Here’s a look at three keys if Florida is going to beat Cincinnati on Friday night in the Allstate Sugar Bowl:
1. Play with purpose: We ought to know pretty early how interested Florida is about playing in this game. It’s all new territory for the Gators, playing in a game that doesn’t have national championship ramifications. The surest way for the Gators to lose this game is to think they’re going to just roll out in the Superdome and beat the Bearcats simply because they’re the "mighty" Gators. If Florida is dialed in and focused, this is a game that could be over by halftime. But if the Gators’ heads are elsewhere to start the game, they may find themselves in a similar boat as Alabama a year ago in this bowl.
2. Pressure Pike: Cincinnati’s Tony Pike isn’t the easiest quarterback to pressure because he gets rid of the football quickly and knows where he wants to go with the ball. The Bearcats only allowed 11 sacks all season. The Gators will want to disrupt Pike’s timing and not allow him to get into any kind of rhythm. That’s where Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham come in on the outside, and the Gators will also rush linebacker Brandon Spikes from a number of different spots. The Gators are good enough in the secondary that they will be able to take their chances going after Pike.
3. Scoring in the red zone: Unlike their national championship season in 2008, the Gators haven’t been very good this season when it comes to scoring touchdowns in the red zone. Florida is tied for 96th nationally in red zone conversions (73.8 percent). The Gators have scored touchdowns only 45.9 percent of the time when they’ve moved inside the 20. Finishing drives will be critical against the Bearcats. That way, you don’t allow them to hang around and think they have a chance in the second half.