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Talkin’ Gators

The BCS national championship game will be played three weeks from tomorrow which leaves us plenty of time to discuss match ups, scenarios and keys to the game while still having a large amount of idle time. However, that won’t stop us from discussing this game now and just about every other day for the next 21 days.

The guy we know as “Gatorpilot” here at the Machine also runs a site of his own. Orange and Blue Hue is a Florida Gators fansite that blends opinions, creativity and analysis strictly from a Gators perspective. The hope is to provoke some legitimate football discussion between us and them over the next three weeks to help preview what should be an outstanding national championship game. Here’s our first round of discussions.

CC Machine: Coaching Distractions – With the offensive coordinator already gone and the defensive coordinator being rumored as a candidate at other schools how much of a distraction do you see this being to the team in terms of bowl preparation?

GP: Big distraction!  According to Urban Meyer, Dan Mullen will call the plays.  Count on Meyer to have a close eye on Mullen's prep; if he's not meeting expectations in any area, Meyer will quickly terminate Mullen's involvement and take over.  If that happens, the Gators will go to a "playcalling by committee" structure which doesn't sound too terribly exciting to most Gator fans.  Gator Nation hopes that Mullen will return after Christmas as a Gator for two more weeks before buying his new maroon wardrobe.

Hopefully, this distraction will be minimized, but clearly none of this is to
Florida's advantage.

CC Machine: Tebow – Tim Tebow will go down as one of the best football players in college football history. Oklahoma has the daunting task of trying to slow him down and limit the Gator offense. Is there a weakness to Tebow's game

GP: Not many.  The teams that have had success against Tebow in 2007 brought heavy pressure in the form of blitzes and stunting linemen.  It worked, costing Florida 4 games last season.  This year the blitz has been far less effective; Tebow is quick to check down and the line is doing a much better job against aggressive defenses.  Tebow gets all the love but he has one of the nation's best offensive lines protecting him; they deserve a lot of the credit.  The best bet to stopping Florida is to force Tebow to beat you with his arm.  Take away Florida's powerful running game, and they become rather one dimensional.  The problem is that Tebow's arm has been plenty good to beat nearly everyone this year, so it's primarily a matter of 'pick your poison'.  Oklahoma will have to hope for a rare "off" day for Tebow, and that has happened only rarely in his career.

CC Machine: Offensive Support – Tebow leads the team in rushing attempts for the season but he also has a talented cast around him. Tell us a little about Florida's skill position guys and defend the position that that Gator offense is not just a one man show.

GP: 2008 has proven that Florida is a talented team from top to bottom.  Tim Tebow is no longer the leading rusher; his QB draw/keeper plays are far fewer; and Florida has a trio of outstanding running backs (Demps, Rainey and Moody) which seem to be playing better as the season goes along.  Obviously Percy Harvin, a WR/RB do-everything dynamo is one of the best players in all of college football.  He is complemented by steady deep-burn and possession man Louis Murphy, a world-class Tight End in Aaron Hernandez, and other great WRs that run block as well as they catch.  It's a scary group of players, no two ways about it.

CC Machine: Keeping Up With Bradford – Florida is ranked in the bottom half of the SEC in pass defense and Sam Bradford is coming in with an arsenal of weapons that hasn't been stopped yet. Outside of the, "SEC just plays better defense" argument how are the Gators going to stomp all over our visions of Oklahoma passing the ball all over the field?

GP: Gator fans have had those visions too -- we call them 'nightmares' actually -- but we're hoping that our defense will be able to put more pressure on Bradford and lock down the Sooners' talented wide receivers.  We have watched tape (or its digital equivalent) of your games and, while sweating nervously, have noted that the Sooners have played only one defense in the Top 70 this year, so maybe our guys can slow yours down.  Our hope is that Oklahoma might have to do something called "punting" once in awhile -- for you Sooner fans that have forgotten this archaic play, you can find a good demonstration in the 2001 Orange Bowl.  FSU put on a punting clinic in that game.

CC Machine: Pleasant Surprises – There's no doubt in my mind that the Mississippi game was the low point of your season (as Texas was for us) but what has been the biggest unsuspected surprise for you as a Gators fan?

GP: The surprise has been how this team has responded to that loss, and how the defense has steadily improved to the point that they are one of the nation's very best stop squads.  After the Ole Miss loss Gator Nation wasn't sure we'd win more than a handful of conference games, much less a conference championship.  And now, after Tebow's immortal words following that loss, here we are playing the No. 1 team in the nation for a crystal football.  And the days go by...  water flowing underground...