Gators to play East Carolina in Birmingham Bowl

A disappointing season will conclude in Birmingham, AL, in the aptly named Birmingham Bowl.

Legion Field is where the game will be played, and Florida has a bit of history there- the Gators played in the first two SEC Championship Games. The stakes are a little lower this time around. Florida, led by DJ Durkin for this game, will play East Carolina (8-4) from the American Athletic Conference. The Gators and Pirates will also play a rematch next year on the second week of the season in the Swamp.

It’s the second all time meeting between the Gators and Pirates. The first one came in 1983 in Gainesville, which Florida won 24-17. Pushing the all-time record against ECU to 2-0 would give the Gators a winning season- oh, how the mighty have fallen to even be discussing that- and a winning bowl record. The Gators sit at 6-5 on the year, and have a 20-20 overall bowl record.

I had thought- and kind of hoped- that Florida would get a chance to play Miami in the Independence Bowl. I’m still a little bitter about what happened in South Florida last year, truth be told, and a win over an in state rival would have been just the type of momentum that this team could use. It made sense from the Independence Bowl’s perspective, too- the game would undoubtedly attract a gigantic TV audience, at least compared to what they’re used to, and though neither team would travel so far for such a low stakes game, there are only 49,000 seats to fill anyway. (And indeed, Miami will play in the Independence Bowl. Just not against Florida.)

But that’s not what happened, and now Florida gets to finish its season a lot closer to home against a team that’s a serious threat to beat you up and take your lunch money if you mess around. The Pirates won on the road at Virginia Tech, clobbered UNC at home- that’s 2-0 against the ACC- and nearly pulled out a daring nighttime robbery on the road against South Carolina, which is unheard of for non power-five conference schools.

In particular, the Pirates’ offense scares me. The quarterback, Shane Carden, played sparingly in their season opener (because it NCCU, a cupcake), but he only needed the last 11 games to throw for 4,000 yards. That’s eight games against AAC competition, two against ACC competition and one against South Carolina from the SEC. Their running game is just as good. Justin Hardy and Cameron Worthy have combined for well over 2,000 rushing yards on the season, including an incredible 224 from Worthy against Frank Beamer’s Virginia Tech defense.

It’s true, Florida has a good defense, and should be able to contain Carden, but remember what happened in the Sugar Bowl two years ago. Florida had no interest in being in that game after being left out of the national title game, and allowed a Louisville team that had lost to UConn and Syracuse (combined for 13 wins) to roll all over them. Much has changed in the Big East, including the name, but ECU is from that same conference.

Here’s the bottom line. If the Gators don’t show up (particularly on defense), they will be embarrassed. And while I’m not going to write the team off right this minute and say they won’t care and our season is over, I will admit that this is a possibility, and thus I’m a tad nervous for the game. We will never hear the end of it from FSU fans if we lose this game, even if Oregon clobbers them in the Rose Bowl, and let’s face it- that’s what our season has been reduced to. Other than a slight recruiting in with North Carolina kids, a win in this game holds no rewards other than momentum and finishing the year strong.

So let’s do that.

3 thoughts on “Gators to play East Carolina in Birmingham Bowl

    1. This game gives us:

      Needed practice and development for younger players.

      It gives the seniors and juniors leaving at least a little reward

      It allows the other coaches to be evaluated

      We need something to help recruiting

      I was hoping for the Louisiana Bowl but any Bowl is better than sitting home.

  1. Same feeling here, Neil. UF “should” beat East Carolina. But, there’s a very real chance they’ll choke it away. I typically do not care at all what nolefans think or say. But, in this case, I know they’ll be waiting in the peanut gallery to go off on anyone bleeding orange & blue. It won’t be pretty. Them getting bitch-slapped by Oregon won’t make a difference, either.
    UF has a bunch to play for, and I think they’ll be inspired to play the game.
    Mac will be there evaluating, and the staff will remind players that they’re going to see the Pirates again in just a few short months.
    I hope we travel well enough to fill a good bit of those aluminum bleachers in the Alabama hood. ECU will travel decently, so I do NOT want this to have a road-game feel to it. It’ll only make matters worse for the Gators on the field.
    This could be a Gators blowout win, or an embarrassing no-show. WOn’t know until the game is played. Hopefully this will be the last crappy bowl UF will have to be in for the foreseeable future.

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