Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pro Bowl Rosters Filled With Former ACC, SEC Talent

The Pro Bowl kicks off tonight taking the bye week spot before the Super Bowl for the first time.

Both the ACC and SEC are well represented on the rosters this year. The ACC leads all conferences with 23 players according to the conference office.

This number is greatly bolstered by the injection of Miami into the league a few years ago as the Hurricanes have 10 Pro Bowl selections to lead all schools.

And that isn't just fill ins as seven 'Canes were selected to be starters. The amount of talent Miami puts out continues to amaze. And most of it is home grown in South Florida. It is just a matter of time until gets back near the top of college football. I know my friends at the 7th Floor Blog are excited.

Now to be completely accurate, most of those Miami players didn't play in the ACC, but the ACC office will sure count them.

Michigan is second with six, followed by Texas with four selections. Surprising schools like Kent State with three selections and East Carolina, Rutgers, Syracuse, and Boise State had two each.

The SEC was "second" with 15 selections. Tennessee and Alabama led the conference with three selections each. LSU and Georgia have two selections each. Florida has just one selection in rookie Percy Harvin.

And just to show how far Notre Dame has fallen in the last 10 years, no Irish alums were selected to the Pro Bowl.

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

5 Thoughts On ACC Basketball And Weekend Predictions

Here are five observations from this week's action, some things to ponder, and predictions for this weekend's games.

1. I think Duke is the best team in the ACC and starting to separate themselves a little. They forced FSU to play at the Blue Devils by employing a smaller lineup.

If they continue to play solid defense (which they didn't at NC State) and hit threes they are the team to beat.

2. North Carolina bounced back finally with a win over Tobacco Road rival NC State. This team has too much talent (and we know they have the coaching) not to make the NCAA Tournament and I would be shocked if they finished below 8-8 in the league.

3. Georgia Tech's Iman Shumpert has come a long way since early in the season when he looked lost at point guard.

But the sophomore is now the catalyst on an improving Yellow Jacket offense. His penetration opens up the floor for outside shooters and more importantly easy bucket for Tech's two big men.

4. Clemson is on the ropes right now and needs a quick turn around if they want to get back into the conference title race. They really miss the outside shooting of Terrance Oglesby who went overseas to play despite eligibility left.

Losers of three straight it doesn't get much easier with standings leader Maryland coming to town.

5. Does Seth Greenberg pay property taxes in Charlottesville because right now he owns the Cavaliers?

Weekend Predictions:

Georgia Tech over Kentucky State
Duke over Georgetown
NC State over NC Central
Boston College over FSU
Miami over Virginia Tech
Clemson over Maryland
North Carolina over Virginia

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5 Thoughts On SEC Basketball And Weekend Predictions

5 Thoughts on SEC Basketball

1. I am going to say I thought South Carolina would upset Kentucky because I did. The Wildcats were ripe for an upset because they had just been ranked number one, just played arguably their best game of the season, and they were a young team on the road.

Fear not Kentucky fans because it is better to get this loss out of the way now than carry the burden late into February.

2. How does Darin Horn get his South Carolina team back focused after the big win? He better do it because Georgia is coming to town having played some quality SEC teams right down to the wire.

3. Tennessee is reeling. It is almost as if they were able to push through the suspensions but have now hit a wall. Kind of like when you lay down after work just a few minutes and the next time you awaken it is 3AM.

4. Speaking of the Vols, Florida has a great chance to take hold of second place in the East by beating Tennessee in Knoxville. Billy Donovan looks like he finally has a point guard and some inside presence to get the Gators back into the Tournament.

5. Alabama and Auburn meet in basketball, but of these fan bases really cares? The real battle is next Wednesday when two of the top five classes in the nation could be signed.

Weekend Predictions:

Miss State over LSU
Alabama over Auburn
Kentucky over Vanderbilt
Ole Miss over Arkansas
South Carolina over Georgia
Tennessee over Florida

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

ACC Basketball Rankings and Predictions

My first stab at some ACC Basketball rankings for the season. Just two games separate first place from eleventh place right now in the conference, but here it is.

1. Duke
2. Maryland
3. Wake Forest
4. Virginia
5. Florida State
6. Clemson
7. Georgia Tech
8. Virginia Tech
9. North Carolina
10. NC State
11. Boston College
12. Miami

Since the ACC is so jumbled up, maybe a class system would work better.

