2010 Sugar Bowl - Florida vs. Cincinnati
Florida QB Tim Tebow & Cincinnati QB Tony Pike
Florida QB Tim Tebow & Cincinnati QB Tony Pike
Posted Dec 30, 2009

The CFN 2010 Sugar Bowl Preview - Florida vs. Cincinnati

2010 Sugar Bowl

Cincinnati (12-0) vs. Florida (12-1)

New Orleans, LA, Jan. 1, 8:30 pm, Fox

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Team Pages and 2009 Season


- 2009 CFN Sugar Bowl Preview
- 2008 CFN Sugar Bowl Preview
- 2007 CFN Sugar Bowl Preview
National Rankings
C   F
6th Total Offense 12th
47th Total Defense 4th
6th Scoring Offense 13th
24th Scoring Defense 3rd
65th Rushing Offense 10th
56th Run Defense 13th
6th Passing Offense 58th
50th Passing Defense 3rd
12th Turnover Margin 25th
Position Ratings
relative to each other
C 5 highest
1 lowest
5 Quarterbacks 5
3.5 RBs 4
4.5 Receivers 3
4.5 O Line 5
4.5 D Line 5
4 Linebackers 5
4 Secondary 5
3.5 Spec Teams 5
2.5 Coaching 5
Sugar Bowl History
2009 Utah 31, Alabama 17
2008 Georgia 41, Hawaii 10
2007 LSU 41, Notre Dame 14
2006 West Virginia 38, Georgia 35
2005 Auburn 16, Virginia Tech 13
2004 LSU 21, Oklahoma 14
2003 Georgia 26, Florida State 13
2002 LSU 47, Illinois 34
2001 Miami 37, Florida 20
2000 Florida St 46, Virginia Tech 29
1999 Ohio State 24, Texas A&M 14
1998 Florida State 31, Ohio State 14
1997 Florida 52, Florida State 20
1995 Virginia Tech 28, Texas 10
1995 Florida State 23, Florida 17
1994 Florida 41, West Virginia 7
1993 Alabama 34, Miami (Fla.) 13
1992 Notre Dame 39, Florida 28
1991 Tennessee 23, Virginia 22
1990 Miami 33, Alabama 25
1989 Florida State 13, Auburn 7
1988 Auburn 16, Syracuse 16
1987 Nebraska 30, LSU 15
1986 Tennessee 35, Miami 7
1985 Nebraska 28, LSU 10
1984 Auburn 9, Michigan 7
1983 Penn State 27, Georgia 23
1982 Pittsburgh 24, Georgia 20
1981 Georgia 17, Notre Dame 10
1980 Alabama 24, Arkansas 9
1979 Alabama 14, Penn State 7
1978 Alabama 35, Ohio State 6
1977 Pittsburgh 27, Georgia 3
1975 Alabama 13, Penn State 6
1974 Nebraska 13, Florida 10
1973 Notre Dame 24, Alabama 23
1972 Oklahoma 40, Auburn 22
1972 Oklahoma 14, Penn State 0
1971 Tennessee 34, Air Force 13
1970 Mississippi 27, Arkansas 22
1969 Arkansas 16, Georgia 2
1968 LSU 20, Wyoming 13
1967 Alabama 34, Nebraska 7
1966 Missouri 20, Florida 18
1965 LSU 13, Syracuse 10
1964 Alabama 12, Mississippi 7
1963 Mississippi 17, Arkansas 3
1962 Alabama 10, Arkansas 3
1961 Mississippi 14, Rice 6
1960 Mississippi 21, LSU 0
1959 LSU 7, Clemson 0
1958 Mississippi 39, Texas 7
1957 Baylor 13, Tennessee 7
1956 Georgia Tech 7, Pittsburgh 0
1955 Navy 21, Mississippi 0
1954 Georgia Tech 42, W Virginia 19
1953 Georgia Tech 24, Mississippi 7
1952 Maryland 28, Tennessee 13
1951 Kentucky 13, Oklahoma 7
1950 Oklahoma 35, LSU 0
1949 Oklahoma 14, North Carolina 6
1948 Texas 27, Alabama 7
1947 Georgia 20, North Carolina 10
1946 Oklahoma State 33, St Mary's (Colorado) 13
1945 Duke 29, Alabama 26
1944 Georgia Tech 20, Tulsa 18
1943 Tennessee 14, Tulsa 7
1942 Fordham 2, Missouri 0
1941 Boston Coll 19, Tennessee 13
1940 Texas A&M 14, Tulane 13
1939 TCU 15, Carnegie Mellon 7
1938 Santa Clara 6, LSU 0
1937 Santa Clara 21, LSU 14
1936 TCU 3, LSU 2
1935 Tulane 20, Temple 14

