This game goes down on the ABC network and it features the Penn State Nittany Lions taking on the University of Florida Gators in the 25th annual Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
Florida, 7-5, 4-4 SEC, The Gators are playing their final game under Urban Meyer who lost two of their final three games of the season and the lone win came against Division II opponent Appalachian State. Meyer will hand over the reins to former Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp following this game.
The Florida offense averaged just under 30 ppg while putting up 165.6 ypg rushing and 191.2 ypg passing every game. Quarterback John Brantley is completing 61.4 percent of his passes for 2,020 yards with 9 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Deonte Thompson was the team’s leading receiver with 36 grabs for 548 yards. The ground game for the Gators wasn’t a whole lot better as it was led by Jeffery Demps and his 531 yards on 89 carries. Trey Burton was the most efficient of the rushers, scoring 11 times though on 73 attempts.
Defensively the Gators have an impact player and Sunday bound in Ahmad Black who registered 102 tackles and 10 tackles for loss to go along with 3 interceptions and pair of fumble recoveries.
Penn State, 7-5, 4-4 Big Ten, Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions enter this bowl having lost two of its final three games of the season but prior to that the Lions had reeled off three straight wins. The Nittany Lions offense has seen better days but still has the schools all time leading rusher in Evan Royster who is playing in his last game. Royster produced 916 yards and 6 touchdowns.
The passing attack for Penn State now relies on quarterback Matt McGloin, who was given the job midway through the season. He has since gone on to complete 58 percent of his passes for 1,337 yards with 13 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. Derek Moye is Penn State’s impact player in the receiver department with 806 yards and 7 touchdowns while Brett Barrett is next with 497 yards and 5 touchdowns.
The Nittany Lions have a standout player on defense as well in linebacker Chris Colasanti who has 102 tackles.
Florida is 2-0 all-time against Penn State.
PICK: Penn State Nittany Lions
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features University of South Carolina Gamecocks taking on the University of Florida Gators in Gainesville.
Head coach Steve Spurrier returns to the town where he became a legend and became a champion both as a player and a coach during his time in Gainesville, but has yet to achieve that level of success during his tenure at South Carolina. This season the Gamecocks are 6-3 overall, and they are coming off a 41-20 loss to Arkansas at home last weekend.
South Carolina is a productive offensive team with standout players at the skill positions. Marcus Lattimore leads the backfield with 752 yards and 11 touchdowns, and the freshman is willing to put his head down and take on linebackers to pick up an extra yard or two. Alshon Jeffery is one of the top receivers in the nation. Through nine games, he has recorded 59 catches for 1,034 yards and seven touchdowns. The man in charge of getting the ball to Jeffery is Stephen Garcia, who has played well for the most part. He has completed 67.7 percent of his passes for 2,065 yards and 14 touchdowns with nine interceptions. South Carolina is generating 29 ppg while posting 395.3 total ypg.
Opponents are scoring 21 ppg against South Carolina, which is giving up 369.2 total ypg. The Gamecocks are tough against the run, permitting a mere 3.1 yards per carry and 104.6 yards per game. South Carolina has posted a stellar total of 32 sacks, including a team-high 6.5 by Devin Taylor.
After a 4-0 start to the season, head coach Urban Meyer has suffered through an unthinkable three-game losing streak. Narrow losses to LSU and Mississippi State during that slide seemed to crush any hope that the Gators had of making another trip to the conference title game. However, a thrilling overtime win over Georgia two weeks ago and a romp over Vanderbilt last weekend has the Gators on the cusp of sweeping their SEC East slate for the third consecutive season and 11th time since divisional play began in 1992.
The Gators have scored 32 offensive touchdowns this season, 23 of which have been rushing scores. Tre Burton has run for 10 touchdowns despite the fact that he has only 278 rushing yards to his credit. Clearly, the Gators feature a running back-by-committee approach, with Jeff Demps leading the charge. John Brantley is the starting quarterback for coach Meyer, and he has had the unenviable job of replacing Tim Tebow. Brantley has completed 62.2 percent of his passes for 1,616 yards and eight touchdowns against six interceptions. While the team lacks an elite receiver, there are some talented pass-catchers in the fold.
Opponents are posting just 19 ppg and 292.6 total ypg against Florida, and defense is clearly the strength of the team. The Gators are yielding a mere 121.2 rushing ypg at a clip of 3.5 yards per carry, and a mere seven rushing scores have been allowed. Ahmad Black has recorded a team-high 77 tackles for the Gators, and he has intercepted three passes while forcing three fumbles.
Florida owns a commanding 23-4-3 series advantage over South Carolina.
PICK: University of Florida Gators
This game goes down on the ESPNU network and it features the Mississippi State University Bulldogs taking on the University of Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Head coach Dan Mullen is taking on his old boss from Florida and University of Utah Utes Urban Meyer where he served as the offensive coordinator at Florida before taking over the Bulldogs last season. Mullen’s team is 4-2 overall with a record of 1-2 in SEC but are coming off a 47-24 win against Houston last week. The Bulldogs are seeking their first four game winning streak since reeling off eight straight in 1999 but haven’t played a conference game since beating Georgia 24-12 on September 25.