Class I
Everyone except Miami

Class II

Not trying to be snide or anything, but no one has separated themselves at all. And only Miami is really hitting the skids right now. The Tar Heels are 1-3 in the league, but this team has too much talent not to pull it together and get to 8-8 by season’s end.

We have seen NC State beat Duke, Florida State beat Georgia Tech twice, Duke beat Clemson twice, Clemson throttle UNC, and the Tar Heels beat Virginia Tech as well as the two best teams in the Big 10 Michigan State and Ohio State. How is that for parity or mediocrity depending on which way you look at it.

Who knows what is going to happen each week?

Now onto some predictions for the weekday games.

Maryland over Miami (Tue)
Clemson over Boston College (Tue)
North Carolina over NC State (Tue)
Duke over FSU (Wed)
Virginia over Virginia Tech (Thur)
Georgia Tech over Wake Forest

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Monday, January 25, 2010

SEC Predictions For January 26-28: Can South Carolina Upset Top Ranked Kentucky?

The SEC has the number one ranked team in the nation, but they may not have too much time to celebrate with a road trip to Columbia on Tuesday night on ESPN.

A couple of teams,Georgia and Alabama, try to follow up upset wins and Tennessee tries to bounce back from their debacle this weekend. Lets get to the predictions for the week.

Kentucky at South Carolina Tuesday
The Colonial Life Arena will be rocking when number on Kentucky comes to town Tuesday night. The Gamecocks have suffered three straight losses, including a heart breaker in Gainesville this past weekend. Kentucky may have played their best game of the season this past Saturday.

It seems like when two team are going divergent directions, the parity of college basketball brings them back. Party in Five Points!
Pick: South Carolina in a major upset!

Georgia at Florida Wednesday
The Bulldogs finally broke through this weekend with their first win over a top 10 team since Jim Harrick roamed the sidelines. Now lets see how they handle the success. Most young teams don't handle it well, especially on the road.
Pick: Florida

Vanderbilt at Tennessee Wednesday
Did the lack of depth finally catch up with the Vols on Saturday? It sure looked like they were playing in a different speed than Georgia. Bruce Pearl will have his team ready to bounce back at home.
Pick: Tennessee

LSU at Alabama Wednesday
The home win over Miss State gave this Alabama team just what they needed, some confidence. LSU looks like they are the worst team in the conference. Just like football chants ring out from the Crimson Tide fans.
Pick: Alabama

Miss State at Arkansas Thursday
This is a game Arkansas has to have to keep up with any kind of postseason bid. This is the kind of game Miss State needs to steal on the road to win the West. Bud Walton isn't the same home court advantage it used to be.
Pick: Miss State

Ole Miss at Auburn Thursday
Searching for an angle here. Don't really have one.
Pick: Auburn

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Georgia Tech-FSU Prediction: Can Jackets Seize Opportunity In Rugged ACC?

Georgia Tech travels to Tallahassee for a high noon showdown with the Seminoles. The Yellow Jackets are coming off two last second victories and hoping to get revenge on FSU who won the first matchup of the season in overtime.

Hewitt called that loss one of the toughest in his coaching career. Now with the ACC wide open, can Georgia Tech assert itself as one of the contenders or is it Leonard Hamilton's club who proves they are not a pretender?

Georgia Tech has really struggled on the road in Hewitt's 11 seasons in Atlanta, but FSU's home court is one place they have had some success winning three times in eight trips.

To get their second ACC road win this season, Ga. Tech will need a big game from their big guys. Two likely first round draft picks were largely negated by the imposing FSU front line. Gani Lawal was pretty much non existent and held to just four points and one for seven shooting.

But Lawal and freshman sensation Derrick Favors have had shown glimpses of brilliance as of late. The two post men seem to be getting more comfortable playing with each other. That will need to continue for the Jackets to pull off the upset.

Lawal and Favors need to assert themselves early and often. But that will be a tall task going against Soloman Alabi and the Seminoles front line.

With the ACC in such flux, Sunday's game is a golden opportunity to move up and assert yourself as a serious contender. ACC Champions win games on the road. ACC Champions exact revenge for those who take from them.

