.