OK, it's time to cook up an upset. Here are my thoughts on the big game.
Let's not kid ourselves. They are better than us. In some areas, much better. We can talk all we want about how our team speed matches theirs, but it doesn't. The difference between Preston Parker and Percy Harvin is off the charts. In spots, we can match up, but overall, they are faster.
We are also not as strong as they are on either line. That doesn't mean we can't win the trenches, it just means we will have to play with excellent technique and we will have to rely on momentum throughout the game.
Here are the ingredients to an upset:
1) FAST START
We need to score the first touchdown of the game. Notice I didn't say we "have to score first." Kicking a field goal as the first score of the game is actually worse than not scoring at all because everybody in the stadium will be thinking the same thing "We can't beat them with field goals." It's actually a hidden momentum sapper. We can kick a field goal early, but it must then be followed by a touchdown BEFORE they score a touchdown.
I give us virtually zero chance of coming from behind in this game.
We've got to be plus 2 or better. Sorry, but in an even turnover world, even if we win special teams big, we lose. We won't be able to stop them consistently and they will be able to stop us -- perhaps not consistently, but enough.
But, it's not enough to be plus 2, turnovers need to either DENY them points (inside our 30 yard line) or lead directly to FSU points.
3) BIG PLAYS
OK, we've socred the first touchdown and we've capitalized on a turnover margin of 2 more more. Now, we need to be minus 2 or better on plays over 30 yards.
4) SPECIAL TEAMS
We need to win special teams -- if we are on the low end of the above factors (that is, if we're right on +2 in turnovers and right on -2 in big plays) then we'll need to have a game-changing special teams play (return for TD, blocked punt for TD). Otherwise, we need to win convincingly by: a) averaging at least 8 yards more per return than they do b) averaging at least 5 yards more per net punt than they do c) defeating them in the field goal/PAT game
5) RUSHING OFFENSE
We simply need to run the ball. First and foremoast, we need more rushing attempts than the Gators. We don't have to have any super long runs, but we need a number of gains of 15+ yards -- let's say 5 or more. Our trick running plays need to ALL go for positive yardage. We need to be minus 5 minutes or better on time of possession.
Notice I'm not talking about their offense other than in the big play section. They are going to move the ball and score points, it's that simple. But if we are Plus 2 or better on tunovers, that should lead to a net gain of 10-14 points. If we start fast to gain momentum, gain (directly or indirectly 7 points off special teams) and run the ball effectively enough to limit their possessions, we can win a 35-31, 31-28, 28-27-type game.
I like the 1996 game as an analog.
They were clearly better than us that year. Our 2008 offense is probably a little better (despite Dunn) and our 1996 defense was better (scary good that year -- Wadsworth/Wilson/et al)
Let's look at how the game turned out.
We won the turnover battle 3-1 (3 Weurffel INTs -- and another that was stolen by a bogus PI call -- we had one fumble).
We won special teams -- Boulware blocked a punt that we recovered at the 2 -- Pooh Bear finished it off for 6. They also missed 2 FG's. Sean Liss averaged 42.6 per boot while they averaged less than 30 yards. Peter Warrick also had a nice 19-yard return.
I don't konw about big plays, but none of their scoring plays were from over 10 yards. I remember a couple of long throws to Reidell Anthony but we also had a long pass to Warrick to the 2 yard line so I think we were at least minus-2 or better there.
And oh my did we run the ball. 35 carries for 183 yards, almost all of that by Dunn. Obviously we'll have to spread it around more Saturday, but you get the idea. They had 28 carries for 81 yards.
Oh, and on "Fast start?" -- we took a 17 nothing lead.
We need 1996 all over again. We're going to give up points, but if we follow the above recipe we will still have a great shot to win.
I've said for about a month that we've got to be +2 or better in turnover margin to win.