Everyone has been whining about how we're not going to learn anything from the TCU vs. Boise State matchup in the Fiesta Bowl. We're really not going to learn anything from the Sugar Bowl.

These are two teams in a holding pattern playing an exhibition game. That's it. Had Florida shown up against Alabama in the SEC title game and had Texas PK Hunter Lawrence pushed his bomb of a field goal attempt a few feet to the left, this would've been for the BCS Championship. The Bearcats were within a millisecond and that field goal from playing Alabama in Pasadena, having Brian Kelly stick around as the head coach, at least until January 7th, and would've had a shot at all the marbles, but instead, Kelly is gone to Notre Dame, Cincinnati felt such a sense of outrage over getting its head coach stolen before the bowl game that it went out and did the same thing to Central Michigan, hiring Butch Jones, and now hopes to come up with the biggest win in school history with Jeff Quinn at the helm as he has one foot in Amherst, New York, as the new head coach of Buffalo.

Things are even more bizarre at Florida where Urban Meyer's health issues has turned one of college football's greatest superpowers into a fiasco. Is this his last game ever as the Florida head coach? Was his little 24-hour I'm-retiring-because-I-love-my-family-and-faith-wait-actually-I'm-just-taking-a-break-because-I-love-football thing going to throw the Gators for a loop in this game? 2010 will be a true holding pattern for the Gators with Steve Addazio keeping the coaching seat warm until Meyer gets his shiznit together, and with this being Tim Tebow's last game, there will be a sense of desperation on the UF side of the field.

No matter what happens, this season has been a total and utter failure for Florida. It might not be fair, it might not be realistic, but considering all the talent coming back, including the entire defensive two-deep, an all-timer of a quarterback returning, and a tremendous offensive line, the goal, as stated by everyone around the program, wasn't to just win the national championship, it was to make a statement in the Greatest Team of All-Time debate. After a sluggish season, the all-time greatness part of the equation was gone, but a third national title in four years would've cemented this current run as one of the best in college football history. Alabama punched Florida in the mouth, Meyer went to the hospital, and now it's a Crimson Tide world and the Gators are left sitting around saying how much they love each other.

This is still an extremely talented team that's going to make NFL general managers extremely busy over the next several weeks. The defense really is fantastic, finishing the year ranked fourth in the nation, and the offense cranked out a ton of yards and led the SEC. But there's little consistent production from the passing game, the dive play, if taken away, bogs down the attack, and as Alabama showed, a power running game and a physical offensive line can neutralize the speed and talent of the defensive front seven. However, if Florida plays as well as it can play, and if Cincinnati plays its best game of the year, the Gators win in a blowout.

This is a great Cincinnati team that knows how to win and doesn't want to be considered a doormat for the mighty Gator machine to roll over. The offense is sharp, clutch, and relentless, the defense is great at swarming into the backfield and is always active, and there's a 500-pound chip on the team's shoulder with an attitude that's absolutely perfect for a big game like this. If you thought Utah felt disrespected going into last year's Sugar Bowl, that's nothing compared to this Cincinnati team.

