Tomorrow is the big day. It was touch and go there for a while this season, and frankly after the Illinois disaster I wasn't even sure Penn State was going to make a bowl game this year. But here we are, and tomorrow the Nittany Lions will meet the Florida Gators. We know at least one coach will be roaming the sidelines for the last time, but we're not sure about Joe Paterno. But enough lead in. You know the story lines. Here are your BSD Staff Previews.
Finally. For the last time this season we get to watch our Nittany Lions suit up and hopefully get a win against the SEC's Florida Gators. Ironically, this will be Urban Meyer's last game as the coach of the Gators, his second retirement in as many years. Meyer's hands on, 20 hour work weeks have already got up with the 46 year old. Meanwhile in Happy Valley, email and internet rumors of Joe Paterno's retirement following the Outback Bowl spread like wildfires until, of all people, Sue Paterno put them to bed. Look, according to everyone not in the know, Joe has been retiring since 1981. The game tomorrow should be more about the 2010 season and the outgoing seniors and less about will or won't Joe go. I'm sure if you tune into the game, you will hear more references to Joe and Urban retiring than Evan Royster potentially passing the 4,000 yard mark for his career.
Matt McGloin is expected to get the start and will need to take advantage of the banged up Gator secondary. The bigger question that remains to be seen is if Rob Bolden will get some playing time. Bolden hasn't had meaningful playing time since the Northwestern game, and I'm not sure if the coaches will go the dual QB route (unlikely the Gators, who will be utilizing 3 QB's tomorrow). Expect Derek Moye to use his size and speed to create some big plays on the outside and look for Silas Redd, Royster, and Devon Smith to make things happen in the running game.
Defensively, Penn State needs to stop the run. Florida hasn't gotten consistent QB play since Tim Tebow packed up his cape for the NFL. John Brantley is still stuck in a read-option offense, which apparently he isn't able to run even though they ran the same offense at Florida since he committed to the school as a high school senior (if he wanted to run a pro style offense, why not pick a school that runs one?). Expect Florida to try and exploit Penn State's poor run defense with Jeff Demps' world class speed. The real question will be if all of the distractions that have occurred during the bowl preparations will have an affect on the Gators.
Prediction: Penn State 28, Florida 20
Though it's hard to believe in the midst of the rumors about JoePa stepping down and Bradley looking at the other Pennsylvania state schools for a head coaching job, Florida's coaching structure has probably been more inconsistent during the past month. And though it's hard to believe it given the unexpected success of operation McGloin Despite Them, Florida's 3 QB rotation probably makes them more dysfunctional at the most important position on the field.
To be clear, Florida is no pushover. While no coach is really in JoePa's bowl record ballpark, Urban Meyer's 6-1 post season record at Utah and Florida is pretty remarkable in its own right. And, I hate to perpetuate media myths, but the Gators do have better athletes than Penn State. I think we'll see a lot of points, and a couple of lead changes, but ultimately a Florida win (and a PSU cover).
Prediction: Florida 34, Penn State 30
I've been billing this game all along as the movable object of Penn State's defense vs. the stoppable force of Florida's offense. In matchups like that, I always like to take the defense. Of course, this is a bowl game, though, and Urban Meyer has had more than enough time to put some tricks up his sleeve that could even things out a little. He also has a deeper stable of athletes to go out and make plays. Needless to say, Florida is probably going to make things happen, so it'll be interesting to see how Penn State responds to the pressure.
Florida is a lot closer to Michigan and Northwestern (with Dan Persa) than it is to Ohio State or Alabama, so Penn State should be in the game. But, as the Lions had to do in both those home wins, they're going to have to play well on offense and get stops at the right time on defense. Florida will get its points, the key for Penn State is to contain when the pressure is greatest.
Prediction: Penn State 38, Florida 34
BSD Mike Says...
I guess Fugi and Spak weren't paying attention to all of our reviews of Florida's games. If either team breaks 30 points I'll be shocked. Florida's struggles on offense are well documented by now, but their defense is still very good. Penn State's offense has greatly improved as the season went on, but the offensive line still wasn't very good.
This is a game where the extra practice, and how each team uses it, is going to be key. Penn State spent their time locked away in the Philadelphia Phillies spring training facility which is kind of in the middle of nowhere with not much to do outside of practice. The Florida Gators spent their weeks practicing at their own facility, but they spent their time wondering who their next coach will be. Their starting quarterback spent the month exploring his options to transfer. The offensive coordinator was off interviewing for the Temple job. The defensive coordinator was in the hospital. The head coach has been flying back and forth to Connecticut interviewing for a job as an analyst with ESPN.
In other words, the Gators are dealing with a ton of distractions. I don't think their heads or their hearts are in this game. I look for Penn State to win, but I think it's going to be a low scoring game.
Prediction: Penn State 17, Florida 10