Mullen continues to run a two quarterback system that will only present further losses as they now get further into SEC play and can help add explanation to why they rank 74th in the nation in passing. The Bulldogs rely on junior quarterback Chris Relf, 675 yards 5 touchdowns 3 INTs, to start things things off and overcome his 59.3 percentage of throws he completes by using his legs. Relf has rushed for 295 yards and one touchdown which is second best on the team. Mullen will then turn to freshman quarterback Tyler Russell, 555 yards 4 touchdowns 5 INTs, to hopefully creat opportunities with his arm. The rotating of quarterbacks at times just kills the natural momentum and feel the quarterbacks get into and hurts the Bulldogs.
It doesn’t matter who is under center as junior running back Vick Ballard, 418 yards 11 touchdowns, is averaging a 7.2 yards per carry. Sophomore wide receiver Chad Bumphis, 431 yards 4 touchdowns, is also a relaiable option for both quarterbacks.
Defensively the Bulldogs have strength in stopping the run as they only have given up 113.2 yards per game at 3.5 yards per carry. Senior linebacker Chris White is the star on the defense as he has 46 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss.
Head coach Meyer is going against his former under study and rings his Gators into the game with a 4-2 overall record and 2-2 in SEC play. However the Gators losses have been back to back and their most recent being a nail biter to LSU 33-29. The Gators are trying to avoid losing three straight for the first time in 11 years.
The Gators junior quarterback John Brantley, 1056 yards 6 touchdowns 4 INTs, has yet to live up to the recruiting hype that was surrounding him years ago. Brantley is completing 62.1 percent of his throws but they are mostly short passes. Once again the status of junior running back Jeff Demps, 414 yards 2 touchdowns, is at 50/50 entering the game due to his sore foot. Freshman Trey Burton, 9 touchdowns, is viable player that needs to be on the field at all times.
The Gators defense is an average one but still has probably one of the best safeties in senior Ahmad Black, 50 tackles 3 interceptions.
Florida owns a 33-18-2 series lead over Mississippi State, including a 29-19 victory over the Bulldogs last season.
PICK: University of Florida Gators
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features the Louisiana State University Tigers taking on the University of Florida Gators down in Gainesville.
Head coach Les Miles is taking his Tigers to Florida unbeaten at 5-0 and 3-0 in the SEC. It hasn’t been smooth sailing for Miles and his Tigers though as they where almost handed their first loss of the season last weekend to Tennessee on their home field, but a penalty on the Volunteers at the end of the game enabled the Tigers to score the go-ahead points with no time left on the clock.
The Tigers have had a roller coaster ride at the quarterback position since week one. Miles decided last week to have junior quarterback Jordan Jefferson, 449 yards 2 touchdowns 6 INTs, and junior Jarrett Lee, 206 yards zero touchdowns 1 INT, split time under center. Jefferson has had time this season under center and has continued to stumble as he has completed 51.7 of his throws but along with his alarming interceptions has also been sacked 5 times. Lee stepped in and was clearly more impressive.
Junior running back Steven Ridley, 557 yards 4 touchdowns, leads the conference and has tried to provide a little relif for the back in forth of the quarterbacks. Ridley is averaging 5.7 yards per attempt.
Defensively the Tigers have not allowed any of their opponents to score more than 14 points which is 4th best in the nation. The Tigers are allowing a mere 246.6 total ypg, including 79 rushing ypg on only 2.3 ypc. The Tigers defensive unit has registered 16 sacks and taken the ball away from its opponents 11 times while holding foes to 32 percent success on third down conversion attempts. Senior linebacker Kelvin Sheppard leads that impressive unit with 48 tackles.
Head coach Urban Meyer tries to prepare his Gators after they suffered their first loss of the season last week to Alabama, 31-6. The loss dropped the Gators to 4-1 overall and 2-1 in the SEC as well as ending their streak of 24 consecutive regular-season wins.
Florida’s offense is lead by junior quarterback John Brantley, 902 yards 6 touchdowns 3 INTs, but appears not to be in line for semi success of that former legend Tim Tebow enjoyed. Junior running back Jeff Demps, 414 2 touchdowns, is still running on a bruised foot that slowed his speed against a tough Crimson Tide defense. The real bright spot for this years Gators has been the play of freshman athlete Trey Burton, who has thrown for 42 yards, caught 12 passes for 77 yards with one touchdown and rushed the ball for 60 yards and 7 touchdowns.
The Florida defense is just giving up 17.6 ppg which puts them at 26th in the nation. The Gators still have probably one of the best safeties in senior Ahmad Black, 37 tackles and 3 interceptions.
