One of the best rivalries in the 1990′s in any sport was FSU-Florida. Two teams with superior talent and innovative head coaches played yearly, and even met for the National Championship in a bowl game once. Bobby Bowden is now out of coaching and Steve Spurrier has been gone from Florida for some time, but this years Chick-fil-A game in Atlanta is the next best thing to a reunion. Steve Spurrier, after 5 long years, finally has the Gamecocks on the cusp of respectability once again. Jimbo Fisher, in his first year at FSU, has the Seminoles poised to return to national prominence as well. Usually SEC-ACC games see the SEC teams heavily favored but in this game Spurrier and company will have their work cut out for them. This year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl should be among the most competitive games on the field and the most fun to watch at home.
3 Keys From the Scouts
1. Can FSU stop Marcus Lattimore? South Carolina will be playing without starting offensive lineman Garrett Chisolm. Even so the Gamecocks will need to establish Marcus Lattimore early and use him to wear down a pretty good FSU defense. Lattimore is a game changing runner, even as a freshman. Consistent yardage from Lattimore will not only open up opportunities for Alshon Jeffrey and company but it will set a physical tone. As a general rule SEC teams usually beat out of conference teams in physical games.
2. FSU needs to hit the big play in the passing game. 33 times this season FSU has gained more than 20 yards on a play. South Carolina’s run defense is stingy and yardage is likely to be scarce on the ground. The Seminoles will need to make big plays in the passing game and put the pressure on South Carolina’s offense to keep pace with them. If this game becomes a grind it out/field position battle where the team with the fewest mistakes wins, South Carolina will probably emerge victorious as they don’t make mistakes often when they are in control. If they start to push offensively then they get sloppy and FSU can capitalize.
3. Which offensive line will set the tone? Both defenses are among the national leaders in sacks and tackles for loss. Both offenses depend on deep passing plays as a staple of their offense. South Carolina will be playing a new starting 5. Florida State is battle tested. The difference is that the Gamecocks will be the best defensive line FSU has played all year. USC has played several teams with defensive lines as good, or better, than the Seminoles.
Bold Prediction: Steve Spurrier began motivating his team the day the Bowl invitation was accepted by claiming the Gamecocks need to learn to win in Atlanta if they ever want to accomplish their goals. Florida State is looking to serve notice that they are back. Closing this season out with 2 victories over SEC teams, and finishing with 10 wins, would send a clear message that Jimbo Fisher has the team headed in the right direction. Unfortunately USC is not Florida. In fact hey might be better than Virginia Tech. South Carolina 34 FSU 24.
|3rd||Devin Taylor||DE||98||3So||Developing defensive lineman that has shown the ability to dominate games. Offers terrific size, growth potential and just scratching the surface of his abilities.|
|4th||Cliff Matthews||DE||83||5Sr||Fluid defensive end who moves well on his feet and makes plays in every direction of the field. Athletic and explosive. Poor man’s version of John Abraham.|
|5th||Jarriel King||T||76||5Sr||Solid prospect at left tackle. Possesses good lateral range and pass blocking feet.|
|5th||Chris Culliver||S||17||5Sr||Versatile defensive back that can play safety or corner. Physical and very tough.|
|6th||Ladi Ajiboye||DT||91||5Sr||Explosive interior lineman who plays with great quickness. Possible three technique lineman.|
|6-7||Weslye Saunders||TE||88||4Sr||Tight end/offensive tackle. May be seeking another year of eligibility after sitting on the sidelines this season.|
|2nd||Rodney Hudson||G||62||5Sr||Terrific zone blocking prospect that been very productive at FSU.|
|4th||Christian Ponder||QB||7||5Sr||Smart, tough passer struggling with a number of injuries and watching his draft stock decline.|
|4-5||Taiwan Easterling||WR||8||4Jr||Game breaking receiver that plays with great suddenness.|
|4-5||Nigel Bradham||OLB||13||3Jr||Steady linebacker that’s flashed in the past. Considering entering the draft.|
|5th||Markus White||DE||98||4Sr||Explosive defensive tackle who knifes between blockers on the inside or immediately alters his angle of attack to make plays down the line. Never developed the way we thought possible.|
|6th||Jermaine Thomas||RB||38||3Jr||Small, elusive ball carrier that creates his own yardage. Situational runner at the next level.|
Game Preview: Brent Foshee
Prospect Preview: Tony Pauline
When an SEC team prepares for a bowl game, it is generally quite an ordeal. As the Georgia Bulldogs prepare for tonight’s bowl game, they are not accustomed to seeing a Conference USA opponent across the field. “When you’re 6-6 and you’re in a bowl, you’re kind of hoping you’re going to play another 6-6 team,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said recently. “But we got into the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, and we get to play a conference champion and that’s exciting for our guys. We get a chance to prove to the country that we’re still a pretty darn good football team.” Central Florida is not a team to be overlooked as the reside within the top 25. Meanwhile, Georgia is still licking its wounds as whispers questioning Mark Richt’s job security growing louder . The game may prove more interesting than many anticipate based on face value.
