A Game By Game Preview: 2008 Florida Gators
The Warriors come into Gainesville at the end of this month to take on the Gators. This game could have had so many more implications than it does now, and it did until June Jones left for Southern Methodist.
Gator fans around the country won't ever forget Jones and his politicking for Colt Brennan--not that he did it, just the way he went about calling Tebow a "system QB." Gator Nation would have loved for Jones and Brennan to come to the Swamp for some payback, but it's just not in the cards for this season.
Aside from the controversy not-to-be, the biggest disadvantage Hawaii encounters will be a mixture of time and humidity. The game is scheduled for 12:30 pm EST; that's 6:30 am Hawaii time. Now I know that they are used to traveling extensively throughout the season and I know that they might spend the whole week in Gainesville prior to the game, but that could still wear on them. Humidity is another factor. Hawaii is indeed hot and I know that humidity is used as a "scare tactic" for the SEC's favor, but it's true. A 12:30 kickoff in the Swamp will be no day at the beach.
Offensive Player of the Game (OPG): Tim Tebow. He will probably go for 5+ TD's himself.
Deffensive Player of the Game (DPG): Jermaine Cunningham. I see him getting off the ball very early and disrupting Tyler Graunke and the Warrior offense that only returns four starters (and only one on the offensive line.)
UF 55 UH 10
An old rivalry renewed--again. ESPN's Gameday crew will be in town for the Battle for the Seminole War Canoe (the only authentic one in the world, in fact, according to Miami) scheduled to start at 8:30pm.
The last time these esteemed programs faced off in the regular season, Miami got the best of the Gators in Coral Gables with a tremendous second-half comeback. It is completely true that Miami has not only owned the Gators in recent years, but quite handily.
With "The U" limping in off a less-than-sterling 2007 season, with no QB and a throng of younger players (some of whom are in trouble with the law or school), this game will probably go in the Gators' favor, making Urban Meyer 21-1 in the Swamp.
This is no gimme though as rivalry games prove to be a whole new ball game. With passion and bragging rights for the State of Florida at stake, Miami can certainly make this interesting.
OPG- The TE's. Ingram and Gonzales will be able to tear open holes in Miami's secondary.
DPG- Brandon Spikes. The Monster in the Middle will probably wreak havoc on a young Miami Offense.
UF 34 UM 17
@ Tennessee (9/20)
This is the Gator's first (and let's face it, only) road test. One thing going in UF's favor is the time. The Gators have a bye-week before the game for the first time in a long time. Also, it is slated to be a 3:30pm game which bodes well for the Orange and Blue. And night game anywhere in the SEC is tough, but with 100,000+ UT fans screaming Rocky Top can send chills down even a Swiss Guard's spine.
Fulmer will definitely have the Vols rearing to go and ready on both sides of the ball, but I just think that Florida's speed on the offensive side will over-match them. Percy Harvin was unleashed last year in the 59-20 thumping in the Swamp, and this year two to three other flying horsemen will be unleashed: Moody, Rainey and Demps (if the Olympics are not in his future).
Florida's D can prove to be a let down in this game because UT brings a hyped QB (Crompton) and an experienced OL to the table. But new additions like Omar Hunter and returning studs like Carlos Dunlap for the Gators may penetrate enough to let the LB's and secondary prove to the football nation-and themselves-that they are talented enough to compete for the SEC title.
One way or another, I see the winner of this game winning the East as well. I think the explosiveness of UF, as mentioned above, will be the defining factor and I think they sneak out of Knoxville with the W.
OPG- Tebow and Harvin. I think the Dynamic Duo will hookup for at least 4 touchdowns.
DPG- Major Wright. I think the hard hitting safety will be a force in disrupting Crompton's game.
UF 42 UT 21
Ole Miss (9/27)
Ole Miss gave Meyer and UF a bit of a scare last year in Oxford, but coming to Gainesville will be a whole other experience for the Rebels. Last time they were here, though, a certain Manning led a couple of drives to upset Zook and the Gators. I'm not sure payback is on the minds of the players, but it is for some fans.
I don't want to say this game is a gimme, but I'm going ahead and doing so. I think coming off a big victory in Knoxville will not affect the focus of the players and coaching staff. UF wins in a rout over Houston Nutt's new team.
OPG- Harvin. He might go for four TD's himself. Running, receiving, passing, walking, running, slipping and sliding. He'll have a field day against the Reb's defense.
DPG- Spikes. Send him on a few blitzes, drop him back to cover zone or spy Snead. He'll have a field day as well.
UF 52 MISS 10
@ Arkansas (10/4)
The Gators make the trek to Fayatteville to visit Bobby Petrino and the Razorbacks. This is hardly a rematch of the 2006 SEC Championship game, however. Both teams have uniquely changed. Arkansas has a new coach and a new game plan. Florida never have played a Petrino-coached team, and playing on the road, may have them scrambling to make plays on defense. Casey Dick back at the helm, though, can help because they know how to ruffle his feathers a little.
But Arky is a depleted team, losing 11 starters including McFadden, Jones and Monk on the offense and Harrison and Grant on the defense. It will come down to penalties and playcalling for both sides. Expect a tough game for the Orange and Blue in the first half when the fans are in it, but as the second half rolls around, it will be a whole new ballgame.
OPG- Starting RB (Moody, Williams or Moore). Who ever is back there will get opportunities to run on the inexperienced D.
DPG- Cunningham and Dunlap. These two will force their way on a relatively new line and run Dick ragged.
UF 41 Ark 13
Always a battle to the finish, these two SEC powerhouses (the last two National Champs, even) will duke it out in the Swamp. Implications for this game, as it has been for the past few years, are great as SEC pride and dominance is a stake.
