Tag:Mike Gillislee
Posted on: November 6, 2011 2:45 am
 

SEC Winners and Losers, Week 10

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



WINNER: LSU. 

Usually, we'd find some specific angle to take within the team or the coaching staff when naming our "top" winner. Saying LSU was your big winner this SEC Saturday is like saying fire is hot.

But the stakes were so high for their win over Alabama, the rewards so lavish, that there's no real need to split those kind of hairs. LSU will now be the unquestioned, unanimous No. 1 team in the nation in every available poll, BCS standings included; they are only two games away from clinching the SEC West championship, one of which is against a team that's lost 12 straight SEC games and the other at home against a team whose last two road trips ended in death-defying escapes from that same 12-game losing streak team and Vanderbilt; they are three SEC games, then, from playing for the national championship in their own home state, at the same site where they won it in 2003 and 2007. And they accomplished all of that by defeating what might be their bitterest rival's best team in 20 years in that rival's own stadium and forced their forme head coach under the .500 mark against their current head coach. It's 100 percent possible LSU just cleared the highest hurdle between themselves and the national championship and did so in the sweetest possible fashion.

Not bad for 60-plus minutes of work.

LOSER: "Make his ass quit." 

That's the phrase Nick Saban used in a pregame speech to his players before the 2008 meeting with LSU, and one popularized as a kind of motto amongst Tide fans for the program's philosophy of oustanding conditioning work, physical play, perfect execution, and -- specifically -- the combination of all three forcing the opponent to surrender as the second half drags on. It's worked spectacularly for the most part under Saban, and until Saturday 2011 was no exception: the Tide didn't even allow a second-half point in the month of October. 

But in recent big games, the Tide have been strangely unable to force anyone on the other side to "quit"--and in fact, have come closer to doing it themselves. There was the fourth-quarter failures against LSU in Baton Rouge last season. Then the fall from 24 points ahead against Auburn. And tonight, there was this in the second half: five first downs, 104 yards, two turnovers and three three-and-outs, the last of which was the disastrous overtime possession which covered minus-10 yards.  LSU did next-to-nothing on offense in regulation too, of course, but in overtime their Jordan Jefferson/Michael Ford speed option still worked as well as it ever did.

Result: another championship-level game in which it was the other team outplaying the Tide over the final 30 minutes-plus and walking off the winners. It's not conditioning (we have little doubt every team at this level is as fit as they're going to be), but those second-half woes are something Saban's going to have to figure out all the same if he wants his teams hoisting trophies again.

WINNER: the Baton Rouge ticket market. 

Oh, Arkansas's visit on Nov. 25 won't be a second "Game of the Century" ... but with the Hogs seeing off the Gamecocks and LSU triumphing in Tuscaloosa, that game now becomes the biggest tilt remaining in the SEC's 2011 season by some margin. Despite the Razorback road woes mentioned above, Arkansas's history with LSU makes them the only realistic obstacle standing between the Tigers and Atlanta ... maybe even the BCS title game. The hype starts now. Can Dennis Johnson also bring that wood?



LOSERS: Rematch advocates. 

The stipulation was always that the best scenario for a rematch was for Alabama to win a narrow, competitive game over the Tigers that left voters wondering what would happen on a neutral field. We got the "narrow, competitive game" part, but voters won't need to see LSU on a neutral field ... since they've already beaten the Tide on Bryant-Denny Stadium's highly hostile field. Beyond that, while the first half featured plenty of smart offensive football countered only by outstanding defense, the second more often seemed like a sloppy, grind-it-out affair with neither team taking much in the way of offensive risks or producing anything resembling attacking "flair." Aesthetic value shouldn't play a part when deciding who gets to play for a national title, but voters are human all the same--and they may not be thrilled by the prospect of a second touchdown-less meeting.

WINNER: Joker Phillips.

There were more than a few people who saw Kentucky's opening-week slog against Western Kentucky, their wipeout against Florida, the epic pratfall at South Carolina, and pegged them for an 0-8 season in the SEC. Even as recently as last week, a dispiriting double-digit home loss to Mississippi State didn't suggest a corner was about to be turned.

But Phillips kept his team believing, and Saturday they comprehensively outplayed an Ole Miss team that -- at the very least -- has more offensive playmakers and comparable defensive talent. No one, Phillips included, would claim he's done a great coaching job this season, but likewise no one would argue he and his staff didn't badly outprepare the staff on the opposite sideline. 

LOSER: Pete Boone.

