2012 Gator - Florida 24, Ohio State 17

Posted Jan 2, 2012

2011-2012 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl

2012 Gator

Florida vs. Ohio State

- 2011-2012 CFN Bowl Central

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National Rankings
101st Total Offense 107th
9th Total Defense 24th
71st Scoring Offense 74th
25th Scoring Defense 26th
75th Rushing Offense 27th
39th Run Defense 53rd
87th Passing Offense 117th
10th Passing Defense 15th
113th Turnover Margin 32nd
Position Rankings
relative to each other
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
F   O
3 Quarterbacks 4
4.5 RBs 4
3 Receivers 3.5
3 O Line 3
5 D Line 3
4 Linebackers 3
4 Secondary 3.5
3 Spec Teams 4
3 Coaching 2
Gator Bowl
Florida 24 … Ohio State 17

- CFN Thoughts on the Gator

Florida: Sacks. Florida 6, Ohio State 0 … John Brantley completed 12-of-16 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown with a pick. … Chris Rainey ran 16 times for 71 yards and returned a punt for 31 yards. He also led the team with three catches for 31 yards and came up with a blocked punt for a score. … Jon Bostic made eight tackles with foru tackles for loss. … Andre DeBose returned a kickoff 99 yards for a score.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes converted 2-of-10 third down chances. … Braxton Miller completed 18-of-23 passes for 162 yards and two scores. … Dan Herron ran 12 times for 82 yards. .. DeVier Posey caught five passes for 38 yards and a score. … Ryan Shazier led the team with ten tackles

(AP) JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Florida's special teams came up big in the Gator Bowl, scoring twice as the Gators beat Ohio State 24-17 on Monday in a game between Urban Meyer's old team and his future one.

Andre Debose returned a kickoff 99 yards - the longest scoring play in bowl history - and Chris Rainey blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown.

The speedsters helped the Gators (7-6) avoid their first losing season since 1979 and pick up some much-needed momentum after losing six of their previous eight games.

Ohio State (6-7) finished below .500 for the first time since 1986. The Buckeyes can take solace in knowing that Meyer, who officially takes over at Ohio State this week, will make it a priority to improve special teams. Meyer did that in his six seasons in Gainesville, and Rainey and Debose were two of his most prized recruits.

Ohio State fell to 0-10 in bowl games against teams from the Southeastern Conference. Yes, the Buckeyes beat Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl last year. But that victory was vacated.

The latest loss had everything to do with Florida's speed.

The Gators dominated the defensive line of scrimmage. They had a season-high six sacks, harassing Braxton Miller on nearly every passing play. Jaye Howard and Sharrif Floyd were disruptive all afternoon.

Florida had similar success the last time it played Ohio State. The Gators were dominant on defense in a 41-14 win in the 2007 Bowl Championship Series national title game in Glendale, Ariz.

Debose and Rainey proved to be the difference in the much-hyped rematch that centered around Meyer.

Just after Ohio State tied the game at 7 on Miller's 5-yard pass to DeVier Posey in the second quarter, Debose took the kickoff, made one cut to the outside and went untouched for his third career special teams touchdown. The Buckeyes never got close enough to even swipe at him, let alone make the tackle.

Florida was up 14-10 at halftime and essentially put the game out of reach on the opening possession of the third.

Rainey came off the left end and blocked Ben Buchanan's punt. Seldom-used linebacker Graham Stewart scooped it up at the 14-yard line and scored the first touchdown of his career.

It was Rainey's sixth blocked punt of his career, breaking the school and SEC record.

Rainey also ran for 71 yards on a warm and sunny day in Jacksonville. John Brantley completed 16 of 22 passes for 132 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He had a 17-yard strike to Deonte Thompson in the first.

Jeff Demps added 31 yards on the ground.

Ohio State wasn't nearly as effective.

Miller completed 18 of 23 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran 15 times for 20 yards. He completed an 11-yard TD pass to Jordan Hall with 57 seconds remaining. The Buckeyes failed to recover an onside kick, and Florida ran out the clock for its sixth bowl victory in the last seven years.

Ohio State's Dan Herron ran for 82 yards, but also had a fumble. Posey finished with five catches for 37 yards.

Miller, a freshman, gives Meyer an experienced and improving quarterback for next season. The Buckeyes won't be bowl eligible, though.

The NCAA hit Ohio State with a one-year bowl ban and additional penalties last month for violations stemming from players who exchanged jerseys, rings and other Buckeyes memorabilia for cash and tattoos. The violations cost coach Jim Tressel his job, and the Buckeyes turned things over to interim coach Luke Fickell.