Florida owns a 30-23-3 series lead over LSU and has beaten the Tigers in the last two meetings.
PICK: Louisiana State University Tigers
This game goes down on the CBS network and it features the University of Florida Gators takes on the University of Alabama Crimson Tide in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Head coach Urban Meyer brings his Gators into this SEC matchup with an undefeated record as well as 2 wins in the conference. Meyer’s Gators are a far cry from their 2008 SEC Championship team and will face their opponent from last years game that they lost in Atlanta 32-13. However Florida has won 24 straight regular season games including 13 on the road. The Gators offense is handled by junior quarterback John Brantley, 700 yards 6 touchdowns 1 INT, connecting on 64 percent of his passes but ranks 90th in the nation in passing with 185.5 ypg.
Brantley has the unique situation of having a pure athlete in freshman Trey Burton, who has 8 touchdowns on the years coming from rushing and receiving. He also has junior running back Jeff Demps, 367 yards 2 touchdowns, is averaging 6.9 ypc. Junior wide reciever Deonte Thompson, 248 yards, has been the top option down the field.
The defensive effort has been solid for the most part holding teams to 295.5 ypg. The Gators still have probably one of the best safeties in senior Ahmad Black, 30 tackles and 3 interceptions.
Head coach Nick Saban also brings Alabama undefeated into the matchup but with only one victory in SEC. Last years BCS National Champion still is lead by senior quarterback Greg McElroy, 899 yards 7 touchdowns 3 INTs, who hasn’t lost a game in his career as a starter. Heisman Trophy winner junior Mark Ingram, 308 yards 4 touchdown, looks in Heisman again. Sophomore Trent Richardson, 356 yards, 4 touchdowns, is a solid backup for right now but could easily be starting for any other team in the nation. Junior wide receiver Julio Jones, 303 yards 2 touchdowns, is McElroy’s favorite target.
A lot of the faces have changed on the defensive side but is still holding teams under 295.2 offense. The defense has stars for the programs in junior defensive back Mark Barron, one sack, one INT, one forced fumble and sophomore defensive back Robert Lester, 17 tackles, 4 INTs, one fumble recovery, in the secondary. Sophomore linebacker Dont’a Hightower, 20 tackles, and the luxury of junior defensive end Marcell Dareus getting back into form.
Alabama holds a 21-14 edge in the all-time series with Florida, but just a 6-5 advantage in Tuscaloosa.
PICK: University of Alabama Crimson Tide
This game goes down on the ESPNU network and it features the University of Kentucky Wildcats taking on the University of Florida Gators in Gainesville.
Florida’s head coach Urban Meyer comes into this game just one victory short of reaching a 100 for his career as his Gators are 3-0 and that comes after a 31-17 victory at Tennessee in last weekend’s SEC opener.
The Gators though haven’t been all that impressive on the offensive side of the ball only averaging 319 total ypg. Junior quarterback John Brantley, 452 yards 5 touchdowns, has had the difficult task of replacing Tim Tebow still hasn’t thrown an interception yet which is a streak of 140 consecutive passes dating back to 2008. The Gators do have the luxury of having junior running back Jeff Demps, 310 yards 2 touchdowns, who is averaging 6.9 ypc.
The defensive side of the ball is where Florida has really stood out limiting opponents to 276.7 total ypg including just 92.3 ypg on the ground. The unit has also been opportunistic, forcing 12 turnovers with 10 coming on interceptions. Senior linebacker Brandon Hicks led the way last week with 6 tackles and 1.5 sacks but senior safety Ahmad Black takes the team honors for the season with 24 tackles and 3 interceptions.
The Wildcats are watched by first year coach Joker Phillips who is 3-0 and is the first Kentucky coach to win his first three contests on the job since Bear Bryant did so in 1946. The offense for the Wildcats has taken care of business up to this point averaging 44 points and 497.3 yards without committing a turnover.
Kentucky has senior quarterback Mike Hartline, 680 yards 5 touchdowns, to thank for that as he has also completed 72 percent of his throws. The Wildcats have also gotten senior leadership out of the running back position from Derrick Locke, 372 yards 5 touchdowns. Kentucky has gone over 200 rushing and 200 passing yards in each game this season which has provided a very well balanced attack.
Defensively the Wildcats has only forced just four turnovers but has limited opponents to just 257.7 total ypg including only 109.7 ypg through the air. Last weekend, Kentucky smothered the Akron Zips to just 172 yards of total offense. The production has been as a unit for the Wildcats but it’s early stars have been sophomore defensive end Taylor Wyndham and junior linebacker Danny Trevathan who leds the team with 20 tackles including 6 for a loss.
Florida owns a 43-17 advantage in the series with Kentucky having won the last 23 meetings including a 24-4 mark in Gainesville. It’s the second longest active losing streak in Divison I, trailing Kentucky’s 25 game run of losses versus Tennessee.
PICK: University of Florida Gators