3 Keys from the scouts
1. Fresh meat. Both teams will trot freshman quarterbacks out on the field, and both will rely heavily on the playmaking abilty of each. UCF’s Jeff Godfrey and UGA’s Aaron Murray have proven throughout the season they can respond to the expectations. Godfrey is a dynamic dual threat. He has completed over 68 percent of his passes and has more than doubled his touchdown to interception ratio (13/6). The Knights’ signal caller has also rushed for 546 yards this season. Murray is a traditional pocket passer who has quadrupled his touchdown to interception ratio (24/6). The key may come down to which of these two players make the least amount of mistakes.
2. Balance. Central Florida’s offense is as balanced as one will find. The difference in yards per game on the ground versus the run is miniscule (0.7 yard per game difference). Meanwhile, Georgia has become a predominant passing team this season. UCF is already one of the best teams against the run in the nation, and it will make the Dawgs even more one-dimensional. Luckily, Georgia has uber-talent A.J. Green breaking through opposing secondaries. The Knights will use its balance to keep Georgia on its heals, while the Knights’ defense should be able to pin its ears back as soon as they get off the bus.
3. Crazed dogs. Two of the best in the business will be chasing the aforementioned quarterbacks all afternoon. Geogia’s Justin Houston has first round ability. He plays the edge in Todd Grantham’s 34 (a unit which has struggled this season). Central Florida’s Bruce Miller has continually put up numbers in the system but gets overlooked. He is undersized, but his 27 career sacks speak for themselves. Miller may received the attention, but his bookend, Darius Nall, actually leads the team in sacks.
Bold Predictions: Earlier predictions may have been bold, but they have been lacking in accuracy. None may be bolder than Central Florida squeeking past Georgia, despite the talent advantage the Bulldogs clearly possess. Currently, the Knights are a better overall team and have played as such. Georgia has yet to put it together this season. This may be the nail in the coffin for Richt if UCF can pull a stunning upset. Central Florida 24, Georgia 21.
Pro Prospect Preview
|FA||Jah Reid||T||76||5Sr||Large, powerful lineman who blocks with terrific fundamentals. Strong side prospect.|
|FA||Bruce Miller||OLB||49||5Sr||College defensive end who flashes ability in space. Projects to outside linebacker yet built more like an inside ‘backer.|
|FA||Lawrence Young||OLB||57||4Sr||Fluid, fast linebacker that shows ability in pursuit. Slow to react and poor instincts.|
|FA||Derrick Hallman||OLB||38||4Sr||Quick, explosive linebacker fast in every direction of the field. Inefficient and takes too many steps to the action.|
|1st||A.J. Green||WR||8||3Jr||Explosive game breaker with all the skills necessary to be a number one receiver on the NFL level. Will enter the draft despite recent comments to the contrary.|
|3rd||Cordy Glenn||G||71||3Jr||Big, powerful wide bodied blocker that overwhelms opponents, removing them from the action. 50/50 as to whether or not he enters the draft|
|3rd||Justin Houston||DE||42||4Jr||Good athlete with great upside. Fires off the snap, fast off the edge and effective making plays from the backside. Projects to outside linebacker but looks lost the times he’s asked to play in space.|
|5-6||Brandon Boykin||CB||2||3Jr||Solid cover corner with good ball skills.|
|4th||Trinton Sturdivant||T||77||4Jr||Physically talented lineman that’s had an up and down career. Offers NFL size but must improve his balance and complete his game.|
|4th||Clint Boling||T||60||4Sr||Workman like college tackle that projects as a back-up in the NFL.|
|5-6||Shaun Chapas||FB||49||4Sr||Terrific lead blocker with nice vision and strength. Works hard in all aspects but a bit one dimensional.|
|6-7||Akeem Dent||ILB||51||5Sr||Big, strong, run stuffer who struggles in space.|
|6-7||Justin Anderson||G||79||4Jr||Big, strong blocker that easily turns defenders from the action|
|7th||Cornelius Washington||DE||83||3So||Undersized yet explosive pass rusher that gets a tremendous amount of momentum going up the field.|
|FA||Josh Davis||T||78||4Sr||Strong lineman with good size. Easily turns defenders from the action or anchors in pass protection. Has struggled with injuries as of late.|
|FA||Fred Munzenmaier||FB||48||5Sr||Underrated lead blocker that can play at the next level. Strong and plays with a nasty attitude.|
|FA||Demarcus Dobbs||DE||58||4Sr||Mechanically sound defensive lineman who lines up at defensive end or stands up over tackle. Shows the ability to makes plays in every direction and fast.|
|FA||Darryl Gamble||OLB||50||4Sr||Good athlete who covers a large amount of area on the field, making plays sideline-to-sideline. Effective in pursuit and also in coverage. Underrated and a solid prospect.|
Game Preview: Brent Sobleski
Prospect Preview: Tony Pauline
There was a time when a Notre Dame/Miami Bowl Game would have been played for a national championship. Those days are long gone but the Sun Bowl does offer an interesting match up between once proud franchises that have fallen on harder times of late. Randy Shannon is out at Miami while Brian Kelly looks to have the Irish on the right track on the field. With Al Golden in place now in Miami this game serves as a look into two potential BCS teams in the coming years.