Whether he chooses between them now or at the end of what will likely be an 0-8 SEC campaign, the Ole Miss athletic director has two choices ahead of him after today's Rebel loss in Lexington: he can either stand behind Houston Nutt and make his own less-than-popular hold on the AD's chair that much less popular, or he can swallow Nutt's gigantic contractual bullet and go in search of a new coach even as he also fundraises for a new basketball facility and other capital improvements. Before today, Boone could entertain the possibility that a big finish by Nutt would allow him to put the ax away for at least one more year and still save face. Not any more--Nutt will enter 2012 as a virtual lame duck, or employed somewhere else, and there's nothing else Boone can realistically hope for any longer.

WINNER: Jeff Demps. 

For weeks, Demps has been nagged by various injuries. And not coincidentally -- though God knows the Gators' issues weren't that simple -- for weeks the Gators' ground game has all the effectiveness of the proverbial submarine's screen door. Against Vanderbilt, Demps finally looked like his old self, and not just on the juke-the-first-tackler-out-of-his-j
ock 52-yard touchdown that all-but-clinched the Gator victory. Also not a coincidence: with a little bit of help from Mike Gillislee, the Gators ran for 197 yards -- 158 of them Demps' -- and won their first game since September. 

LOSERS: Mark Richt's circadian rhythms. 

You know, sleep patterns. Not that college football coaches ever have particularly regular ones, but Richt's might have stayed within shouting of distance of normal if he'd known his Bulldogs didn't have everything to lose against Auburn this coming Saturday. That's not to say there's any worries about the Dawgs' total dismantling of New Mexico State -- if anything, that was a calming performance, especially where Aaron Murray's return to his usual accurate form was concerned -- but when the day started, his team didn't have to worry about the pressure that comes with being two winnable home games away from a return to Atlanta. Thanks to South Carolina's loss, that's the case, but it's also the case that Richt's teams have not performed particularly well under this new kind of pressure the last few seasons.

That's not to say, of course, that Richt wouldn't take having his team control its own destiny in a heartbeat over the alternative. But we're guessing there's a few more exhausted stares at the digital clock at 2:47 a.m. this week, too, now that Richt knows the fallout from a loss will be greater than ever.

Posted on: October 25, 2011 1:03 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Florida vs. Georgia

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

FLORIDA WILL WIN IF: John Brantley
is indeed back under center, and if he plays like the quarterback he had been this 2011 season before the high-ankle sprain against Alabama. The 10 quarters of football the Gators played without him against the Tide, LSU and Auburn were all the evidence we needed to dismiss their chances without him, but if Florida gets back the QB who'd posted a QB rating of 152.58 for the year (good for second in the SEC if he had enough attempts), they'll be able to get their licks in. Not necessarily because Brantley's going to go Robert Griffin on the Bulldogs or anything, mind--between the inevitable rust and the Dawgs' excellent secondary (top-10 nationally in both yards and opponent's QB rating allowed), the Gators are going to have to work for their passing yards no matter who's the quarterback. But with Brantley, that work should have some payoff, and that in turn should open some holes for Chris Rainey and the under-used Mike Gillislee. That balance could make a game of things, and if there's anything we've learned about the Cocktail Party over the years, it's that a tight game in the fourth quarter always favors the Gators.

GEORGIA WILL WIN IF:  The Dawgs play their game. On paper, this should be Georgia's year: they have the more coherent offensive identity, the brightest (or at least most consistent) offensive star in Isaiah Crowell, the steadier front seven now that Jarvis Jones has solidified the linebacking, and what appears to be an aerial edge on both sides of the ball. If the Bulldogs were preparing to face an opponent named the Schmorida Schmators in the World's Largest Outdoor Costume Party, we'd call them heavy favorites. But since it's Florida, and the Cocktail Party, all that on paper stuff doesn't matter much. The Dawgs almost never "play their game" against the Gators, with the 3 wins in 20 years to prove it. If Mark Richt can finally get his team right mentally, they'll get the win. But in this rivalry, that's always been a titanic "if."

