Cincinnati has the unknown's advantage heading into the Sugar Bowl with Florida. The Gators have been dissected from every angle, in numerous situations. The Bearcats, while playing in a BCS Conference and last year's Orange Bowl, are largely unknown outside of the Northeast. Unknown except for Mardy Gilyard.
Gilyard is 11th nationally with 1150 yards and will likely crack 1200 yards for the second consecutive season. He also needs one more catch to equal last season's 81 receptions, and has 11 touchdowns. For Cincinnati, Gilyard makes the offense go, but against suspect defenses. Cincy faced two defenses in the top-30 of total defense; Rutgers (17th) and Pitt (26th). In contrast, Florida has faced five of the top-30. But Gilyard still played very well against Rutgers and Pitt, which bookended Cincy's schedule. In the season finale against Pitt, Gilyard had five catches for 118 yards and a touchdown during the Bearcats furious comeback to win the Big East and stay undefeated.
For the Florida fan, Gilyard's 6-foot-1 frame and long arms is a concern, until you realize that Joe Haden will likely be on him all game. Haden limited Georgia's A.J. Green and Alabama's Julio Jones to combine for five catches and 78 yards. Gilyard is also three inches smaller than those receivers. Gilyard is playing for something extra, however. Just as Florida fans are in the dark about how good Gilyard might be, so are a lot of intelligent football people. They will be watching closely Friday to see how Gilyard handles Haden and he can make the move from late first round/early second of the draft to the big money in the top-15 picks. Gilyard is also from Flagler County, so don't underestimate the impact of playing against his home state.
QB Tony Pike is one of the other nonames on offense. Pike is averaging 261 yards per game and has 26 touchdowns to six interceptions. Like Tim Tebow, he finds ways to win and is willing to play through pain. If Pike cannot get to Gilyard, he will not hesitate to throw to WR Armon Binns, who has 10 touchdowns. He was the man who caught the game winner against Pitt. The Bearcats' sixth ranked passing attack spreads the field, offering space to RB Isaiah Pead, who has 10 touchdowns despite an average of 10 carries per game. Pead can take a game over, as he demonstrated with his 175 yards against West Virginia. In that game, Cincy won 24-21, but had two turnovers and played part of the game without Pike, due to a broken arm.
Florida keeps saying the right things in terms of being focused and not wanting to lay an egg like in the SEC Championship Game. But it will be easier said that done, even if you believe Cincy has not faced a defense like Florida's.