The Buckeyes lost four in a row to end the season.

Ohio State (6-6) vs. Florida (6-6) Jan. 2, 1 pm, ESPN2

Here's The Deal … The game is on ESPN2.

ESPN2 is for tractor pulls. ESPN2 is for strange talk shows with screamy people pretending to be mad about the latest sports news of the day. ESPN2 is where careers go to die, famously kicked off with Keith Olbermann's "Welcome to the end of my career," line.

Big-time sporting events are played on free TV networks with three letters, while Ohio State vs. Florida is getting a seat at the kid's table being banished to "The Deuce." Meanwhile, Florida International and Marshall even got a shot to play on the big network.

How weak is ESPN2? Urban Meyer is too cool to work a game on it as a color analyst.

It's Ohio State vs. Florida, and while that alone should be enough to be fired up, the game is mostly about the guy who won't even be a part of it. Both programs and both coaching staffs might be trying to say and do all the right things in the Taxslayer.com Urban Bowl, but he's the story.

Florida is either 1) trying to pick up the pieces left by Meyer after he left to spend time with his family – ESPN – or 2) it's freaking out that Will Muschamp is more Zook than Urban. No, Meyer didn't leave the cupboard bare, coming up with one of the best-ranked recruiting classes in decades a few years ago and with a slew of NFL talents on both sides of the ball. Even with an injury to starting quarterback John Brantley, there was no excuse for the offense to be as awful as it was – even though it was apparently good enough to make Charlie Weis attractive to Kansas – and the defense was great mostly because SEC offenses were so miserable.

This is supposed to be a turn-key program. A head coach was supposed to walk in and win big right away, but Muschamp didn't meaning his seat will get flaming hot for the next eight months if he can't come up with a win over the mediocre Buckeyes.

It might be the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl, but enjoy it now, OSU fans, because it's the last bowl game you'll see until 2014 – if everything works out according to plan. Paying for sins of the past, Ohio State lost scholarships and was banned from playing in a bowl game next year, so this is a huge game not just for the current seniors, but for the juniors who'll get their last all expenses paid vacation.

Like Florida, Ohio State went through a coaching change and there was plenty of turmoil, but there was also too much talent to be as flaky and as lousy as it was. Closing out with three straight losses, not only would a defeat mean the first losing season since 1988, but it would also start up the Ohio State Can't Beat An SEC Team storyline again after hanging on for dear life in the tattoo-stained Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas.

Yeah, both are 6-6 and came up with wildly disappointing seasons, and yes, both are used to playing on the big stages with confetti waiting to be dropped, but these are still two of the most talented teams in America and this still might be the most interesting and intriguing bowl matchup until the BCSers kick things off.

And no, there's no truth to the rumor that both teams have to kiss Urban's rings as they run out of the tunnel.

Why Florida Might Win: The overall talent level and speed are at the typical Florida level, but it's just a question of everything coming together. With time off, this might be a case of a team relaxing and simply playing up to its skill – like Texas did against Cal in the Holiday Bowl. Time is healing plenty of Gator wounds, like quarterback John Brantley's high ankle sprain.

The defensive talent is in place to shut down the Ohio State offense cold. As is the case with all the SEC teams, the defensive stats are a bit off because the league's offenses were so awful, but the Gators also stomped on Florida State, holding the Nole attack to just 95 yards of total offense in the bizarre loss. The Florida defensive front dominated from the start and has the potential to overwhelm the OSU O line that hasn't exactly been a rock when it comes to keeping quarterback Braxton Miller upright.

There's no passing game for the Gator secondary to worry about, and while Miler had a huge game against Michigan, and DeVier Posey will likely be a factor on a few plays, there won't be too much concern on the outside. Florida will take its chances with a passing game that didn't hit the 100-yard mark for a stretch of four games in five, and the defensive line will be able to tee off in the backfield.

The OSU defense isn't bad and it's been terrific at times, but it doesn't force enough mistake with just three interceptions in the final five games and a mere five fumble recoveries on the season. For an offense that can use all the help it can get, coming up with takeaways is a must, but the Buckeyes have picked up just two fumbles in the last seven games and doesn't have much of a feel for making big plays against good offenses. Fortunately. …

Why Ohio State Might Win: Florida is awful at taking the ball away. Only Boston College and Central Michigan came up with fewer fumbles than the four the Gators pounced on, and worse yet, it's not like the D was creating the chances failing to even cause a fumble for a seven game stretch. The OSU passing game might not be all that great, but Miller doesn't make a slew of big mistakes. For a Florida offense that needs breaks and field position, that's going to be a problem.

