BCS Sugar Bowl Preview: Cincinnati vs Florida

The BCS matchups were announced Sunday, and TSX will preview them all. We started already on the lone determined matchup, the Rose Bowl between Ohio State and Oregon. Now we go to the other New Year’s Day Bowl game, the Sugar Bowl, between the at-large Florida Gators and the Big East Champion Cincinnati Bearcats.

Offense: This matchup is even. Cincinnati has not one, but TWO very efficient quarterbacks in Tony Pike and Zach Collaros. Pike, the senior who had a rough time in the game at Pittsburgh for the Big East crown, but he has no quit in him. His 2,350 yards and 26 touchdowns in only nine games of play on the year really showed that he could have been a bigger threat and candidate for the Heisman Trophy had he not got hurt. Collaros, who took over when Pike had his injury, is an option style QB that can run and pass with the best of them, and in the nine games he played, he threw for 1434 yards with 10 touchdowns to only two interceptions. The Bearcats also have a big time playmaker in WR Mardy Gilyard who had 80 receptions for 1150 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also has 1074 return yards on kickoffs with two touchdowns and 202 yards on punt returns and a touchdown. The running game led by Isaiah Pead, who ran for 758 yards. Cincy has all the weapons on offense to score a lot of points.

Florida has a very efficient offense led by one of the greatest college football players of all time, Tim Tebow. Tebow’s 2413 yards passing, 859 yards rushing, and 31 total touchdowns and his fiery passion is what fuels the Gators to their success and why they are 22-1 in the last 23 games, with the last loss coming in the SEC Championship to Alabama. The Gators aren’t just all Tebow on offense. Jeffery Demps (758 yds rushing, 7 TDs) and Chris Rainey (548 yds, 4 TDs) can make huge runs in the open field. The Gators also can air it out, and Tebow’s favorite targets are Riley Cooper (44 rec, 780 yds, 8 TDs) and Aaron Hernandez (59 rec, 739 yds 4 TDs). This offense is balanced and can score a lot of points, and score a lot of points in a hurry.

Defense: Advantage goes to Florida, the Gators allow 11.5 PPG, which is third in the country and fourth in the country in yards allowed per game at 252.8, and if the Bearcats turn the ball over, this is a defense that can make you pay. The turnovers that were committed in Pittsburgh will not fly in New Orleans. Florida has a hungry defense, and the status of DE Carlos Dunlap will be called to question by head coach Urban Meyer for his DUI arrest that suspended him indefinitely and caused him to miss the SEC Championship game. If the Bearcats can get Gilyard running wild on this defense, then they have a good chance of winning.

Cincinnati’s defense has a lot of holes and are coming in allowing 35+ points in three of the final four games of the season. This has to improve and they need to get up the middle of the line to get pressure on Tebow. If Tebow has enough time in the pocket, he will make you pay with his arm and with his legs. Remember, Cincy gave up 31 points at halftime against Pitt. If they give up that many against Florida in this game, they can forget about winning this game. When the Gators get the ball (off turnovers especially) and if the defense is unprepared, they will exploit you.

With all this said, this game will be won by a defensive stop, and all signs point towards the Florida Gators. Sure they gave up a season-high 32 points to Alabama, but they make adjustments, and with Tebow’s last game in a Gator uniform, he will definitely be looking to go out on a winning note in New Orleans. The Bearcats will put up a fight, but it will be the Gators that come out victorious.

Tomorrow: TSX takes a look at the Fiesta Bowl

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