NCAAF  > General NCAAF  > New Years Bowl Games Discussion III: The Gator Bowl
December 31, 2009, 10:53 PM
The Gator Bowl


Did any team have a more bewildering season than Florida State ? The pros -- narrow losses to Miami and Georgia Tech, a blowout victory over Mountain West power BYU and a comeback win at North Carolina -- were balanced out by the cons. Bad losses to South Florida , Boston College , and Clemson exposed the Seminoles??? significant flaws in what ended up being one of Bobby Bowden???s poorest campaigns.


The FSU defense was atrocious, ranking outside of the Top 100 in pass efficiency, rushing, and total yardage. Longtime coordinator Mickey Andrews was visibly shaken and embarrassed by the unit???s performance, though to be fair, he???s had far too many injuries to deal with.

The offense has had its struggles as well. Unable to mount much of a consistent rushing threat, the team routinely turned to Ponder???s arm. But with Ponder knocked out, the offense???s identity went with him. Now the ???Noles will have to find themselves again, this time with an inexperienced leader. Freshman E.J. Manuel led them through their final three games, beating Wake Forest and lowly Maryland . But FSU was obviously outclasses against Florida . Facing West Virginia isn???t nearly as good as the Gators, but they offer a fairly stiff test for the young QB.

The primary problem is that FSU gives up 30 points a game, on average. And they allow more than 203 yards per game on the ground- that???s 108th in the nation. And it doesn???t bode well for a matchup with the #32 rushing offense. WVU can move the ball very well on the ground, and aside from a loss to the Big East champion Cincinnati , a road loss to Auburn , and a flop against USF, the Mountaineers had a solid 2009. Quality wins over Pitt and East Carolina highlighted not only a good ground game, but also a sound defense.

WVU allows only 20 points per game and ranked 32nd in total defense. That gives them an edge against a Seminoles team in the midst of a big transition.

The true drama of this game lies in the forced retirement of Bobby Bowden. The FSU legend and second winningest coach in the FBS is hanging it up after this bowl game. He had hoped to come back and coach FSU again in 2010, but the university rightfully recognized that his efficacy has been fading for quite some time. Head-coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher will be taking over next year, but for one final time, this will be Bowden???s team. And his players will no doubt play their hearts out for their mentor.

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