Florida has won 34 games over the last three years; Cincinnati has won 33. This is a veteran Bearcat team that knows how to win, and it really does have the makeup and talent to pull off the second straight Sugar Bowl shocker. The last three bowls have been duds, but in different ways. Last year, Utah pounced all over an Alabama team that had no interest in being there, two years ago Hawaii soiled itself in the face of a team with some semblance of skill (Georgia), and three years ago was the JaMarcus Russell show in LSU's 41-14 blasting of a mediocre Notre Dame. If this year's game is going to be another blowout, it's likely going to be Florida who steals the show, but that doesn't mean Cincinnati isn't going to fight and can't hang blow for blow. The talent difference just might be too great.

This is Cincinnati's second trip to a BCS-caliber bowl, losing to Virginia Tech last year 20-7, while Florida will be going for its fourth bowl win in five years.

Players to Watch
: Even after Superman couldn't save the day against Alabama in the SEC Championship game, Tim Tebow still belongs at the top of the list as the greatest player of the decade and, arguably, the greatest college quarterback of all-time. His lack of pro skills were exposed by the Tide and his passing numbers were mediocre without Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy to wing it to, but he still had a strong year completing 65% of his passes with 18 touchdowns and just five interceptions. In this game, his last in a Gator uniform, he's likely to take even more of the offense into his own hands against a mediocre Cincinnati run defense that has quickness and athleticism, but can be pounded on. The Bearcats are going to have to cheat to stop Tebow from barreling for six yards a crack, and that will leave open holes for Aaron Hernandez, the best tight end in college football this year, to expose the middle of the field. The UC secondary can be picked apart by accurate, consistent passers, and Tebow should be on from the start with his short-to-midrange throws.

Also needing to be deadly accurate is Tony Pike, the fantastic Cincinnati quarterback who threw 26 touchdown passes and six interceptions, and he has just the kind of mental makeup and just the kind of accuracy to keep the chains moving if Florida's secondary struggles like it did against Alabama in man coverage. Pike is fearless, but he's not reckless. He'll push the ball deep whenever needed and will trust his receivers more often than he probably should. If the Bearcats want to go with a change-of-pace, in will come Zach Collaros to add a speed and athletic element to the equation. Collaros averaged a whipping 11.56 yards per passing attempt, but Florida has enough speed in front seven to keep him from running wild, but at least he provides a different look.

The main matchup the NFL types will keep their eyes on will be UC do-it-all WR Mardy Gilyard against Joe Haden, the best defensive back in college football. Gilyard might not have NFL-star measurable, but he's a playmaker and has always come up with the big plays at the biggest times for the Bearcats with five 100-yard games, a key kick return for a score against Pitt, and an impressive 161 catches for 2,426 and 22 touchdowns over the last two years. The UC coaching staff will move him around to try to get him the ball in a variety of ways, and away from Haden. The Gator junior has the speed to erase Gilyard one-on-one and the tackling ability to keep any catches from turning into long gains. The Gators will take their chances with the rest of the Bearcats, like Armon Binns, and will focus their efforts on Gilyard, but if Haden can get the job done by himself, it's uh-oh time for the Bearcat offense.

Florida will win if ... it generates consistent pressure from the ends. Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham, it's time to show the NFL why you're going to be worth all that money. The Cincinnati offense works well because receivers are almost always open. The variety of criss-cross routes and misdirections always spring an open target, but sometimes it take a few clicks for the plays to develop. If Pike gets time to wait for the receiver to pop open, and if he gets the time to make the correct read, he'll destroy any secondary, even one as good as Florida's. Pitt was able to get into the backfield, and while Pike won his share of battles, he had to hurry too many throws, had to try to fit the ball into too many tight spaces, and his receivers, with defenders draped all over them, dropped too many passes (at least early on). UC will likely try to combat the pass rush and the Gator team speed with shorter, quicker plays to get the ball out of Pike's hands, and that plays into the athleticism of the Gator linebacking corps.

