Monday, December 28, 2009
Is Florida's offense mortal after all?
By Brian Bennett
NEW ORLEANS -- Cincinnati's defense won't be confused with Alabama's any time soon. But maybe the Crimson Tide showed the Bearcats some ways to slow down the Florida offense this week in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Alabama's goal in the SEC title game was to make Tim Tebow a pocket passer and limit the running game. That worked to perfection in a 32-13 rout. Tebow was held to 247 yards passing, one touchdown and an interception, while the Gators ground game mustered just 88 yards.
The Crimson Tide can make a lot of offenses look bad. But clearly, the key for Cincinnati will be to limit Tebow from running out of the pocket and to stop players like Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey from going wild. Tebow is as dangerous a dual threat guy as there is, but the Bearcats actually have more weapons than the Gators in the passing game. Florida's top receiver this year is tight end Aaron Hernandez, while third-leading receiver Brandon James won't play because of a foot injury.
Florida finished 13th in the FBS in scoring at 34.7 points per game, but some of those gaudy statistics were built up in blowouts against the likes of Charleston Southern, Troy and Florida International. The Gators actually are scoring about nine points less than they did during last year's BCS title run. They were held to 28 points or less six times this year.
Sounds crazy to say, but does Florida have enough on offense to keep up with the high-scoring Bearcats, who averaged 39.8 points per game? Gators players clearly think so.
"We had the best rushing offense in the SEC this year, so we had a lot of good things going," center Maurkice Pouncey said.
"I think we're on top of our game right now," Demps said. "In the SEC championship game, we struggled a little bit. But we've been practicing really well."
Florida's unusual alignments and the way they use Tebow will present the biggest challenge to the Cincinnati defense.
"We've just got to be ready to fulfill our assignments and not try to do too much personally," linebacker JK Schaffer said. "We haven't really seen as much option as they run all year, except maybe with West Virginia and a little bit with Illinois."
If they can come close to matching Alabama's game plan, the Bearcats will be in good position to win on Friday night.