Do the very talented Yellow Jackets have this makeup?

Pick: Georgia Tech

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Duke-Clemson Prediction and Other ACC Basketball Picks For Jan 23

I would like to be the first to say, I had the ACC right this season. I mean, who didn't see North Carolina with three losses and in 11th place? Who really thought Virginia would not be undefeated in ACC play and on top by two games?

Parity reigns in the ACC right now and while most college basketball fans don't consider the season to have become important until Duke and North Carolina play, I forge ahead with some predictions for this weekend.

Boston College at Virginia Tech 1:30 ET
Who can figure the Eagles out this season? Obviously not Al Skinner whose team has road wins over Michigan and Miami, but losses to Maine and Harvard. Seth Greenberg is doing a nice job again in Blacksburg and should have his team in NCAA Tournament contention again. I like the Hokies at home where they are 9-0 this season.
Pick: Virginia Tech

Virginia at Wake Forest 4:00 ET
Tony Bennett has his club in first place in his first season in Charlottesville winning their first three ACC games and eight of their last 10 overall. The Deacons throttled the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill and have just one home loss on the season.

Virginia has been such a surprise because of their ability to shoot the three. But Wake is one of the best at defending the arc allowing opponents to hit just 26 percent.
Pick: Wake Forest

NC State at Maryland 6:00 ET
The Wolfpack pulled off a stunner beating Duke soundly in Raleigh this week. Now they take their show on the road to face second place Maryland.

The Terps have just one home loss this season to William & Mary (what is it with 'Ol Bill and Mary; they also beat Wake?). State has done fairly well on the road with three wins including a conference victory at FSU.

The Wolfpack will need another great defensive effort to stop Greivis Vasquez and the speedy Terrapins who are averaging 81 points per game. I think Maryland's scorers are too much at home.
Pick: Maryland

Duke at Clemson 9:00 ET
The fact that ESPN Gameday is at Clemson shows how the balance of power has brought elite teams like Duke back to the pack. The Tigers showed more athleticism and will power last year in dominating the Devils like they hadn't been in a long time.

Both teams play great defense so I would expect a half court grinder. Just like last year, Clemson has more athleticism and has played very well at home.

I like the Tigers with the pressure and inside play to take another one from Duke.

Pick: Clemson

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SEC Basketball Predictions January 23

Been a while since I posted. Still missing football, but starting to get into basketball. National Signing Day is probably on the minds of most every SEC fan except for maybe Kentucky (though UK has a big recruiting weekend). Onto the basketball predictions for the weekend.

Mississippi State at Alabama 12 ET
Alabama has lost some close games at home recently while Miss State has needed their home court advantage to win some close ones. Today, the Bulldogs have to go on the road though where I like the Crimson Tide to break through their slump with the win.
Pick: Alabama

Auburn at Vanderbilt 1:30 ET
The Commodores in Memorial Gym are too much for a struggling Auburn team whose only roads wins are LSU and Alabama A&M
Pick: Vanderbilt

Ole Miss at LSU 1:30 ET
LSU has won the last three in this series and seven of the last 10, but is struggling mightily this season having lost their last four and six of their last seven. The Rebels have road wins at UTEP and Georgia while just losing to Tennessee in Knoxville. Baton Rouge doesn't faze Ole Miss.
Pick: Ole Miss

Arkansas at Kentucky 4:00 ET
The Razorbacks are losers of five of their last six. Make that six of their last seven.
Pick: Kentucky

Tennessee at Georgia 5:00 ET
A game pitting two of the rising stars in college basketball. One is already getting the notoriety (Bruce Pearl) while another is flying under the radar (Mark Fox). But the Vols have too much depth and talent for the young Bulldogs to overcome.
Pick: Tennessee

South Carolina at Florida 6:00 ET
Both the Gamecocks and the Gators have been a little disappointing this year when they thought they could challenge for the East title. But fortunately both team's struggles have come outside of SEC play thus far.

South Carolina has just one road win on the season at Auburn while losing to BC, Wofford, Clemson, and Miami. Florida falls more into that second group of teams.
Pick: Florida

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Down Goes Duke: What Path Will Georgia Tech Take Now?

