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Gator Bowl preview

12/5/2011 - Florida Gators

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Believe it or not, the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl isn't just about Urban Meyer.

There are plenty of other things to know about the Jan. 2 matchup between Florida and Ohio State at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla. Here's an early look at just the second meeting between the schools:

A LOT OF HISTORY
Florida has played in more Gator Bowls than any other bowl game. This will be the school's ninth appearance, but first since 1992. The Gators are 6-2 in the game, losing in 1958 (Ole Miss) and 1975 (Maryland) and winning in 1953 (Tulsa), 1960 (Baylor), 1962 (Penn State), 1969 (Tennessee), 1983 (Iowa) and 1992 (N.C. State).

The '92 game was probably the most memorable because of the fog that started to drift into the stadium in the first quarter. By the second half, it was nearly impossible to see the players on the field from the upper deck and the opposite side of the stadium was lost in the gray.

Ohio State has only played in the Gator Bowl once before, and that game has gone down as one of the most memorable in college football history. And it wasn't because of Clemson's 17-15 victory in 1978, either.

Rather, it was what happened on the sideline in the final minutes. Ohio State had moved the ball into field goal range, but Clemson nose tackle Charlie Bauman intercepted quarterback Art Schlichter's pass. After he was knocked out of bounds, Ohio State coach Woody Hayes was so angry that he ran over and punched Bauman before being restrained by several players.

Hayes was fired the next morning.

During a Sunday evening teleconference announcing the bowl matchup, Ohio State coach Luke Fickell was reminded of the Buckeyes' legacy in the Gator Bowl.

"We'd like to put a completely different spin on Ohio State's Gator Bowl history," he joked.

BETTER TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE
This game will not exactly be a showcase for receivers. There isn't a single pass-catcher on either roster with more than 28 catches (UF running back Chris Rainey and tight end Jordan Reed), and nobody on Ohio State's roster has caught more than 14 passes this season (receiver Corey Brown and tight end Jake Stoneburner).

Stoneburner does have seven touchdown catches, though. Ohio State has thrown 17 touchdown passes this season, and as paltry as that is, it's still more than Florida, which has thrown just 12. That's the same number as last season, which is the fewest since the Gators threw just 10 TD passes in 1989.

YOUTH MOVEMENT
One of the reasons both teams have struggled to 6-6 records -- other than the suspensions at Ohio State -- is that neither team has much experience.

That's obvious when looking at the two-deep depth chart for both schools. Florida has 37 freshmen and sophomores on its two-deep and Ohio State has 31 on its two-deep.

The Buckeyes start two true freshmen (quarterback Braxton Miller and linebacker Ryan Shazier) and the Gators start one (safety De'Ante Saunders). UF lost its other freshman starter, cornerback Marcus Roberson, to a neck injury in the South Carolina game.

THREE MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Ohio State DE John Simon vs. Florida LT Chaz Green
Simon (6-foot-2, 270 pounds) leads the Buckeyes with 7.0 sacks and 15 tackles for loss. The junior will be a tough test for Green (6-5, 306), a redshirt freshman who has battled an ankle injury late in the season. Ohio State has recorded 23 sacks while Florida has given up 23.

Ohio State RT J.B. Shugarts vs. Florida Buck Ronald Powell
Powell (6-4, 248) has been somewhat disappointing in his first season as a starter, but he does lead UF in sacks (5.0) and he has come on in the final quarter of the season. Ohio State has allowed 40 sacks this season. Remember how things worked out the for the Buckeyes when they lined up some beefy tackles (Shugarts is 6-7, 300) against quick UF defensive ends?

Ohio State LB Etienne Sabino vs. Florida TE Jordan Reed
Sabino (6-3, 242) is the Buckeye's strongside linebacker, which means he'll sometimes draw Reed (6-3, 239) one-on-one. If Reed's ankle is completely healthy, he's a tough matchup because of his speed and athleticism.

RIVALRY RENEWED
The schools have met just once on the football field, but that was enough to spark a rivalry -- especially after what happened on the basketball court.

Florida routed Ohio State 41-14 in the BCS National Championship Game in Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 8, 2007. The Buckeyes returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, but Ted Ginn, Jr., was injured during the celebration and missed the rest of the game.

UF held Ohio State to just 82 yards of total offense and sacked Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Troy Smith five times, intercepting him once.

UF made sure the rivalry got heated up three months later when the Gators beat the Buckeyes 84-75 to win their second consecutive basketball national championship.

"I think it is [a pretty good rivalry]," Fickell said. "That's the beauty of college football. Whether you play a team in a bowl game or you recruit against them and you play against them in other sports and things, you kind of develop some of those little rivalries."

Michael DiRocco covers University of Florida sports for GatorNation. He can be reached at espndirocco@gmail.com or on Twitter @ESPNdirocco.