3 Keys From the Scouts
1. Miami’s passing defense versus Malcolm Floyd. Floyd is one of the best receivers in the nation and is always a difficult match up for opponents. Miami, however, has had little trouble defending the pass all season and leads the ACC in pass defense. Brian Kelly’s offense is unlike anything in the ACC though and he will be creative when it comes to getting the ball to Floyd.
2. Will the dual quarterback work for Miami? Jacory Harris is a 3 year starter that still plays inconsistently. Stephen Morris is a promising freshman that played well when Harris went down with injury. If the Miami coaches try to force the action then it could disrupt Miami’s rhythm and lead have a detrimental effect on the Hurricanes. If, however, they are more judicious in their timing they could keep Notre Dame off balance, especially early, and perhaps score a few points before the Irish adjust.
3. Can Notre Dame protect its quarterback? Miami is a swarming, aggressive defense. They have 33 sacks on the season and will look to attack the fighting Irish with stunts and blitzes. Notre Dame is far from a poor pass blocking line but they have struggled against fast aggressive front sevens all year.
Bold Prediction: Stability is usually key in games like this where one coach has been dismissed. This game should be different. Miami plays good team defense which should counter Notre Dame’s offensive edge. If the Miami coaches are smart with how they substitute their quarterbacks they should find some early scoring opportunities before turning the game over to their defense. Miami 37 Notre Dame 24.
|1-2||Michael Floyd||WR||3||3Jr||Tall, game controlling possession receiver that can be an awesome red-zone threat.|
|2nd||Kyle Rudolph||TE||9||3Jr||Complete tight end that is a sensational blocker and terrific pass catcher. Sat out most of the season with a serious hamstring injury which required surgery to repair. Expected to enter the draft.|
|4th||Darius Fleming||OLB||45||3Jr||Aggressive and strong linebacker best up the field.|
|4-5||Brian Smith||OLB||58||4Sr||Quasi defensive end/outside linebacker that has shown flashes in the past. Potential 3-4 outside ‘backer.|
|5th||Dayne Crist||QB||10||3So||Solid signal caller with a nice arm. Has an upside and should get better in time.|
|6th||Ian Williams||DT||95||4Sr||Quick, penetrating one-gap lineman with limited upside. Sidelined with a knee injury.|
|6th||Duval Kamara||WR||18||4Sr||Underrated receiver that does enough to get looks as a 5th receiver on the NFL level. Out for personal reasons.|
|FA||Armando Allen||RB||5||4Sr||Quick, elusive ball carrier who creates yardage yet is mostly a one speed back.|
|FA||Kapron Lewis-Moore||DE||89||3So||Long, angular athlete who flashes pass rush skills.|
|FA||Robert Hughes||RB||33||4Sr||Solid short yardage runner that also distinguishes himself as a pass catcher out of the backfield.|
|FA||Chris Stewart||G||59||5Sr||Wide bodied blocker best in confined quarters.|
|FA||Jonas Gray||RB||25||3Jr||Patient ball carrier that picks up yardage off initial contact and also looks solid catching the ball out of the backfield.|
|1st||Allen Bailey||DE||57||5Sr||Athletic lineman that can be used as a conventional tackle or two-gap end. Offers a great amount of upside. Has shown steady improvement in his game.|
|1-2||Leonard Hankerson||WR||84||4Sr||Big strong receiver with deceptive speed. Very reliable and has been steadily climbing boards.|
|2-3||Brandon Harris||CB||1||3Jr||Talented cover corner with solid ball skills. Flashes the ability to shut down opponents but needs more consistency. Will enter the draft.|
|3rd||Orlando Franklin||G||74||5Sr||Massive guard really coming into his own. Strong, athletic and has the versatility to be used at several offensive line positions. Turned in a terrific senior season.|
|4th||Colin McCarthy||OLB||44||5Sr||Reliable linebacker that plays with a great degree of intensity and intelligence.|
|4-5||DeMarcus Van Dyke||CB||8||4Sr||Physically talented athlete that needs a lot of work on his ball skills.|
|7th||Graig Cooper||RB||2||4Sr||Quick, elusive ball carrier with size and power. Makes defenders miss, creates his own yardage and runs with an aggressive style. Solid pass catcher out of the backfield. Reminds us of a stronger version of former Hurricane ball carrier Frank Gore.|
Game Preview: Brent Foshee
Prospect Preview: Tony Pauline