Cincinnati will win if ... it has some early success on the scoreboard, and if the defense takes away the dive play. Florida might be having "spirited practices" that inspire Meyer to ignore his health and want to continue coaching, and it might be inspired, at least in theory, over this being Tebow's last game and with Meyer taking a sabbatical, but this isn't Pasadena and this isn't the BCS Championship. The Gators can say and do all the right things about how much they care about winning this game, but they're 18-to-22-year-old humans and this is an incredible letdown game considering the dreams and the goals coming into this season. Utah came out like a house of fire in last year's Sugar Bowl, and while Alabama didn't quit, it was obviously demoralized by a team that was jacked up to make a statement. A few early Bearcat scores could cause the Gators to panic a bit, and if a lead is combined with a out-of-their-heads defensive effort against the inside running game, that would force Tebow to start throwing. Cincinnati would be very happy if this game came down to Tebow having to wing it around, because then the tremendous pass rush can tee off into the backfield.

What will happen: There's not going to be anything magical about this game. It's going to be cold, brutal, and relentless as Florida pounds the ball up the middle over and over and over and over again against the soft UC defensive interior. The Tebow angle will be played up ad nauseum, but the offensive line will be the real stars as the Florida backs crank out big yards on the inside and chew up the clock. Cincinnati will get a few late scores to put lipstick on the pig, but this will be a fourth straight Sugar Bowl with a double-digit margin.

CFN Prediction: Florida 37 … Cincinnati 16 ... Line: Florida -13

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Best Gator Bowl Moment: How good was the 41-14 thumping of Ohio State in the BCS Championship Game three years ago? 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.

Best Bearcat Bowl Moment: Even a broken hand and unseasonably cold weather in Texas couldn't keep Cincinnati QB Gino Guidugli from carving up the Marshall defense in the 2004 Fort Worth Bowl. The senior threw for 231 yards and a pair of touchdowns, leading the Bearcats to a 32-14 victory, their first in postseason play in seven years.

Cincinnati Bowl History (5-5)
2009 Orange Virginia Tech 20, Cincinnati 7
2007 PapaJohns Cincinnati 31, Southern Miss 21
2006 International Cincinnati 27, Western Michigan 24
2004 Fort Worth Cincinnati 32, Marshall 14
2002 New Orleans North Texas 24, Cincinnati 19
2001 Motor City Toledo 23, Cincinnati 16
2000 Motor City Marshall 25, Cincinnati 14
1997 Humanitarian Cincinnati 35, Utah State 19
1950 Sun West Texas St. 14, Cincinnati 13
1946 Sun Cincinnati 18, Virginia Tech 6
Florida Bowl History (17-19)
2009 BCS Champ. Florida 24, Oklahoma 21
2008 Capital One Michigan 41, Florida 35
2007 BCS Champ Florida 41, Ohio State 14
2005 Outback Florida 31, Iowa 24
2004 Peach Miami 27, Florida 10
2003 Outback Iowa 37, Florida 17
2002 Outback Michigan 38, Florida 30
2001 Orange Florida 56, Maryland 23
2000 Sugar Miami 37, Florida 20
1999 Citrus Michigan St 37, Florida 34
1998 Orange Florida 31, Syracuse 10
1997 Citrus Florida 21, Penn State 6
1996 Sugar Florida 52, Florida State 20
1995 Fiesta Nebraska 62, Florida 24
1994 Sugar Florida State 23, Florida 17
1993 Sugar Florida 41, West Virginia 7
1992 Gator Florida 27, NC State 10
1991 Sugar Notre Dame 39, Florida 28
1989 Freedom Washington 34, Florida 7
1988 All-American Florida 14, Illinois 10
1987 Aloha UCLA 20, Florida 16
1983 Gator Florida 14, Iowa 6
1982 Bluebonnet Arkansas 28, Florida 24
1981 Peach West Virginia 26, Florida 6
1980 Tangerine Florida 35, Maryland 20
1976 Sun Texas A&M 37, Florida 14
1975 Gator Maryland 13, Florida 0
1974 Sugar Nebraska 13, Florida 10
1973 Tangerine Miami, Ohio 16, Florida 7
1969 Gator Florida 14, Tennessee 13
1966 Orange Florida 27, Georgia Tech 12
1965 Sugar Missouri 20, Florida 18
1962 Gator Florida 17, Penn State 7
1960 Gator Florida 13, Baylor 12
1958 Gator Mississippi 7, Florida 3
1953 Gator Florida 14, Tulsa 13