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2013 BCS Sugar Bowl: Five keys to victory for the Florida Gators

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This won't be easy ...

This won't be easy ...
Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

... But earning greatness never is.

After stumbling to the most losses a Gators team had suffered since 1987, coach Will Muschamp has really picked up the winning pace since his first, 7-6 season in Gainesville.

While his Gators are heavy favorites to win the 2013 Sugar Bowl, those six losses are still fresh in the mind of Muschamp.

There are a hundred different things that go into winning or losing a football game. Scratch that, a million key factors.

That said, here are five keys that Muschamp, his staff, and his players must hone in on if they are going to earn a BCS bowl victory and finish the season at No. 2 in the country.

It is not a BCS National Championship, but after that 7-6 finish, going 11-1 was not easy.

Getting that 12th win won't be very easy either.


First and foremost, dominate the defensive line of scrimmage

First and foremost, dominate the defensive line of scrimmage
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Most college football fans who have not been following Louisville have only heard of their star sophomore quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater.

That is with good reason, as he is the heart and soul of a team that currently lists 29 freshmen or redshirt freshmen on their two-deep roster.

Thus, the Gators' uber-talented, vastly experienced defensive line must make life miserable for Mr. Bridgewater.

In what became a de-facto Big East title game, Bridgewater could only play out of the shotgun formation because a broken left hand kept him from taking direct snaps. He hobbled up and the down the field and was sacked three times due to a sprained ankle.

The man is the football equivalent of a warrior, and he will have had an entire month to heal his acky-breaky body.

That said, his offensive line allowed a very mobile quarterback to get sacked 26 times in the regular season. That O-line has never had to deal with a 6-foot-3, 300-pound man-on-a-mission in Sharrif Floyd.

Nor have they seen Dominique Easley's dance moves.

If they're watching Floyd shake what his momma gave him, that means Bridgewater is having a long afternoon.

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Show off NFL-caliber playmaking ability in the defensive backfield

Show off NFL-caliber playmaking ability in the defensive backfield
Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Gators safety Matt Elam has been the headlining act in a loaded defensive backfield all season long. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound junior finished the regular season not only with four interceptions and 10.0 tackles for a loss, but with his name on nearly every All-America list out there.

His teammates, Josh Evans, Jaylen Watkins, Marcus Roberson and Louchiez Purifoy, are no slouches either. Evans led the team with 70 total tackles, and Purifoy, a physical corner, finished fourth with 51.

Not only must this group be ready to hit, but they must be ready to keep the ball out of the hands of the Cardinals' diverse set of receiving weaponry.

Despite Bridgewater's aforementioned ailments, he still manged to complete seven of 13 passes for 157 yards on throws of at least 10 yards downfield.

He has several potential targets to throw to, all with at least 300 yards receiving: DeVante Parker (712 yards), Damian Copeland (597), Andrell Smith (481) and Eli Rogers (443), and running back Jeremy Wright (306).

Elam has his four picks. Watkins has three and Roberson and Evans both have two.

Bridgewater is an exceedingly accurate passer, so these players will have to prove why some consider the group the very best in the nation at what they do.

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Win one for the gipper ... er, Gilly

Win one for the gipper ... er, Gilly
Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

After waiting three long years behind the likes of Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, Mike Gillislee was finally provided the opportunity to start at running back for the Florida Gators and he did not miss his chance.

Finally freed, Gilly rushed for 1,104 yards on 235 attempts with 10 touchdowns. He became the first Gators tailback to crack the 1,000-yard mark since Ciatrick Faison back in 2005.

More importantly, Gillislee played at his very biggest when the stage was at its brightest. Against Bowling Green to start the season, no one knew who was playing quarterback. No matter who was handing him the ball, however, Gilly rushed for 148 yards on 24 carries and two scores, helping his Gators survive against a tough MAC opponent. The team and its fans enjoyed more of the same once SEC play began. Against Tennessee, who was ranked at the time, Gilly piled up 115 yards on 18 attempts. The home game against LSU was a showcase game for him, as Muschamp handed him the ball 34 times. He gashed one of the nation's top defensive fronts for 146 yards and two scores. Finally, to close out the regular season against Florida State's elite defensive line, Gillislee piled up 140 more yards on 24 carries.

Every single person in the Superdome and all of their friends and family at home know exactly who Muschamp wants to give the ball to. When the stakes have been at their very highest, it has not mattered -- Mike Gillislee has risen above it all, dominating in a way that had not been seen in Gainesville in quite some time.

Gator Nation will only have one more chance to see him in the Orange 'n' Blue. Let's hope both he and his fans make the most of it.

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Every day I'm Driskelin'

Every day I'm Driskelin'
Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

When Jeff Driskel was told he would be starting the second half against Bowling Green in Week 1, both Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease understood they would be dealing with some growing pains. However, they also knew they had a dynamic, dual-threat playmaker with a cannon for an arm.

Throughout the regular season, Driskel has found ways to win (rather, his defense, special teams and running game has, but we digress). With another month of practices under his belt, the Sugar Bowl will be a great time to show off the type of mobility that can kill a defense.

Especially a defense built in the manner of Louisville's. The Cardinals' defensive line is undersized; none of its defensive tackles weighs more than 290 pounds and its ends, Marcus Smith and Lorenzo Mauldin, check in at just 6'3" and 256 pounds and 6'4" and 240 pounds, respectively.

Driskel got sacked 33 times on 249 pass attempts, or 13 percent of the time.

For any quarterback, that number is about three times too high, and for a dude who can run (Driskel's 404 yards on the ground were good for second on the team) that is an absurd percentage.

The Sugar Bowl can serve as a great springboard for Driskel heading into the offseason, but he must display better and much faster decision-making skills in order to make good throws and to keep himself off the turf.

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Rock the Dome!

Rock the Dome!
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

This last one's on you, Gator Nation.

Could we talk about the fact that the Gators must start fast to avoid needing the second-half comebacks they have become known for? Yup. Or the fact that Florida's special teams must continue to dominate as it has all season? Of course. What about Charlie Strong, the former Gators defensive coordinator who is now heading up a resurgent Louisville program?

All are great topics, but none are as important, in this humble blogger's opinion, as the fact that the Superdome in New Orleans is an amazing place to play and to take in a football game.

Yes, the Gators are an elite program, and no, this is not the title game, but BCS games really do only come around so often, and we must enjoy the heck out of it.

Early ticket sales have reported that Louisville has nearly sold out of their allotment, while the Gators have only managed to sell roughly 6,500.

What kind of fun would it be to win in front of a sea of red-clad Kentucky folks?

Come Wednesday, January 2, it will be time for Gator Nation to rock that Dome!

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