NEW ORLEANS -- Three keys for a Cincinnati victory in the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Florida:
1. Contain Tim Tebow: Well, sure, that sounds painfully obvious. Tebow is Florida's leader and most important player. Of course Cincinnati will focus on trying to stop him.
But Tebow will have the ball in his hands every play and will make things happen. What the Bearcats need to do is keep him in the pocket instead of letting him run wild up the middle and on the perimeter, which then opens up the Gators' option game. The thought of Tebow plowing through the smallish Cincinnati defensive line must make interim coach Jeff Quinn restless at night. He would much rather see Tebow throw the ball, where the former Heisman Trophy winner sometimes struggles with his accuracy.
"If you take him out of the game, Florida is just a normal team," Cincinnati defensive lineman Alex Daniels said. "He's going to do something because he's a special guy. But you can't let him do too much."
2. Get separation: Cincinnati's receivers always seem to be open. That's because the Bearcats run multiple wide sets with a complex deep passing tree. Someone inevitably pops free long or underneath.
Those openings won't be so spacious against Florida. Gators cornerbacks Joe Haden and Janoris Jenkins form one of the top combos anywhere and will be the best that Mardy Gilyard, Armon Binns and the Bearcats' pass-catchers have seen this year. Safeties Ahmad Black and Major Wright are NFL prospects as well. And the mismatches that Cincinnati so often exploits against linebackers won't be as pronounced since Florida's entire defense runs so well.
Gilyard & Co. will have to run precise routes, and quarterback Tony Pike will have to fit the ball into small windows. And he'll need to do it quickly to avoid the Florida pass-rush onslaught.
3. Be perfect: Let's face it: Beating Florida is a tall order for anybody. Urban Meyer runs an NFL factory in Gainesville. Perhaps the Gators won't bring their best effort because they see this as a consolation game, or maybe they're worried about their coach's health. But Cincinnati can't count on that, and it will need something better than its A-game.
"We'll have to play our Triple A-game to be in a position to win," Quinn said.
The Bearcats operated at peak efficiency nearly all year, not even losing a fumble until Game 10. They got a little sloppier late, including Pike's three interceptions at Pitt and poor defense the final month. They can't make turnovers against the Gators -- Pike surely can't repeat his four-pick night from last year's Orange Bowl -- and hope to win. The defense can't miss tackles or bust assignments. Special teams must be mistake-free and could use some big returns from Gilyard.
That's a lot to ask after a three-week layoff and without their head coach. But that's likely what it will take to beat Florida.