Georgia Tech upset Duke on Saturday by taking care of the ball and a lot of good free throw shooting. Those two commodities have not come easily for Paul Hewitt's club in recent years.

The Yellow Jackets came into Saturday shooting just 68 percent from the charity stripe this season. Hewitt teams historically have shot just 71 percent. Against the Blue Devils on they shot 79 percent.

Another startling statistic is the amount of free throws Ga. Tech took - 28. That stats compares favorably to 22 for a season average.

But more importantly, Georgia Tech kept Duke off the free throw line where the Blue Devils have made a living in ACC play. The Devils shot 14 free throws, eight below their season average. Also, Duke shot just 64 percent from the line in the loss.

Mike Krzyzewski's club also shot just 6-28 from the three point line. Well below their season average of 43 percent.

But to continue their winning ways and make a run to the NCAA Tournament, Georgia Tech will have to reverse some recent stats.

In games against ACC opponents, Tech is just 65-94 in nine seasons under Hewitt with just two winning seasons. Four of those seasons have had double-digit losses and none have had less than eight defeats.

We all know how important a winning conference record is to a Tournament bid.

GT has two ACC road contests coming up against Virginia and North Carolina. Hewitt is just 17-57 in ACC road games.

Saddled with one ACC home loss already, it is imperative the Jackets steal at least one on an opponent's home court.

Georgia Tech basketball is a cross roads and time may be short for Hewitt. Fans are excited and optimistic now, but can turn restless very quickly.

Nothing less than a run to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament will do. Is the Yellow Jackets talented roster with three McDonalds All-Americans up to the task?

And Duke? They'll be fine. They just had a bad game.

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Georgia Has A Rising Star In Mark Fox

Georgia fell at Kentucky today, but in doing so put a huge scare into the undefeated and third ranked Wildcats.

Kentucky has two of the best freshman in the country, an experienced post man who could have been gone to the NBA by now, and a coach who has won 62 straight conference games.

But the Bulldogs nearly pulled off the monumental upset because of a Fox.

Mark Fox was hired from Nevada after last season when UGA dismissed Dennis Felton. While the head coach of the Wolfpack, Fox had five straight seasons with 20 wins or more, three NCAA Tournament appearances, and a conference title.

Kentucky came in today's game as 20 points favorites and a week to prepare for the Bulldogs. By halftime, John Calipari was staring at a deficit and survived 12 lead changes and nine ties. Georgia would close to within two with under a minute to play, but the Wildcats hit their free throws to seal the win.

Still, Georgia and Fox proved their win over rival Georgia Tech earlier this week was no fluke. In that game, the Bulldogs beat a ranked Yellow Jackets squad with three McDonald's All American's. Meanwhile one of UGA's main cogs, Ricky McPhee, is a walk on who torched Paul Hewitt's club for 16 points.

History says Fox's teams will be tough to beat in close games with a 57% winning percentage in games decided by six points or less.

History also says that a good coach can get it done at a football school like Georgia. Tubby Smith took the Bulldogs to the Sweet 16 losing in OT to Final Four participant Syracuse and brought UGA back to the Tournament the next year as a three seed.

The Bulldogs are a little undermanned right now, but Fox sits right down the road from the fertile Atlanta recruiting ground. The first year coach already has three NBA draft picks who have played under him in his short career.

This week's efforts showed that the arrival of Fox gives Georgia fans reason to pay attention in the Winter and not just fast forward to recruiting and spring football.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Alabama-Texas Prediction: BCS Championship Game Preview

The end is here. College football's last game of the season will be played tonight and a BCS Champion will be crowned.

Alabama and Texas both bring in perfect records to the Rose Bowl but only one will leave that way.

The difference in this game will be Alabama's run defense or really Texas' inability to run the ball.

The Longhorns are averaging 153 yards per game, which ranks just 55th in the nation. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide defense is giving up just 79 yards per game on the ground.

Now, I now Mack Brown's club ranks number one in rush defense, but their schedule was full of teams who struggled running the ball.

Texas Tech ranks 115th in rushing offense, Colorado 113th, Baylor 108th, Kansas 100th, Missouri 85th, and Central Florida 83th.

The Crimson Tide defensive line is collectively as good or better than Nebraska's which gave up just 18 rush yards to Texas.