THE X-FACTOR: the catastrophic quarterbacking error. Curiously, while Aaron Murray's overall performance hasn't regressed from his freshman year, the frequency of his "freshman mistakes" actually has; Stephen Garcia excluded, Murray's as many interceptions (seven) as any other SEC quarterback, and his backbreaking fumble against South Carolina doomed the Dawgs to defeat in that game. Brantley, likewise, may be more prone to the interception bug after his three-week layoff (not to mention facing a secondary in the national top-10 in picks, too). Whichever team can force the opposing singal-caller into a game-changing error is going to have a huge leg up.
Posted on: October 6, 2011 3:33 pm
 

SEC Interrogation, Week 6

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

In which we demand the SEC give us answers to its most pressing questions. Here those are:



Florida's running game: can you give your quarterback(s) any breathing room?
Any team that can start Chris Rainey or Jeff Demps at tailback and then substitute the other in for the first is going to be a threat on the ground, regardless of who their team faces; when the tiniest sliver of a crease could equal an 80-yard touchdown before the coaches have their headsets correctly adjusted, the Gator ground game is where a defense's focus is going to start ... and probably finish.

That probably goes double for LSU this Saturday, since with John Brantley out and some combination of true freshman Jeff Driskel and other true freshman Jacoby Brissett taking over at quarterback, the Gators' passing game is the most glaring of question marks. But it doesn't matter how badly the Tigers stack the box, how fearsome LSU's defensive front is, how well John Chavis has his charges prepared--Florida must find a way to get Demps, Rainey, and possibly Trey Burton moving forward on the ground. Even with Brantley looking as sharp as he ever has in the first half, the Gators still couldn't rush the ball at all vs. Alabama; Rainey, Demps, and Mike Gillislee carried 17 times for 13 yards, and the end result was zero points over Florida's final 10 drives.

If Driskel and Brissett have any prayer of completing passes consistently against the carnival of athletic freaks that make up LSU's secondary -- in Baton Rouge, no less -- that secondary is going to have to be not just concerned but downright obsessed with the Florida running game. That won't happen if that running game doesn't pick up some good early gains, maybe break a 20-to-30-yarder somewhere, and keep the Gators out of anything but the occasional third-and-long. Otherwise, Chavis's Tigers will spend all afternoon teeing off on the newbies under center and generally choking the life out of Charlie Weis's attack. Weis failed miserably in his first attempt at finding a way to run the ball against an elite SEC defense; a second failure will equal a potentially even-more-miserable defeat.



Barrett Trotter: are you up to giving Auburn a passing attack again? The Tigers' 4-1 record and road upset of South Carolina has helped mask a major, major flaw in the Tiger offense, and a surprising one given Gus Malzahn's track record: Auburn's vertical passing game has all but vanished. In the five quarters since the start of the second half against Clemson, junior QB Trotter has completed just 52 percent of his passes, for only 5.9 yards an attempt, while throwing 4 (often ugly) interceptions to just 3 touchdowns. That's not to mention the eight sacks taken by Trotter the last two games or that neither FAU nor the Gamecocks are going to be mistaken for having world-class secondaries any time soon.

Judging by Arkansas's efforts to stop the run against Texas A&M (or lack thereof), Trotter should get plenty of help from Michael Dyer and the Auburn running game. But that alone won't be enough for the Tigers to keep pace with the Hogs, not given the way Bobby Petrino's quarterbacks have shredded the Auburn defense the past two seasons (702 combined yards, 7 touchdowns) and the kind of form Tyler Wilson and Jarius Wright are in right now. With the Tiger secondary as flammable as ever (provided your quarterback isn't Stephen Garcia), Arkansas is going to score a boatload of points.

Which is why the injuries to receivers to Trovon Reed and Emory Blake couldn't have come at a worse time for Auburn. Trotter already needed to take a substantial step forward to keep the Tigers within striking distance on the road; now he'll have to do it without two of his top three receivers. If there was ever a week for Malzahn to earn his substantial assistant's salary, this looks to be it.



Georgia secondary: are you for real? When Kellen Moore gouged the Bulldogs for 28-of-34 passing and 3 touchdowns Week 1, it looked like the Bulldog defensive backs had regressed back to their dark Wille Martinez-led days. But with safety Bacarri Rambo returning from suspension, the Dawgs have held their last four opponents to team QB ratings under 86 and rank 11th in the country in opponent's pass efficiency despite the Moore carpet-bombing.

Those past results are no guarantee of future performance, since facing Tyler Bray in Neyland Stadium represents a vast step up in competition from the likes of Garcia, Zack Stoudt, the slumping Chris Relf and whoever it was Coastal Carolina trotted out. But it's worth remembering that the Vols still have next-to-nothing going on the ground; even after totaling 199 yards against Buffalo, the Vols rank a horrid 109th in the country in yards per-carry. If the Dawg defensive backs can slow down Bray at all, the Vol offense could grind to a halt ... and barring another turnover-fest from Aaron Murray, Georgia should be able to walk out of Neyland with the victory.