Yes, Florida has an NFL defensive line full of talent that every school in America wanted, but it can be beaten up and run on. Alabama and LSU ran without a problem, and a Marcus Lattimore-less South Carolina came up with 215 yards and two touchdowns. Miller's mobility is the biggest key to the Ohio State attack, but getting back a fresh Dan Herron has helped a ground game that went four straight games with 200 rushing yards or more.

It might seem a bit rah-rah, but don't underestimate the sanction factor. Ohio State players and coaches appear to be legitimately ticked off about not being able to go to a bowl game next year, and while there will still be the Big Ten title to play for, there will be an extra incentive knowing that this is the last bowl for roughly half the starters. Even in a loss, the Buckeyes showed they could take their game to another level, and at the very least, they showed they can put some point on the board scoring 33 or more in three of the last five games. Florida hasn't hit the 30-point mark against an FBS team since blasting Kentucky 48-10 on September 24th.

What To Watch Out For: Through a combination of bad luck, poor coaching, and picking the wrong school for the right reasons, the John Brantley era didn't work. He had the impossible task of following in the footsteps of Tim Tebow, but he was just as big a recruit coming out of high school and he had just as much promise and potential. He went to Florida because he was a legacy, and it was his dream, but he was a pure passer who went to a football program that wants its quarterbacks to run, turning out to be the proverbial square peg in a round hole. It seemed like his career would get a shot in the arm with the new coaching staff and the addition of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, but he could never quite get the passing attack going as expected and finished with just ten touchdown passes – four coming against Furman – and six picks in an injury-plagued year. It's been a rough few years, but going out with a win over Ohio State would be a high point.

On the flip side, Brantley's counterpart is just getting started. True freshman Braxton Miller achieved legendary status with his touchdown pass in the final moments to beat Wisconsin, and while he struggled like any first-year player would, he showed that he's a playmaker to build an offense around. A quick runner who's impossible to bottle up with just one defender, he ran for 100 yards or more in three of the last four games after coming up with a slippery 99-yard day with two scores in the win over the Badgers. He's not going to be Aaron Rodgers throwing the ball, and he'll throw it away rather than take any major chances, but he's going to have to show he can deal with the Florida team speed early on and he's going to have to push the ball down the field at times when he's not going to want to.

While the quarterbacks will take center stage, the Gator running backs could play an even bigger role. Florida's Chris Rainey is closing out his up-and-down career after getting healthy and finishing up with 790 yards and two scores, while catching 28 passes for 350 yards and two touchdowns. Rested and ready, he'll get fed the ball as long as he's effective; this could be one of the biggest workhorse days of his career. The ankle that's been bothering him is fine, as is Jeff Demps' bum wheel. The speedster has occasionally been one of the most electrifying players in college football, but he's never been healthy or consistent. A game-breaker, he should be back to form with the time off and with Rainey taking on most of the load.

What Will Happen: It's not exactly going to be a different Florida team than the one that sputtered so much throughout the season, but it's going to be more energized. There might be motivation for Ohio State to win its last bowl for a while, but there's just as much need for Muschamp to come up with an important win and interim offensive coordinator Brian White wants to show that he can succeed where Weis was an utter failure. The speed and athleticism of the Gator defensive front seven will bottle up Miller, while the Gator offense will look quicker and more effective with Brantley, Demps, and Rainey all able to finally move like normal. However, Ohio State will be able to power away with Dan Herron and will win the turnover battle in a tough, interesting game. This won't be a shootout in any way, but it'll be a more entertaining than it might seem between such mediocre offenses.

CFN Prediction: Ohio State 27 ... Florida 23
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: Florida -2   O/U: 44
Confidence Picks
Fiu Rich Matt Russ Barrett Terry Phil Clucko PICK
OS (31) OS (26) OS (17) OS (17) FL (7) FL (15) OS (13) FL (35) OS (47)

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A 44 over/under? How about the first one to score wins? If Florida finally does anything offensively, Chuck Weis should be fired from Kansas immediately.
By Richard Cirminiello 
Buckeyes unknowingly hired the best advanced scout on the planet for their Gator Bowl opponent. Ohio State QB Braxton Miller could lay the groundwork in Jacksonville for a breakout sophomore year.

By Matt Zemek
Craig James is announcing this game between Urban Meyer's new team and Will Muschamp's team. It's just an uncomfortable situation no matter how you choose to look at it.  

By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee  
Something about Urban Meyer. But seriously, Florida's offense is atrocious, so expect them to experiment a lot in this game.

By Russ Mitchell
Now how's THAT for symmetry. Urban Meyer will not coach in the game, but it provides a lot of writers with a lot of excuses to fill newspaper space. Two very average programs this year getting a sweet NYD bowl when more deserving teams (that can't travel) play in places like the Motor City.