With the Longhorns being one-dimensional on offense, Alabama's ninth ranked pass defense will be able to key off on the pass.

The Tide ranked fifth nationally in interceptions with 20 while giving up just nine touchdowns through the air.

It is fitting that Alabama would win their first national title since 1992 just like they did that year, with defense.

Alabama 24 Texas 20

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Georgia Tech-Iowa Prediction: Orange Bowl Preview

Whose strength is the bigger strength? You have Georgia Tech's high powered offense averaging 443 yards and 35 points per game against the Iowa defense yielding just 287 yards and 16 points per game. Both teams rank in the top 15 nationally in those categories.

But could the Yellow Jackets defense and Hawkeye offense be the key to the game?

I look back to Georgia Tech's last loss of the season and find a defense that was not able to stop the Bulldogs and let UGA keep the ball away from the Yellow Jacket offense.

While Iowa has not been churning up yards on the ground as of late, all that may be cured against a defense that is giving up nearly five yards per carry.

I think Ga. Tech will be able to run the ball with success against Iowa. Not a rousing, 400 yard game, but it will be and outing near their season average.

But in order to reach the season average on the ground, the Yellow Jacket must have the ball enough to continue their strong time of possession stats which leads the nation.

Third down stops will key. As will tackles for loss.

Iowa ranks just 71st in third down conversions at 38 percent.

When Ricky Stanzi drops back to pass, All American DE Derrick Morgan will need to get to the QB against an offensive line that ranks 72nd in sacks allowed.

Despite the Yellow Jackets struggles on defense as of late, the more third and long situations they can get the Hawkeyes in, the better their chances of stopping drives and getting the ball back to their potent offense will be.

I think Morgan and the Yellow Jacket's front seven make a play late to seal the game and deliver the Ramblin' Wreck's first 12 win season since 1952.

Georgia Tech 30 Iowa 27

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Arkansas-East Carolina Prediction: Liberty Bowl Preview

The Razorbacks are looking to break a bowl losing streak where they have lost 10 of their past 12 and break out of an overall bowl funk. Only five BCS teams have worse bowl records than Arkansas' 35 percent and none of those teams have played in as many bowls as the Razorbacks' 36.

East Carolina is hoping to avenge a Liberty Bowl loss from a year ago to Kentucky. Skip Holtz's Pirates won their second straight Conference USA title and are going for their first 10 win season since 1991.

When you talk about Arkansas' offense you have to start the discussion with their passing game led by QB Ryan Mallett. The redshirt sophomore has flourished in his first year under Bobby Petrino throwing for over 300 yards per game including 10 completions of 50 yards.

The Pirates rank 110th in pass defense nationally surrendering 262 per game. East Carolina allowed Houston threw the ball for 557 in the Conf. USA title game.

But East Carolina's defense does a very good job of keeping teams off the scoreboard allowing just 22 points per game despite giving up 386 yards per game.

It will be imperative for the Razorbacks to convert in the red zone where they have all season. Arkansas ranks second nationally in scoring conversions at 96 percent. Their 74 percent touchdown ratio ranks fourth.

If Arkansas continues their red zone success, I think that will be the key to victory against a ECU defense that will let them move the ball up and down the field.

The Razorbacks depleted defense will also yield points and yards to East Carolina, but Arkansas has too much fire power on offense and wins in a shoot out.

Arkansas 38 East Carolina 30

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Ole Miss-Oklahoma State Prediction: Cotton Bowl Preview

Ole Miss find themselves in a similar situation to last year trying to win the Cotton Bowl against the Big 12, but this time the Rebels are the favorite and expected to win.

Oklahoma State is the ranked team, but find themselves in the under dog role in the first Cotton Bowl played in the new Cowboys Stadium.

This game is also a rematch of the 2004 game that Ole Miss won in Eli Manning's career finale.

The Rebels have had a good season, but not as good as some hoped coming off a 9-4 campaign a year ago and a favorable schedule.

Ole Miss has been dominant again moving the ball is out gaining their opponents by 87 yards per game. Their undoing has been turnovers where the Rebels rank 106th in turnover margin.

QB Jevan Snead has struggled this year after a break out season in 2008. The junior has thrown 17 interceptions this year to 20 touchdowns.

