Monday January 2, 2012 at 1:00 PM on ESPN2 the Gator Bowl will kick off the second college football game of the New Year, and oh do the story lines pile up for this one. Now deemed the Urban Bowl, the Gator Bowl will feature the University of Florida Gators (6-6) and Ohio State Buckeyes (6-6) who do not deserve “the” in front of their name. Former school versus new school, team you quit on versus new challenge, or my favorite big boy ball versus the powder puff league up north. Whatever you want to call it, this game has become the battle of Urban Meyer’s former university versus his new university. If you tune in to ESPN2 to watch the game you better believe that will be the one and only story line on the telecast. So, instead we will actually cover what to expect on the field of play.
Florida comes into this game off of a terrible season by Gator Nation standards, and the 6-6 Gators have more problems to worry about than going up against their old coaches’ new team. The Gators have lost six of their last eight games, and the final loss to rival Florida State got their head coach Will Muschamp calling his team soft. They also go into the bowl game with the loss of two key coaches, and some players leaving the program. Charlie Weis former offensive coordinator has left the Gators to become the head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks, and well-known strength coach Mickey Marotti is now a Buckeye. It will be up to running backs coach Brian White to call the plays for the Gators, as Muschamp is a defensive minded coach.
The Gators have struggled at quarterback all season, and nobody knows that better than Gator fans who still dream about the Tebow days. John Brantley struggled most of the year and went out midseason with an ankle injury. That led to freshmen Jacoby Brissett and Josh Driskel both seeing action in his absence, but with no success. Most people expect Brantley to start in the Gator Bowl, but I would not be surprised if you see another quarterback see action during the game.
To make matters worse for Gator fans, they finished 102nd in total offense. Out of 120 schools that is not a good sign. But for some good news Gator Nation, Ohio State did finish right behind you at 107th in the NCAA. This should have defensive minded Coach Muschamp foaming at the mouth. His Gators defense finished 9th in the country and is led by a fantastic front seven. This fact only should make the Gator Nation smile.
Ohio State is just a little bit worse on offense, which was expected with the problems during the preseason. The Buckeyes lost quarterback Terrelle Pryor to the NFL, and had interim coach Luke Fickell taking over with the dismissal of Jim Tressel. Coach Fickell did help steady the ship and win six games in his interim season, but they come into the Gator Bowl losing their last three.
Ohio State has settled on a replacement for Pryor in freshman Braxton Miller. Miller is still learning the quarterback position at the collegiate level, and his arm has not quite caught up with his running ability. Over the last five games Miller averaged 90 rushing yards a game with his illusive scrambling ability at the quarterback position.
Ohio State is used to winning bowl games; winning their last two against Oregon in the 2010 Rose Bowl and Arkansas in the 2011 Sugar Bowl. If they want to beat the Gators in this game they will have to rely on their defense which finished 24th in the NCAA. Coach Fickell kept his defense together doing what he knows best.
So for now this game will be played between two defensive minded teams and coaches, and if defense is involved you always pick the SEC. Like we would actually pick Ohio State though, that means take the Gators 17-14 in a defensive battle for the ages.