Primetime College Football: Allstate Sugar Bowl
In the 76th annual Sugar Bowl the Florida Gators will take on the Cincinnati Bearcats in a game full of story lines down in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Cincinnati is making its second straight New Years Day appearance in a Bowl Championship Series game. The Bearcats have won back-to-back Big East Conference titles and wrapped up a perfect regular season and then watched as its head coach Brain Kelly left for the head coaching position vacant at Notre Dame and now will not be on the sidelines for this game. Kelly’s assistant, Jeff Quinn, was named the interim head coach for this Sugar Bowl, but before this game could be played he was selected to be the next head coach at Buffalo, Quinn will honor his commitment though and lead the Bearcats in the Sugar Bowl.
The story becomes even more complicated in that Cincinnati has already hired a new permanent head coach in Butch Jones, who led Central Michigan to a pair of Mid-American Conference titles. Jones replaced Brian Kelly at CMU after he left the Chippewas to lead the Bearcats.
Cincinnati leads the nation in passing efficiency 166.19, and ranks sixth in scoring offense 39.8, passing offense 320.3, and total offense 464.3. The team has the good fortune of having two outstanding quarterbacks in Tony Pike and Zach Collaros. Pike, the senior, missed three games due to injury, but he has still thrown for 2,350 yards with 26 touchdowns against 6 interceptions this year. Collaros, a sophomore, has connected on 75 percent of his attempts for 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns against a mere 2 interceptions. As a runner, he has posted 344 yards and 4 touchdowns. Pike will get the start under center in this bowl game, and he will benefit from the presence of receivers Mardy Gilyard and Armon Binns as usual. Gilyard has recorded 80 catches for 1,150 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Binns adds 56 grabs for 859 yards and 10 scores. Gilyard has also scored a touchdown as a runner, one as a punt returner and two as a kick returner. Isaiah Pead leads the UC ground attack with 758 yards and nine touchdowns.
Cincinnati is yielding 20 ppg and 350.2 total ypg, and while the defensive unit isn’t dominant, it has been strong in most games this season. The Bearcats are only allowing 3.5 yards per rushing attempt, and they have recorded 16 interceptions as well. Aaron Webster has intercepted four passes to pace the team, and Andre Revels is tops with 103 total tackles.
As for Florida, it is making a bowl appearance for the 19th consecutive year, the second-longest active streak in the nation. The Sugar Bowl marks the program’s sixth appearance in a BCS game, and the team knocked off Oklahoma by a 24-14 final in last season’s national title contest. The Gators are 12-1 and have its own unique story lines surface before the Sugar Bowl could be played as Urban Meyer made a recent announcement that he was going to take an indefinite leave of absence following the Sugar Bowl for health-related reasons. Meyer had originally stepped down from his coaching position, stating his desire to concentrate on his health and focus more on his family. But a day later, changed his mind and will take leave instead.
Florida is led by quarterback Tim Tebow has thrown for 2,413 yards and 18 touchdowns while completing 65.2 percent of his passes this season. As a runner, the versatile signal caller has posted 13 touchdowns and 859 yards. Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey have combined for nearly 1,300 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, while tight end Aaron Hernandez and Riley Cooper have more than 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns between them.
Florida has allowed just 15 touchdowns this season, tied for the fewest in the nation with Penn State, which has played one fewer game than the Gators. The 11.5 points per game that UF is allowing ranks third nationally, and the team has given up seven or fewer points in six games. Foes are gaining a mere 101.6 yards per game on the ground against the Gators, who are yielding just 3.1 yards per rushing attempt. The pass defense is lead by ALL-SGE-NCAA Football Team member Joe Haden who has recorded 57 tackles and 4 interceptions while deflecting 8 passes.
In the only previous meeting between Florida and Cincinnati on the gridiron, the Gators cruised to a 48-17 victory back in 1984.
PICK: University of Florida Gators