But LSU comes into the game, at least from a pre-season point of view, with a new team. Key loses for the Bayou Bengals include Flynn, Perrilloux, Hester and Doucet on offense, and Dorsey, Steltz, and Highsmith on the defensive side. With these holes to fill and the game being in Gainesville, I believe the Gators have the advantage in this match up.
No question about it, though, LSU will come prepared with a game plan, but Miles won't be able to rely on 4th down conversions to come away with the victory.
OPG- Tebow. He'll play with a chip on his shoulder in an emotional game once again.
DPG- D-Line. If they get penetration, the LB core and the Secondary can handle their own.
UF 34 LSU 21
Kentucky (HC) (10/25)
The Wildcats make their way to Gainesville, where the site is never pretty for them. The Gators, looking are for their 22nd straight win against the Cats from the Bluegrass, and may have to fight for it. Rich Brooks will throw everything he's got at the Gator D, but there is too much at stake for the Gators to blow it. Meyer will go full throttle, utilizing Harvin to his full potential.
The Gators held their own last year in Kentucky against Andre' Woodson; expect them to do it again against potential starter Curtis Pulley.
OPG- O-Line. Blocking for Tebow and Harvin will prove to be key for the Gator's success.
DPG- (Or really, Special Teams PG)- Brandon James. He will have a couple of big returns this season as the return specialist and I think this is a big break out game for him.
UF 45 UK 17
Georgia (Jax) (11/1)
The toughest game for the Gators by far this season is the Cocktail Party. UGA and their fans will come 100% and expecting to win. There is a big possibility of both teams being #1 and #2 entering the game.
Urban said the the Dawgs rushing the field, the "big deal," will not be forgotten and will be dealt with. Look for the Gators to come out swinging on offense. If he wins the toss, Meyer will definitely want the ball to jam it down their throats.
Big time plays by big time players will most likely be the game plan for both teams. Penalties will be a factor because Refs will be on the lookout for bad behavior. It will definitely be a fight to the finish, probably the last drive of the game. But I expect Florida to win and prove that last year was a fluke. Any way you cut it, it's a grand match up of Tebow vs. Stafford, Moreno vs. UF Defense, Harvin vs. UGA Defense, and a big Special Teams battle.
OPG- Harvin. He will be sent out long a few times by Meyer to get a Tebow bomb or two. I also think he will split the UGA defense for about 75 yards and a TD or two.
DPG- Entire defense. This game will need synergy on all parties for a successful mission. I think they get it with a final stand.
UF 39 UGA 37
@ Vanderbilt (11/8)
Vandy went 5-7 last year, but could have gone 8-4 if a few plays went the other way. They are at the bottom of the SEC food chart, but by no means a certain victory, especially for the Gators in Nashville. Vandy always plays the Gators tough at Dudley Field. But this year will be like most of the others, resulting in a UF victory--not by much though.
Three straight games of LSU, UK and UGA will have worn on the Gators, and probably Tebow as well. It will more likely than not be a close game until the 4th quarter when the Gators turn on the burners. Don't expect too much from the offense, though.
OPG- Running backs. They will be the saving grace of this game.
DPG- Dustin Doe. He will help out Spikes on the outside and get 10-15 tackles.
UF 28 Vandy 13
South Carolina (11/15)
The Old Ball Coach returns to Gainesville for the second time, and the first was a doozy. Don't expect this one to be as close, though. With USC fighting for a bowl spot again this year, Spurrier will put everything he's got on the field.
The Gamecocks, unlike many of UF's other opponents, return 18 total starters (10 on defense). This will be a factor, until the second half. Florida will regain its speed and run all over the USC defense and Florida's defensive line will wear down the O-Line of USC allowing for the LB and the secondary to make big plays. Spurrier walks away, still win-less in the Swamp as an opposing coach.
OPG- Tebow. He tore up the USC D last season and is primed to do it once again this season.
DPG- Cunningham. Once again he will reek havoc on the SC O-Line for a humongous game.
UF 31 USC 13
The Citadel (11/22)
Just like FAU last year and Western Carolina before them, The Citadel provides the Gators with a game to rest the starters in the second half and discover hidden gems in the depths of the 3-deep roster before the FSU game. This will not be an Appy State travesty and the Gators will have no trouble putting the Bulldogs down.
Look for big stats in the first half of the game for the starters.
OPG- Tebow. He'll probably get 7 touchdowns in the first half alone.
DPG- Pick Your Own. Anyone and everyone will have a chance to shine on defense for this game.
@ Florida State (11/29)
The Gators travel to Tallahassee to take on the Seminoles, who will be searching for revenge for the 45-12 thumping last year. Just like the Miami game, the passion and pageantry of the game will fuel both sides, but I think UF has the edge here.
The offense, at this point, will be too proven and too unstoppable for many defenses including the Noles. Depending on whether or not this is a night game, it could be close for a while, but I believe Florida pulls away in the 3rd quarter to put the game out of reach.
OPG- WR core. They will make plays and get Tebow out of situations to lift the Gators up.
DPG- Wright. He will be a hawk once again in the defensive back field causing pass breakups and interceptions.
UF 39 FSU 13
- If there is a season for the Gators to go all the way and win the NC, this is the year-the schedule is manageable-the right teams at the right time.
- This is a rebuilding year for a lot of the SEC teams. New QB's, new coaches, etc.
- The offense is as good as advertised. The defense is young, and partially inexperienced, but will prove their worth by the Arkansas game.
- Scary games (that could go either way): UT, UGA
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