2010 BCS Bowl Preview: 5 Things to Watch for in the Sugar Bowl

No. 3 Cincinnati will try to put Brian Kelly’s departure to Notre Dame behind it when it takes on No. 5 Florida at 8:30PM ET on New Year’s Day. As part of our 2010 BCS Bowl Preview, here are five things to watch for in the Sugar Bowl.

1. Cincinnati’s potent passing attack vs. Florida’s vaunted defense
Led by quarterback Tony Pike and explosive receiver Mardy Gilyard, the Bearcats rank sixth in the nation in passing offense, total offense and scoring offense. Cincinnati averaged almost 40 points per game this season and houses one of the most deadly passing games in the country. That said, they’ll be heavily tested by a Florida defense that has the third best pass defense in the nation, the fourth best overall defense and the third best scoring defense. Only Alabama (11.0) and Nebraska (11.23) have allowed fewer points than Florida’s mark of 11.54. Led by defensive backs Joe Haden, A.J. Jones and Major Wright, the Gators have virtually been impossible to throw on. Making matters worse for opponents, Florida also has a fearsome pass rush, led by defensive linemen Jermaine Cunningham and Carlos Dunlap. At the center is linebacker Brandon Spikes, who is the heart and soul of the Gators’ defense. Cincinnati will certainly have to earn everything it gets come New Year’s Day.

2. The Gators’ rushing attack vs. the Bearcats’ suspect run defense
Florida boasts the 10th best rushing attack in the nation, averaging 225.23 yards per game. That doesn’t bode well for a Cincinnati run defense that is surrendering over 140 yards per game this season. The Bearcats’ defense is fast and aggressive, but struggles when opponents attack them right up the middle. In their three closest games this season, Connecticut, West Virginia and Pittsburgh all had success running up the gut. If Florida starts pounding the rock up the middle, it could take control of the game early by grinding out the clock and keeping Cincinnati’s high-powered offense on the sidelines.

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The Official Sugar Bowl Smack Talk Thread: Cincinnati vs. Florida

The 2010 Sugar Bowl will have plenty of intrigue surrounding it when the Florida Gators take on the Cincinnati Bearcats on New Year’s Day. For the Gators, Tim Tebow will be playing his last collegiate game of his career, while the Bearcats will try to overcome the loss of their head coach, Brian Kelly, who ditched them for Notre Dame.

2010 Sugar Bowl Game Information
Matchup: Florida (12-1) vs. Cincinnati (12-0)
Venue: Superdome, New Orleans
Kickoff: 8:30PM ET, January 1
TV: FOX
Odds: Florida –10

Key Stats:
Cincinnati will have its hands full trying to move the ball against a Florida team that ranks 4th in the nation in total defense, 3rd in pass defense and third in scoring. Led by linebacker Brandon Spikes, the defensive line pair of Jermaine Cunningham and Carlos Dunlap, as well as a secondary headed by safety Major Wright, the Gators have one of the best defenses in the country. Offensively, Tebow leads a group that has averaged over 225 rushing yards per game this season and over 34 points per outing.

If any team were to move the ball on Florida, it might be Cincinnati, which has the sixth best offense in college football. Led by quarterback Tony Pike and receiver Mardy Gilyard, the Bearcats rank 6th in passing offense and 6th in scoring (averaging 39.83 points per game). Defensively, Cincinnati has the top passing efficiency unit in the country and are 48th in total defense.

The Bottom Line:
Cincinnati has more than enough weapons to contend in this game, but how will they fair without Kelly calling the plays? And even though this looks like a great matchup for Florida, will the Gators get up for the Sugar Bowl after failing to reach the national title game again? One would think that Tebow would get his team up to play this game, but don’t forget Alabama quit last year in this same venue and got rolled by Utah.

Let the smack begin:

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Who will win the 2010 Sugar Bowl?
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2009 CFB Preview: Florida Gators

Check out our other 2009 college football previews.

Preseason Ranking: No. 1 in AP Top 25; No. 1 in USA Today Poll.

Key Returning Players: Tim Tebow (QB); Chris Rainey (RB); Riley Cooper (WR); Deonte Thompson (WR); Aaron Hernandez (TE); Maurkice Pouncey (C); Brandon Spikes (LB); A.J. Jones (LB); Ryan Stamper (RB); Carlos Dunlap (DE); Jermaine Cunningham (DE); Justin Trattou (DE); Ahmad Black (S); Joe Haden (CB); Janoris Jenkins (CB); Lawrence Marsh (DT); Terron Sanders (DT); Major Wright (S).

Key Losses: Percy Harvin (WR); Phil Trautwein (OT); Jason Watkins (OT); Louis Murphy (WR).

Player to Watch: Tim Tebow, QB.
With all due respect to Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford and Texas’s Colt McCoy, Tebow is arguably the best player in college football. Not the best quarterback – the best player, period. Urban Meyer says that Florida will incorporate the no-huddle into their offense this season, which should only play into Tebow’s strengths, as he can beat opponents with either his arm or his legs. After throwing for 2,746 yards, rushing for 673 yards and totaling 42 touchdowns, Tebow returns for his senior season in hopes of leading Florida to its third national title in the last four seasons. And after compiling one of the most impressive second halves of any player in college football last year, there might not be anything that stands in Tebow’s (and Florida’s) way this season.

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