So: can those Dawg DBs slow down Bray or not? The evidence to date is encouraging, but with the memory of Moore's night at the Georgia Dome still lingering, it's not compelling just yet.

Other SEC questions worth asking: How does AJ McCarron look against the Vanderbilt secondary? (Don't laugh; this is the best set of defensive backs McCarron has faced yet. A strong showing would further cement the belief that the Tide have no Achilles heels.) Can Marcus Lattimore keep pace in the Heisman race? (Sure, most of the attention on Carolina is focused on new quarterback starter Connor Shaw. But a second straight subpar outing against a Kentucky defense that kept LSU's ground game bottled up for a half would put the sophomore badly behind at the midseason mark.) Does Mississippi State have any fight left? (The Bulldogs have looked utterly listless and deflated ever since losing to LSU. Is there any indication that could change down the road vs. UAB?)

Posted on: August 10, 2011 11:49 am
 

SEC RapidReport Roundup, 8/10: Dooley unhappy

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Running down everything you need to know from the day's news in the SEC, courtesy of our CBSSports.com RapidReporters.


TENNESSEE: Derek Dooley was less-than-thrilled with the Volunteers' first scrimmage of fall camp, saying of the offense "they just weren't working together, they looked like 11 individuals out there." And though quarterback Tyler Bray had his moments, Dooley wanted more out of his sophomore signal-caller.

"He made some throws, made a couple of big plays," Dooley said. "But the consistency was nonexistent, it's enough to drive you crazy." For the scrimmage, Bray went 13-of-29 for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Former blue-chip receiver Da'Rick Rogers had a productive scrimmage, catching six balls for 77 yards and a touchdown.

GEORGIA: The Bulldogs have named their three new starters on the offensive line, joining senior holdovers Cordy Glenn at tackle and Ben Jones at center: sophomore guards Kenarious Gates (left) and Chris Burnette (right), and senior left tackle Justin Anderson. Of thre three, only Gates made a start in 2010; Anderson was playing on the defensive line.

Two names impressing in the early going are converted linebacker Richard Samuel at running back -- at 6'2, 243 now a much more imposing physical presence than in his first stint at RB -- and wide receiver Marlon Brown. "“Coach (Mark) Richt asked me the other day if I could name one receiver that’s caught my eye," said quarterback Aaron Murray. "I said Marlon. He’s having a tremendous camp. He’s making plays, looks fluid and is real consistent.”

But the highlight of yesterday's practice? 6'4", 330-pound nose tackle Johnathan Jenkins taking an interception back for a score. Also, starting CB Brandon Boykin and potential starting S Jakar Hamilton continue to be held out of practice with hamstring inuries.

AUBURN: Gene Chizik confirmed yesterday that after offseason shoulder surgery, five-star linebacker signee Kris Frost will miss the entirety of the season. Frost likely would have began his Auburn career on the two-deep at outside linebacker. He becomes the second five-star Tiger recruit in as many seasons to miss his freshman year, following tackle Shon Coleman's leukemia diagnosis in 2010.

It doesn't sound like fan favorite fullback Ladarious Phillips will be a major contributor anytime soon for the Tigers; Chizik said he hasn't "bought any stock in his development yet" and that Phillips "has a long way to go."

ALABAMA: To hear wide receiver Brandon Gibson tell it, the rest of the Tide offense isn't taking sides in the QB battle between A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims. " “They both come out with a great attitude, they help each other out, and they're both competitive," Gibson said. "So with either one of them, we're going to be fine.”

As for third quarterback Blake Sims, Nick Saban said he could see the field as the Tide's designated Wildcat quarterback, or even at tailback. After missing Monday's practice with a leg injury, backup offensive lineman Arie Kouandjio (brother of five-star Tide tackle signee Cyrus Kouandjio) participated in drills Tuesday.

AND ELSEWHERE: Starting senior guard Grant Cook was held out of Tuesday's Arkansas practice with a leg injury, but Bobby Petrino doesn't believe the injury is serious. True freshman Brey Cook (no relation, we think) is filling in with aplomb ... At South Carolina, No. 1 overall recruit Jadeveon Clowney returned to practice after a one-day absence due to a "personal matter." Clowney ran with the Gamecocks' first-team line in practice ... The Florida offensive line wants under-fire quarterback John Brantley to know they've got his back. And though we're not sure about the thoughts of speed-backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey on the switch, Gator powerback Mike Gillislee likes the move to a pro-style scheme ... Sixth-year defensive end Kentrell Lockett sat out Tuesday's practice as Rebel coaches exercised caution with their oft-injured star. Houston Nutt also praised JUCO quarterback transfer Zack Stoudt, saying that after his spring game suspension he had done what he needed to do over the summer.