This Cowboy offense isn't of the same breed as past teams who put up Play Station numbers, but they can still move the ball averaging nearly 400 yards per game again.

The Pokes are doing it this season much more on the ground than in years past led by Kendall Hunter.

The Rebel defense has a lot to prove after their last outing and I think they will be motivated to show that game was an aberration.

If Snead can hang onto the ball, I think the Rebel offense will be able to move the ball with relative ease against Oklahoma State and win in a shootout against the Cowboys.

Ole Miss 35 Oklahoma State 31

Some Cotton Bowl facts for ya...
Most Appearances: Texas - 22 (Texas A&M and Arkansas tied 2nd)
Most Wins: Texas - 11 (2nd - Notre Dame)
Most Losses: Texas - 10
Ole Miss Record: 3-1
Oklahoma State Record: 1-1

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Friday, January 1, 2010

South Carolina-UConn Prediction: Papa Bowl Preview

South Carolina and UConn will play for a good ending in Birmingham to up and down seasons for both.

The plight of the Huskies has been especially turbulent this season with the loss of teammate Jasper Howard to a campus stabbing and losing all five games by four points or less.

The Gamecocks are coming off a huge win over rival Clemson, but I have to wonder if they wanted and thought they were going to get a better bowl game?

If UConn wants to pull of the upset they have to be able to run the ball and must stick with it. I remember watching the UConn-Notre Dame game that the Huskies almost gave away wondering why they even bothered to pass since the run was working well?

The Huskies leading rusher is Jordan Todman, but the engine that makes them go is Andre Dixon who leads the team with 14 touchdowns on the season.

The Gamecocks defense is allowing 137 yards per game on the ground good for 48th nationally.

South Carolina's offense has moved the ball this year but has bogged down in the red zone ranking just 64th in scoring.

I think Steve Spurrier is one of the best game planners in the nation when given ample time, but surprisingly the Ol' Ball Coach is just 7-8 in bowl games.

I go back to all the close losses that UConn had this season and how they seemed to turn the tide in that regard late in the season.

I think the UConn ground game controls the clock in the second half and gives the Huskies the win in the fourth quarter.

UConn 24 South Carolina 23

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Florida-Cincinnati Prediction: Sugar Bowl Preview

Are there enough story lines for you in this game? Let's see if I can run down the big ones.

Florida loses the SEC Championship Game thus losing out on back to back BCS Championships. Their consolation is the Sugar Bowl.

Cincinnati finished third in the BCS despite going undefeated. Their head coach Brian Kelly leaves the Queen City for the Notre Dame job.

Well, Alabama was in the same position last year as Florida and got pounded by Utah in this game. The Gators know that coming in to not take the Bearcats lightly.

Florida Defensive Coordinator Charlie Strong will leave to take over the Louisville head job after the bowl game. Strong is one of the best in the business, but this has to be a distraction for one of the best defenses in the nation.

Then a wrench the size of the New Orleans Superdome is thrown in about the same time everyone is wrapping up Christmas - Urban Meyer quits because of health concerns.

One of the top coaches in the nation will leave one of the top jobs in the country.

Then the next day he reconsiders and decides to take a leave of absence after the bowl game.

And, oh yeah, one of the best college football players ever will be playing in his last game.

I could break down all the matchups for this one: Florida's defensive backs against Cincinnati's receivers, the Gator's pass rush against Bearcat QB Tony Pike, the Gator speed on offense against a struggling UC defense.

But the only one that really matters is what is going through the Florida's players and coaches heads during their game preparation, especially this past week.

I know Cincy is going to come to play wanting to the show the nation they can play with the big boys. But if Florida comes focused and motivated, I am not sure they aren't the second best team in the country this year.

Problem is that Florida has only "shown up" twice this year against LSU and Georgia, both convincing wins.

The only advantage I see for Florida in this game is talent and that is many times the difference maker, but is it enough with everything else going on?

I know Tim Tebow will be motivated to go out a winner. He bleeds orange and blue, but can he get his team ready and motivated to win this game with all that is swirling around the Gator program right now?

My heart tells me Tebow can will his team to victory, but my head tells me he is just one guy on a team and coaching staff full of turmoil.

Cincinnati 34 Florida 28

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