Before I get going here, I'm going to come clean.
The assignment handed down to me for this story was to write why Florida will "blow out" Ohio State. But I couldn't go there. Couldn't do it.
I just don't think it will be a blow out.
This isn't January of 2007, when many were predicting one team would destroy the other when these two met (funny thing is, most were saying it was the Buckeyes who would demolish a Gator squad many pundits proclaimed should not have been in Glendale, Ariz. for the game ahead of a Michigan team OSU already had defeated).
Yeah, we all know what happened there.
But Chris Leak, Percy Harvin, Andre Caldwell, Cornelius Ingram and Tim Tebow aren't going to be trotting onto the field Monday afternoon in Jacksonville (for that part, neither are Troy Smith, Ted Ginn, Jr., Beanie Wells, Anthony Gonzalez and Brian Hartline).
And if competition is what you are looking for, that isn't a bad thing.
Here are a few reasons why:
1. Florida is 6-6, as is Ohio State
2. The Gators rank 71st nationally in average points scored (25.6). The Buckeyes are 74th (25.1).
3. UF allows an average of 20.6 ppg, good for 25th overall. Not far behind is OSU at 20.8 ppg allowed, putting it 27th.
So, everything being equal, why give Florida the edge, even if slight?
That's simple. Everything isn't equal.
First off, you don't see Alabama, Louisiana State, South Carolina or Georgia on Ohio State's schedule.
You can point all you want to the fact that the Buckeyes have faced Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska, and I won't argue those are opponents of significance. But I'd also argue that no doubt two (and possibly all four) of the above-listed Southeastern Conference teams are better than any of those Big Ten powers.
Second, the contest is 70 minutes from Gainesville in a stadium UF competed against UGa the last weekend of October.
It is a virtual home game for the Gators, who just played the best defensive game of the year a month ago against Florida State, allowing just 95 total yards of offense.
And third, Florida will probably be playing a little angry.
The Gator players most likely feel somewhat let down by the fact that their former coach, Urban Meyer, left them, saying he needed time away for health reasons—only to resurface a year later as the new coach of Ohio State.
Hey, that's no fault of the Buckeyes.
If I was building a team and Meyer was available, I'd do all I could to secure his services. The man did wonders at Bowling Green, took Utah to a BCS bowl game and then won two national titles in six seasons at UF.
The fact that he's an Ohio native just helped make the pitch that much more enticing.
But 19 to 23-year-old kids might not look at it as objectively.
To them, a man who sat on their living room couch and told them Florida was "the best place in America to play" (a phrase Meyer repeated many times during his tenure in Gainesville) and then ended up somewhere else while they were in school could come across as motivational and galling all at once.
The truth is, many of the kids on the Gator roster still love Meyer and wish him well. That doesn't mean they don't want to stick it to him a bit, too.
Meyer won't be coaching in the contest but he will be a part of it, even if he doesn't want to be. And I think that will be enough to lift UF to a 27-17 victory.