Posted on: May 10, 2011 1:28 pm
 

Gators' frosh RB Blakely already transferring

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Mike Blakely hasn't played a down at Florida. He hasn't even played a down of practice, being forced to sit out spring practice after surgery on an injured shoulder.

But the early-enrolling class of 2011 running back has apparently seen enough to know the Gator program isn't for him. Head coach Will Muschamp has announced that Blakely is seeking a transfer and will be leaving Gainesville following this semester:
"Mike has come to the conclusion that the University of Florida is not where he wants to play football," Muschamp said. "We wish him the best of luck" ...

“Everyone at Florida has been very supportive of me in my time here and I'm thankful for the experience that I had, but I've made a decision to continue my college football career somewhere else," Blakely said.
Despite his limited time with the Gators, Blakely's signed letter-of-intent and early enrollment means he will be nonetheless required to sit out the 2011 season as a transfer. (We think; he may be seeking an NCAA waiver of some sort.)

One of the nation's top running back prospects last year -- he ranked at No. 66 overall in the Maxpreps top 100 and the No. 7 tailback -- Blakely was expected by many to challenge Chris Rainey, Mike Gillislee and the rest of the incumbent Gator tailbacks for the starting job in Charlie Weis's power-first pro-style overhaul.

But like most members of the Gators' class of 2011, Blakely had committed to Urban Meyer and the previous regime's spread look; per one early report, after getting a first-hand look at Weis's approach, the change in offensive scheme was enough to prompt the transfer request.

As for Blakely's next step, his destination is a matter of speculation, though it seems likely he'll look for an offense similar to the Meyer spread he originally committed to. What we do know is that the team adding him will be getting a potential playmaker whose stunningly brief Florida tenure shouldn't be the last we hear of him by any means.

Posted on: March 16, 2011 12:12 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Florida

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Florida , who starts spring practice today.

Spring Practice Question: What's going to be drawn on the blank slate of the Florida offense?

As spring practice 2011 opens, there may be no single unit in the entire country more intriguing than the Florida offense.

It's true. Consider that just three years ago it was the envy of college football, an unstoppable force led by the Heisman-winning Tim Tebow, featuring the most explosive receiving/rushing playmaker in the college game in Percy Harvin, drawn up and play-called by one of the best spread-option gurus in the nation in Dan Mullen, positively littered with future successful pros like Maurkice Pouncey and Aaron Hernandez ... it was the kind of offense custom-built to win a national championship, and it did. And then two seasons later, in the hands of Steve Addazio,  it was a crumbling heap that finished an unthinkable 82nd in total offense. That was an offense built to go 7-5, and it did, too.

So it's hardly surprising Will Muschamp decided to scrap the entire thing and start over. It's maybe somewhat surprising, though, he'd start over with something he's familiar with but Florida hasn't run in ages: a true two-back, under-center, pro-style system as run by the newly-contented Charlie Weis.

The result of that decision is that what we know about the new Gator offense is dwarfed by what we don't, the questions at this stage far outnumbering the answers. A sampling:

Is Weis's offense going to incorporate anything left over from the Meyer era? It's not what Weis knows or what Muschamp hired him for, so don't expect much different from Weis's offenses at Notre Dame or the Kansas City Chiefs. But with a collection of personnel recruited for (and in many cases, much better-suited) the Meyer spread, there must be the temptation to include certain elements of the old scheme here and there. We'll see if Weis gives in to that temptation this spring.

Can John Brantley's career be salvaged? If there's any former Meyer recruit who might have been happy to see the offense overhauled, it would have to be the pass-first Brantley, who was asked by Addazio to fill many of the running-game holes Tebow did without only the tiniest fraction of the success. Weis's system could make Brantley a star, but whatever offense he's running, Brantley will have to be substantially more poised this spring if he's going to hold off a challenge from early-enrolled freshman Jeff Driskel.

What happens to the heirs to Harvin? What success the Gator offense had in 2010 was frequently the result of getting the ball to Jeff Demps, the diminutive sprinter who took several handoffs the distance. But a pro-style tailback job doesn't typically go to backs of Demps's (or fellow veteran blazer Chris Rainey's) size, and Demps's history of nagging injuries won't help him convince Weis and Muschamp he or Rainey will be ready to be an every-down back. With one of those injuries sidelining Demps for at least the start of spring, the larger Mike Gillislee or Mack Brown may be able to stake their claim to the position.

