In an ideal world here at Skyway Shoutout, we’d be spending this week talking about the Bucs and their chances of taking down Peyton Manning and the Broncos in New Jersey. Alas, we are resigned to talk about those players from the Seahawks and Broncos that have collegiate ties to the Sunshine State. The state of Florida has always been recognized as a hotbed of football talent (at least in terms of high school and college), and the following rankings are my predictions of how each Florida institution of higher education will impact the Super Bowl.
#6 Florida International University
FIU finds itself in a familiar situation in these rankings, well behind the “Big 6” conference schools throughout the state. The lone Golden Panther in the big game is Seahawks reserve rookie offensive tackle, Caylin Hauptmann. Hauptmann has yet to appear in a game this season, so I highly doubt he’ll see any action on Sunday. FIU gets a few bonus points though, as a former college teammate of Caylin led all players in receiving yards during this year’s playoffs. His name? Mr. Eugene Marquis Hilton (I’m not sure how you get T.Y. from this name…).
#5 University of South Florida
The Bulls will have players on both sidelines in MetLife Stadium, though their impact in the game is questionable. B.J. Daniels is on the Seattle practice squad as a reserve quarterback, and will not be dressing on Sunday. Kayvon Webster appeared in 14 games during the regular season at cornerback for the Broncos with 9 passes defensed, 1 INT, and 1 forced fumble. However, the rookie’s contribution has been negligible thus far in the playoffs, even with the loss of Chris Harris. Webster has an opportunity to see some playing time, but unfortunately, I don’t think any USF alumni will have a noticeable impact on the outcome of Sunday’s game.
#4 Florida State University
FSU currently finds itself at the top of the college football world thanks to their win over Auburn in the BCS National Championship game. However, the fate of the Seminoles in these rankings falls on the shoulders of Denver cornerback Tony Carter. Carter appeared in 12 games this season, recording 12 tackles, 6 passes defensed, and 1 interception. Carter was benched after poor performances against the Eagles & Cowboys, though he may be remembered best for his role in the overtime loss to the Patriots. Carter redeemed himself with a strong showing against the Pats in the AFC Championship game, filling in for the injured Chris Harris. It appears that he’s secured his role as Harris’ permanent replacement for the Super Bowl, and he’ll play a major roll in containing Seattle’s receiving corps of Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Percy Harvin.
#3 University of Florida
Super Bowl XLVIII will be blessed with the presence of four former Gators: 3 for Denver and 1 for Seattle. UF beats out the Seminoles for the third spot in these rankings based on volume and potential*. Undrafted free agent Lerentee McCray (LB) has spent the year on the injured reserve list for the Broncos, and Jeremy Mincey (DE) has seen limited action since signing with the Broncos in December after spending most of the year in Jacksonville (Mincey did record a sack in the Divisional Round matchup against the Chargers). Andre “Bubba” Caldwell caught 3 TDs this season, though he remains a soft option in Denver’s long list of weapons**. The true wild card is Percy Harvin. After being traded from Minnesota, the star wide-receiver was hindered by a hip injury that limited him to one game in the regular season. He played briefly against the Saints in the Divisional Round, before being sent off with a concussion. Harvin has the potential to be Super Bowl MVP, but there is also a real chance that he is a non-factor in the game, given his fragility. My prediction for Sunday leans towards MVP: 5rec/110yds/1TD, 15 rushing yards and a big factor in the return game. As a special bonus, it is worth noting that Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator for the Seahawks, spent the last two seasons in the same role for the Gators.
*NOTE: The fact that I graduated from the University of Florida may or may not have impacted their place in these rankings. Furthermore, it is worth noting that my Editor is a Florida State graduate…
**NOTE: Bubba attended Jefferson High School in Tampa; in 2004, he led the Dragons to the 4A State Championship Game against Bolles.
#2 University of Miami
The U take the number two spot in these rankings based upon the positional importance of Denver’s offensive tackle, Orlando Franklin. Franklin comes with a colorful backstory, and his unit will be a major factor in the outcome of Sunday’s game. Manning went essentially untouched in the AFC Championship game, limiting the CBS stat graphics to simply highlight “hurries.” The Super Bowl will be a different story, as Seattle was able to get constant pressure on San Francisco. Franklin and his line mates must keep Manning upright, and if they are able to do so, it’ll put pressure on the rest of Seattle’s defense to stop the Bronco’s myriad of weapons. My bold prediction: If Seattle gets 3 or more sacks, they win.
#1 University of Central Florida
The Golden Knights burst into the national spotlight with their Fiesta Bowl win; however nothing is bigger than the Super Bowl, and Matt Prater will be making UCF fans proud. The former psychology major from the class of 2005 set an NFL record this season by kicking a 64-yard field goal. He also limited opposing teams’ return games with touchbacks on 81 of his 114 regular season kickoffs. Contrarians will argue that kicking in Denver makes everything easier—I can’t disagree. With that said, of all of the Florida collegiate alumni involved in this game, Prater stands to have the largest impact, and his ability to limit Seattle’s return game will be key (see above: Percy Harvin & Doug Baldwin). The current Vegas line is Denver (-2.5) and it is a very real possibility that the Super Bowl could be decided by a Prater field goal into the winds of MetLife Stadium.