On paper, the Florida Gators are a huge favorite to win the Allstate Sugar Bowl against the Louisville Cardinals, representing the much-maligned Big East in the BCS. However, the Gators are not invincible and Louisville has a shot to pull off a major upset, but they will need Herculean efforts across the board and a star-making game from defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin.
Florida’s gameplan in 2012 has been far from exciting. Will Muschamp wants to run the football on offense and lean on his excellent defense to win games, which they’ve done regularly. However, that makes the defensive scheme against them simple: load up the box to stop Mike Gillislee and contain Jeff Driskel to the pocket and force him to make throws to beat you.
Florida’s passing game and pass protection are two of its weakest spots as a football team. The team averaged just 143.9 passing yards per game, good for 118th in the nation, and gave 36 sacks this season, ranking 106th. In their lone loss of the season against the Georgia Bulldogs, Florida gave up five sacks and in a near-loss to the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns, they gave up another five. If Florida is forced into passing situations, they are vulnerable to a good pass rush.
That’s where Mauldin comes in. The sophomore is a pass-rush specialist for Charlie Strong‘s defense and leads the team in tackles for loss (6.5) and sacks (4.5). The 6-foot-4, 242-pound edge rusher will need to use his athleticism to apply pressure to Driskel while also being able to chase him down when he tries to run away from pressure.
Mauldin’s impact will be contingent on the rest of the defense being able to slow down Gillislee and the No. 34 ranked Florida rushing attack. If they can, then Mauldin will be set up to make his impact on the Sugar Bowl. He will have to step up if Louisville hopes to keep the Gators’ offense in check and give the Cardinals a chance to score the upset.
It won’t be easy, and it likely won’t be pretty, but if the Louisville Cardinals hope to pull off a major upset of Florida, Lorenzo Mauldin will have to get set up to succeed and then take advantage of it. Otherwise, it’ll be just another SEC bowl win over the Big East.
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