As part of the dwindling off season, SOTU will preview each game on the Canes' schedule. During the season there will be much more in-depth previews the week before each game, but these will serve to get you ready for what is to come. Enjoy!
Already circled on many of the pundits Top 10 non-conference games of the year, the Gators and Canes meet for what could be the last time in a very long time on September 7 at Sun Life Stadium.
A BITTER HISTORY
The Gators and Canes, the two oldest major football program in the history of the state, will be looking to get the last laugh, barring a bowl meeting sometime down the road. Miami leads the all-time series 28-26, with the Gators, behind the strength of Tim Tebow and a fierce defense, won the last meeting 26-3 in 2008 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, the Gators' first win in the series since 1985.
The series took a major turn for the ugly in 1971, when the Gators, leading 45-8, flopped down on defense allowing the Canes to score in the waning moments of the game. The reason? Florida QB John Reaves needed 14 yards to break the NCAA all-time passing yards record. He got it on a 15-yard completion to Carlos Alvarez. As time expired, the elated Gators celebrated by running and jumping into Flipper's pool in the open East end zone of the Orange Bowl. UM coach Fran Curci reportedly refused to shake UF coach Doug Dickey's hand after the game. This game became known as the Gator Flop.
Or how about 1980, when the Gator fans, trailing 28-7 late, hurled frozen oranges onto the field. As Schnellenberger shook his assistant coach's hand, his coach was plunked with an orange. Incensed, Schnellenberger sent his field goal unit onto the field with seconds left for a chip shot field goal to make the score 31-7 as time expired. Afterwards, Schnelly explained he wanted the media to come ask him why the field goal, so he could have his soapbox about the actions of the UF students.
Who can forget the 2001 Sugar Bowl, and the battle on Bourbon Street, where Alex Brown got a shiner amongst fisticuffs between the players six days before the game. Miami got the last laugh, pulling away late and winning 37-20 in Spurrier's only career matchup with the Canes, who finished #2 after Oklahoma's 13-2 win over FSU in the Orange Bowl/National Championship game.
In 2003, the Gators led 33-10 midway through the third quarter in a noticeably orange-and-blue orange bowl. Then, the Canes ditched the pro style offense and moved to a shotgun spread, which played to Brock Berlin's strengths. He led a furious 28-point scoring purge over the next quarter and a half en route to a 38-33 triumph, one of Miami's largest and most memorable comeback victories in school history.
Could the young, but developing Canes catch the state's flagship program at the right time? As Miami used to do, Florida will be replacing several players that departed for the NFL, including stars at three levels in the heart of their defense in DT Shariff Floyd, LB Jon Bostic, and S Matt Elam. Talented RB Mike Gillislie's production will be missed, as will TE Jordan Reed in the passing game. Can Jeff Driskel take a step forward in his junior season and create a spark in the UF passing game? Will super sophomore RB Matt Jones take the league by storm, and some of the pressure off Driskel? Certainly, Florida is a team entering 2013 with plenty of question marks.
Miami is a team that looks much like last year's version, capable of scoring in droves with young and lightning-quick skill position starters and a senior quarterback, but iffy in spots defensively. However, they may not be as iffy defensively as this time last year. With the return of Curtis Porter, the Canes' run defense takes a couple of ticks up. Denzel Perryman looks ready to have a memorable season behind him. Also, the Canes might have a couple of guys to go with Anthony Chickillo as far as getting after the passer in Tyriq McCord and Al-Quadin Muhammad.
The question for me rides on how well Miami can stand up defensively to Florida's offensive line and create some long down and distance situations early. Can Curtis Porter clog the middle and force things outside? Can Chick/Tyriq and company create pressure on the slippery Driskel in obvious passing situations?
PLAYERS TO WATCH
With a team a good as Florida, sometimes you have to make your hay in the special teams game. We don't yet know exactly what role Duke Johnson will have there, if any, but if there, or in the backfield, Duke' athleticism and big play ability will have to match that of the talented Gator defense, who will likely key on him early and often.
This is a big "prove-it" game for Driskel. Despite leading the Gators to the Sugar Bowl and a one-loss regular season, Gator fans have yet to fully put their faith in the rising junior, especially in the passing game. If he struggles to get things going against what had been a woeful Miami defense in 2012, the pressure will only continue to rise for him as the Gators enter SEC play.
For the first time ever, these teams won't be meeting at the orange bowl in their South Florida tilt. Regardless, there will be a dominating presence of orange-and-blue clad fans at Sun Life Stadium. Unfortunately for those of us that are planning to attend and tailgate, kickoff is scheduled to be a nooner on the mothership, so bring your mimosas and Jimmy Dean's to celebrate a farewell to (what used to be) one of the nastiest and greatest rivalries in college football.