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Original Issue

The Case for Florida

The points won't come easily, but the Gators' bruising identity is well suited to a Tide showdown

In most of the football world, it's called Power. In Gainesville, they call it God's Play. It's all about taking advantage of favorable blocking angles on the play side and bringing 600 pounds of blockers from the back side while putting the ball in the hands of senior back Mike Gillislee. Florida will run the play more than a dozen times in a game, to great effect. The Gators have desperately sought an offensive identity since Tim Tebow graduated almost three seasons ago. Now they have one. God's Play isn't the Fun 'n' Gun, but it represents the aesthetic Gators coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease believe is the only way to challenge a power like Alabama.

If a team knocks off the Tide, it won't be with finesse. It will win by punching harder than 'Bama. Florida's smothering D could turn the game into a slugfest reminiscent of LSU's 9--6 overtime win at Alabama in 2011. While Florida doesn't have a strong enough downfield passing game to keep the Alabama defense guessing, the Gators do have God's Play and a series of other simple, my-best-against-your-best schemes that can break the back of even an excellent defense thanks to an offensive line that has gone from a liability in '11 to Florida's greatest asset in '12. "You've got to keep attacking," Florida center Jonotthan Harrison says. "Keep punching the defense in the mouth.... That's our whole mentality." And if a defense keys on Gillislee, the Gators also have the kind of hammer that Alabama coaches should be familiar with after meeting Florida in the '08 and '09 SEC title games—a burly quarterback fast enough to gain significant chunks of yardage (6'4", 237-pound sophomore Jeff Driskel).

Though the 4--3 defense run by LSU coordinator John Chavis is less tricky to read than the 3--4 favored by Alabama's Kirby Smart, the Tigers' front seven offers the best approximation to Alabama's front in terms of athleticism. Against LSU on Oct. 6, Florida hit the ground on its final 25 plays and on 34 of 38 second-half plays. The strategy wore down the Tigers, and Gillislee scored a pair of second-half touchdowns in the 14--6 upset that stamped the Gators as true contenders. Last week, when several Florida offensive linemen sat out to nurse minor injuries, Vanderbilt focused on shutting down Gillislee and instead got abused by Driskel, who broke Tebow's single-game Florida rushing record for a quarterback with 177 yards and three touchdowns (on only 11 carries) in the 31--17 win.

Unlike Notre Dame and Oregon, Florida almost certainly won't face Alabama in the BCS title game. The Gators and Tide could meet only on Dec. 1 in the SEC championship game. As in 2008 and '09, the SEC title matchup could serve as a national semifinal with the winner advancing to the BCS title game.

Beating South Carolina and Georgia in their next two games would most likely punch the Gators' ticket to Atlanta. Expect plenty of God's Play as Florida makes its case. "We're doing what it takes to win," Muschamp says. "We're not worried about stats and getting fancy."



IN GOD'S HANDS Gillislee averages 102.5 yards a game with the help of simple schemes, such as God's Play, that have put the chomp back in the Swamp.