2012 Gator Bowl Predictions: Florida vs. Ohio State Odds and Picks
by Alan Matthews - 12/21/2011
If you had told Gator Bowl organizers back in the summer that they would be matching Florida and Ohio State, they probably would have wet themselves. Alas, this matchup of previous superpowers doesn’t hold quite the cache as expected because both enter off hugely disappointing seasons and at 6-6 each for the Jan. 2 game in Jacksonville.
It’s the first 6-6 matchup in this bowl’s history.
But in many ways this is one of the most unusual bowl pairings in years.
Of course, you have the Urban Meyer factor, with the former Gators head coach ending his one-year sabbatical from Florida to take over the Buckeyes. He won’t be coaching in this game – Ohio State got NCAA approval to essentially have two different coaching staffs at one time. Meyer and his new group are recruiting, etc., while Luke Fickell will be in his final game as interim head coach but is expected to take over as Meyer’s defensive coordinator unless he gets another head coaching gig (Pitt interviewed him).
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Will Muschamp’s Gators, meanwhile, are using an interim offensive coordinator in running backs coach Brian White. He had to slide into that gig because former OC Charlie Weis left Gainesville after one disappointing season to take the head coaching job at Kansas.
UF’s offense was 102nd in the nation in total yards (334.0 yards per game) this year and had only 184 yards against Florida State in the Gators’ regular-season finale, a 21-7 loss. UF lost six of its final eight games.
And finally, you have the specter of this being Ohio State’s only postseason appearance for a year: The NCAA handed down its penalties Tuesday for the tattoo/memorabilia/Jim Tressel/Terrelle Pryor issues and, along with scholarship reductions and probation, OSU can’t play in a bowl next season (or the Big Ten title game).
The last meeting between these two programs was in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game, won by Florida. That started the SEC’s current run of five straight national titles, which, of course, will become six with LSU and Alabama in this year’s championship.
It’s OSU’s second Gator Bowl, following a loss to Clemson in the 1978 game. You may remember that one: Ohio State coach Woody Hayes punched a Clemson player in the game and was fired the next day. This is the first time since 2004, and just the second time in 10 years, the Buckeyes aren't in a BCS bowl.
It’s UF’s ninth Gator Bowl, with the last coming in 1992 in a 27-10 win vs. NC State. The Gators are making their 21st-straight bowl appearance, which ranks first in the SEC and second nationally.
For what it’s worth, last year the SEC was 3-1 vs. the Big Ten in bowl games: Florida beating. Penn State in the Outback, Alabama bombing Michigan State in the Capital One and Mississippi State ending the Rich Rodriguez era with a blowout of Michigan in this game; the lone Big Ten was, ironically, when Ohio State, behind Pryor and other key players who should have been ineligible, edging Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.
Prior to that OSU had been 0-9 vs. the SEC in bowls and technically is still winless since the Buckeyes vacated the game. Ohio State and Florida didn’t have a common opponent this season.
OSU’s offense is actually worse than Florida – the Buckeyes rankedNo. 107 in the nation in total yards, averaging 320 per game. But Ohio State did put up 372 yards in the season finale vs. Michigan, with Braxton Miller throwing for 235 yards, his highest total of the season by more than 100.
2012 Gator Bowl Odds and Trends
UF has opened as a two-point favorite with the total at 44 on NCAA football odds. Florida is 3-8-1 ATS this year while OSU is 6-6. ‘Over/under’ records: OSU 6-6, UF 6-6.
The Gators are 5-1 ATS in their past six bowl games. But they are 0-8 ATS in their past eight games this year. The Buckeyes are 4-0 ATS in past four as a dog. They are 4-0 ATS in past four neutral-site games.
The ‘over’ is 7-0 in UF’s past seven vs. Big Ten. The ‘under’ is 4-0 in OSU’s past four neutral site games.
2012 Gator Bowl Predictions and Betting Picks
This could be offensively ugly. Florida is 1-3 in games it has allowed 24 points or more, and Ohio State is 1-4.
Ohio State has thrown 17 touchdown passes this season, and as bad as that is, it's still more than Florida, which has thrown just 12. That's the same number as last season, which is the fewest since the Gators threw just 10 TD passes in 1989.
But at least OSU’s Miller seemed to improve near the end of his freshman season, while UF’s John Brantley proved to be a vastly overrated former five-star recruit and plays his last game. Brantley suffered a concussion in the season-finale vs. FSU but is in line to start. However, defensive tackle Dominque Easley is out with a torn ACL. He started every game this year.
In six of their last seven games against FBS foes, the Gators were held to 13 or fewer points on offense. But the Gators were No. 10 in the nation in total defense, while Ohio State was 24th.
The Big Ten usually lays an egg during bowls. During the past eight years the Big Ten has had one winning bowl season, going 4-3 in 2009.
Thus, I have to go Florida here and most certainly the ‘under’.
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