Will the offensive line bounce back? Much of the disappointment of 2010 started with the disappointing play up front, as a veteran line began its year with Mike Pouncey memorably dribbling snaps back to Brantley in the season opener and never seemed to truly recover. Now the Gators enter spring with a new line coach brought in from the NFL in Frank Verducci, and just one healthy 2010 starter available. But the competition for open spots and fresh voice following the departure of Addazio could lead to better results all the same.

Will any playmakers step up in the receiving positions? Yes, the receivers were a problem last year too, as the entire corps of wideouts and tight ends totaled just eight touchdown receptions and as a team the Gators averaged barely more than 10 yards a completion. Deonte Thompson led the way by netting 15 yards per-catch and 570 yards total; a big spring should establish him as the team's clearcut No. 1 and a potential All-SEC candidate. But it will also be worth watching Jordan Reed and Trey Burton, top-drawer athletes who moonlighted as Wildcat quarterbacks a year ago and have been shifted into starting roles as a tight end and slot receiver, respectively. If Thompson's ready to take the next step and Weis can find the best way to put Reed and Burton to use, the Gators could come out of spring with plenty of optimism regarding their receiving corps.

With so many questions, it seems unlikely Florida will find the right answers to all of them. But with so many potential answers at virtually any position you choose, whatever Weis and Muschamp cook up, it promises to be fascinating viewing ... and at the least, a good bit more effective than the not-even-close-to-fascinating viewing the Gators offered last season.


Posted on: December 31, 2010 8:46 pm
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: Outback Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Basics: Florida (7-5) vs. Penn State (7-5), Jan.1, 1pm ET

Why You Should Watch: Well, first of all, you should watch this game because it'll be starting around the same time you're finally waking up out of your New Year's Eve haze.  Nothing like some football to help you shake the cobwebs out of your brain.  Oh, and it's also the final time you will have a chance to see Urban Meyer nearly suffer a heart attack on a Florida sideline.  Not to mention, depending on who you want to believe, it could also be the final time that Joe Paterno ever graces a sideline.

Keys to Victory for Florida: You could question how Florida will approach this game given everything that's gone on in Gainesville over the last month, but I don't think motivation is going to be a problem.  There's no way these Gators want to send Urban Meyer out with a loss.  To do this, well, the Gators will have do so something they haven't done all season.

Find some consistency on offense.  Whether it's John Brantley through the air, or Trey Burton on the ground, whoever is at quarterback for Florida is going to have to make some plays against this Penn State defense.  That means the Gators offensive line, which has been pretty disappointing this year, is going to need to step up the protection.  When Brantley is back there he tends to make dumb decisions when facing pressure and has a hard time reading coverage.

The best way to help Brantley would be to get the ground game going with Mike Gillislee, Emmanuel Moody, Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey.  Penn State has had some problems with the run this season, and the Gators should watch the game film of the Penn State game against Illinois and copy Illinois' game plan.  Maybe Ron Zook can finally win a bowl game for Florida after all these years.

Keys to Victory for Penn State: Florida is faster and more athletic than Penn State.  The best way for Penn State to counter this will be to attack, attack and attack some more on defense.  Blitz John Brantley like there is no tomorrow and force him to make decisions he's not ready to make. Also, as I mentioned earlier, the Nittany Lions need to tighten things up against the run.

When Penn State has the ball it should look to exploit the Gators a bit in the secondary.  Yes, Evan Royster should still get plenty of carries to soften up the Florida defense, but the Gators don't have Janoris Jenkins in this game and he's not an easy player to replace.  Now, the problem here is that as good as Matt McGloin has been, he's not very effective on deep routes.  Which means that Penn State should look to attack Florida on shorter routes like slants and hitches. 

Finally, it will be important for Royster and the offensive line to have move the ball against the Florida run defense.  Royster had a couple of lackluster games against tough run defenses like Alabama and Ohio State this season, and for Penn State to have a legit chance in this game, he's going to have to produce.

The Outback Bowl is like: one of those Rolling Stones farewell concerts.  You know that even though they claim it's the last time you'll ever see them performing, they're going to come back eventually.  Yes, Urban Meyer may be leaving Florida to spend time with the family and tend to his health, but do you really believe a man that immersed in football is never coming back?  I don't.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com