By Terry Johnson
Urban Meyer's former team faces Urban Meyer's new team. With that said, the defenses will dominate in this game, as both offenses have struggled all season long.

By Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN
This might be one of the more intriguing game regardless of the stakes. It's 2007 all over again minus the talent, with Urban Meyer as the centerpiece. Will he, or won't he show?

Best Bowl Moment

Best Buckeye Bowl Moment: Beyond the plethora of Rose Bowl wins, nothing could compare to the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. In one of the most thrilling college football games of all-time, Ohio State upset Miami in overtime to capture its first unanimous national championship in 34 years. A distant runner-up was the come-from-behind win against USC in the 1969 Rose Bowl that put the finishing touches on the school's other moment in the bright sunlight of national championship glory.

Best Gator Bowl Moment: How good was the 41-14 thumping of Ohio State in the BCS Championship Game in January of 2007? Good enough to trump the 52-20 annihilation of No. 1 and unbeaten Florida State in the 1997 Sugar Bowl as the best moment in Florida bowl history. Considered by many to be out of the top-ranked Buckeyes' league, the Gators feasted on their slower opponent, holding Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith and Ohio State to just 82 yards of total offense.

Gator Bowl History
2011 Mississippi State 52, Michigan 14
2010 Florida State 33, West Virginia 21
2009 Nebraska 26, Clemson 21
2008 Texas Tech 31, Virginia 28
2007 W. Virginia 38, Georgia Tech 35
2006 Virginia Tech 35, Louisville 24
2005 Florida St 30, West Virginia 18
2004 Maryland 41, West Virginia 7
2003 NC State 28, Notre Dame 6
2002 Florida St 30, Virginia Tech 17
2001 Virginia Tech 41, Clemson 20
2000 Miami 28, Georgia Tech 13
1999 Georgia Tech 35, Notre Dame 28
1998 North Carolina 42, Virginia Tech 3
1997 North Carolina 20, West Virginia 13
1996 Syracuse 41, Clemson 0
1994 Tennessee 45, Virginia Tech 23
1993 Alabama 24, North Carolina 10
1992 Florida 27, NC State 10
1991 (Dec.) Oklahoma 48, Virginia 14
1991 (Jan.) Michigan 35, Mississippi 3
1989 (Dec.) Clemson 27, West Virginia 7
1989 (Jan.) Georgia 34, Michigan State 27
1987 LSU 30, South Carolina 13
1986 Clemson 27, Stanford 21
1985 Florida State 34, Oklahoma St 23
1984 Oklahoma State 21, South Carolina 14
1983 Florida 14, Iowa 6
1982 Florida St 31, West Virginia 12
1981 North Carolina 31, Arkansas 27
1980 Pitt 37, South Carolina 9
1979 North Carolina 17, Michigan 15
1978 Clemson 17, Ohio State 15
1977 Pitt 34, Clemson 3
1976 Notre Dame 20, Penn State 9
1975 Maryland 13, Florida 0
1974 Auburn 27, Texas 3
1973 Texas Tech 28, Tennessee 19
1972 Auburn 24, Colorado 3
1971 (Dec.) Georgia 7, North Carolina 3
1970 (Jan.) Auburn 35, Mississippi 28
1969 Florida 14, Tennessee 13
1968 Missouri 35, Alabama 10
1967 Florida State 17, Penn State 17
1966 Tennessee 18, Syracuse 12
1965 (Dec.) Georgia Tech 31, Texas Tech 21
1965 (Jan.) Florida State 36, Oklahoma 19
1963 North Carolina 35, Air Force 0
1962 Florida 17, Penn State 7
1961 Penn State 30, Georgia Tech 15
1960 (Dec.) Florida 13, Baylor 12
1960 (Jan.) Arkansas 14, Georgia Tech 7
1958 Mississippi 7, Florida 3
1957 Tennessee 3, Texas A&M 0
1956 Georgia Tech 21, Pitt 14
1955 Vanderbilt 25, Auburn 13
1954 (Dec.) Auburn 33, Baylor 13
1954 (Jan.) Texas Tech 35, Auburn 13
1953 Florida 14, Tulsa 13
1952 Miami 14, Clemson 0
1951 Wyoming 20, Wash. & Lee 0
1950 Maryland 20, Missouri 7
1949 Clemson 24, Missouri 23
1948 Georgia 20, Maryland 20
1947 Oklahoma 34, NC State 13
1946 Wake Forest 26, South Carolina 14
1936 Hardin-Simmons 14, New Mexico State 14

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