Cory Mccartney
Thursday September 4th, 2008

Breaking down Saturday's nonconference clash in Gainesville.

1. Florida just got a whole lot more dangerous. Percy Harvin and Brandon Spikes, the two biggest absences from the Gators' shellacking of Hawaii, will be on the field against the Hurricanes. That's good news for Florida and bad news for Miami. The Gators ran just 55 plays in a rout of Hawaii, averaging 7.4 yards per play. Add in Harvin, who was good for 11.4 yards a touch in 2007, and this offense becomes even more daunting for a Hurricanes defense that returns just four starters, including one in the secondary (DeMarcus Van Dyke). Defensively, Florida is trying to make a statement after losing its top pass-rusher in Derrick Harvey to the NFL and ranking 98th vs. the pass in '07. So far, so good. The Gators had four sacks against the Warriors and forced six turnovers, including four picks, and held the Warriors to 241 yards (181 in the air). But it was Hawaii, which lost its record-setting QB and top wideouts. This is a rivalry game (which Florida last won in 1985) and having Spikes -- who had 131 tackles last season -- back gives this D bite.

2. World, Robert Marve. Robert Marve, world. So far, the most headlines the former Florida Mr. Football has gained at the U is for a car accident that forced him to redshirt his freshman year. After sitting out the season opener against Charleston Southern, Marve will be making his collegiate debut on national television. In front of 90,000 people. Against the No. 5 team in the nation. Talk about your baptisms by fire. Marve passed for 4,380 yards and 48 touchdowns as a high school senior, but that was two years ago. The last time he saw live game action was in the 2006 Florida Class 4A state title game. He may end up being the 'Canes' best QB since Ken Dorsey, but for now, expect coach Randy Shannon to take it easy on Marve. That means giving him manageable throws by establishing the underrated running game of Graig Cooper and Javarris James against a Gators front that has just one guy back from '07 in end Jermaine Cunningham.

3. It looks like the Gators can run --- without Tim Tebow and Harvin. Last season, Tebow was Florida's leading rusher with 895 yards and 23 touchdowns in running away with the Heisman. It also got him hit 247 times on the season. A running game with a diminished role for Tebow means the junior takes less hits and has less instances like last season's bruised shoulder. In the opener, 11 different Gators ran the ball in totaling 255 yards and four scores. Tebow had a team-high nine carries for 37 yards but when Florida was near the goal line, it was backup Cameron Newton who took the 1-yard plunge into the end zone. The Gators also got 58 yards out of Chris Rainey and 76 from Jeffrey Demps, who are actual RBs. A backfield stable of Kestahn Moore, Emmanuel Moody, Rainey and Demps should mean less pressure on Tebow and Harvin (124 carries and 1,285 yards in two years) and even more on a Miami defensive line that has just one starter back and lacks depth with two sophomores, a redshirt freshman a true freshman on the two-deep.

What does Harvin's return mean to the Gators' offense? I spoke with senior analyst Rob Rang to get his impressions on Florida's versatile star. Here's what he had to say:

"[He brings] explosiveness. He's got the ability, every time he has the ball in his hands to go the distance. With that spread-option they like to do, it's virtually impossible to take a receiver out of the game when you have the defense spread out like they do.

"You have to designate two guys to him if you want to try and stop him and if you do that, then certainly Tebow or any one of the other receivers is going to absolutely kill you.

"The fact that they lost Cornelius Ingram (who is out for the season with a knee injury) as well is a blow but nobody on that team has Harvin's speed. When he's not one the field it allows defenses, to at least try, and put one other defender in the box to try and stop Tebow. When they have Harvin back there they can't do that.

"Florida is so dynamic anyway, but when they have Harvin, I really think that they're the most unstoppable offense in the country, let alone the SEC."

Florida 37-13. Shannon and the 'Canes have some good young talent and hope for the future. But that future is not Saturday in The Swamp. Florida coach Urban Meyer says he's unsure how much Harvin will play, but considering the chasm between these programs right now, Meyer may not need The Matrix too long to end the Gators' six-game losing skid against the Hurricanes.

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