ESPN College GameDay in Gainesville on Feb. 5

As reported by OGGOA in December, ESPN College GameDay will emanate from the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Feb. 5 prior to the No. 23/24 Florida Gators taking on the No. 16/14 Kentucky Wildcats later that evening at 9 p.m.

The University of Florida announced on Friday that the show will air live from Gainesville, FL next week, noting that it is the first time since 2008 and third time overall that the television program will be broadcast from inside the arena.

In addition to the two hours College GameDay airs in the morning (beginning at 10 a.m. on ESPNU and 11 a.m. on ESPN), there will be a one-hour pre-game show live from the O’Connell Center at 8 p.m. The program features host Rece Davis and analysts Jay Bilas, Digger Phelps, Hubert Davis and Bob Knight. Feature reporter and former Gators dazzler Erin Andrews will not be in attendance. However, head coach Billy Donovan will likely be interviewed at some point during the second hour of the show.

The first 500 students in attendance will receive complimentary breakfast, the first 3,000 fans will be given rollbannas courtesy of State Farm, and one lucky student will shoot a half-court shot for a chance at $17,500. College GameDay also wants to see more “big heads” in the crowd. Every student who brings one will win a prize with one being awarded a “VIP prize pack.”

Photo Credit: ESPN

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Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2010 (check out our post tomorrow), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players signing huge contracts to current team members being a part of some of the biggest news stories in sports this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2010. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 10 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

10 » FIVE BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2010 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon and suddenly in all but one case. Lamar Abel (21), a walk-on defensive lineman, suffered cardiac arrest while volunteering at a roadside cleanup event with his fraternity in Gainesville, FL. Former safety John Curtis (24) committed suicide in Bellvue, WA. Hall of fame safety Jarvis Williams (45) passed away after an acute asthma attack. Former Gators basketball player and friend to the program Augie Greiner (76) died in his home. And long-time donor and Bull Gator George Steinbrenner (80), most famously known as the owner of the New York Yankees, passed away in a Tampa, FL, hospital. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

9 » ERIN ANDREWS GETS JUSTICE, STARS ON TV, RE-SIGNS WITH ESPN

Former Florida dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews had a much better go of it in 2010. Though her stalker plead guilty to his charges in court in December 2009, she spent a good portion of 2010 making sure he was brought to justice (27-month prison term) while also spreading word across the country that violence against women from sexual predators cannot and should not be tolerated. Simultaneously, Andrews participated in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and even dropped a few Gator Chomps along the way. She ended up finishing third in the competition but parlayed her talent on the sidelines into an enhanced gig with the Worldwide Leader in Sports. Andrews signed a new two-year deal with ESPN, which included a role hosting the first hour of College GameDay live on ESPNU, appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America and more of a presence on the family of networks. She also spoke with OGGOA on two occasions, first in a wide-ranging interview that received significant publicity and later to share her thoughts on the resignation of head coach Urban Meyer.

Continue Reading » Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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Week 1: No. 3 Florida Gators vs. Miami RedHawks

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 91°F, 30% chance of precipitation
Time: 12:00 p.m. (EST)

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD
Sirius/XM: 220/199
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 3 FLORIDA GATORS MIAMI (OH) REDHAWKS
Head Coach: Urban Meyer Head Coach: Michael Haywood
2009 Record: 13-1 2009 Record: 1-11
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Mid-American
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -38; O/U 54

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is returning 43 letterwiners and 11 starters from the 2009 season – six on offense (junior running back Jeff Demps, redshirt junior wide receiver Deonte Thompson, senior center Mike Pouncey, sophomore left tackle Xavier Nixon, redshirt seniors guard Carl Johnson and right tackle Marcus Gilbert) and five on defense (senior safety Ahmad Black, junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, redshirt seniors linebacker A.J. Jones and defensive tackle Terron Sanders, redshirt sophomore DT Omar Hunter).
» The Gators have a SEC-best opening day winning streak of 20 games and are 76-27 all-time to start the season (62-6 in Gainesville). Teams coached by Meyer at any point in his career are 18-5 to begin the season; he has 16-straight opening day victories.
» Florida is also sporting a 10-game home winning streak and has won 20 consecutive regular season games. The Orange and Blue has a .897 (113-13) winning percentage at Florida Field since 1990, good for best in the nation.
» Miami (OH) leads the all-time series against UF 1-0, defeating the Gators 16-7 in The Swamp in the 1973 Tangerine Bowl; Florida is 10-3 all-time against the MAC.
» The Gators are the only team in the nation to finish the season in the top three in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches’ polls in three of the past four years; Florida is also the only school in the country to be ranked in the top five of the preseason coaches’ poll in each of the last four years.
» The RedHawks’ passing offense and passing defense each ranked 23rd in the nation in 2009, respectively throwing for 273.2 and giving up 190.4 yards per game.
» UF committed a nation-low 81 turnovers since 2005 and has had 23 games in which they did not give up a single turnover (best in the nation).

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley…who will be starting the first game of his Florida career. In 2009, he went 36-of-48 for 410 yards and seven touchdowns. Brantley tossed 75 percent of his balls for completions and finished the year with a QB rating of 194.9. He has thrown 61 consecutive passes without an interception and has a 10-1 TD/INT ratio for his Gators career.
» Florida’s veteran offensive line…which has combined for 87 career starts and is led by Pouncey (32). That total is the highest among returning offensive linemen since Meyer’s first season as coach in 2005.
» Redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey…who is moving to the slot after playing running back for two seasons. Rainey will be explosive while playing a modified “Percy Position” and could very well be the team’s best offensive weapon this season.
» Linebackers sophomore Jon Bostic and redshirt freshman Jelani Jenkins…who are each trying to win the starting role in the middle but will likely split snaps Saturday. The same goes for cornerbacks redshirt sophomore Jeremy Brown and senior Moses Jenkins, each of whom hope to win the job opposite junior Janoris Jenkins.
» Redshirt freshman WR Andre Debose…who missed the entire 2009 season with a hamstring injury but remains a five-star recruit expected to make an immediate impact.
» Junior kicker Caleb Sturgis…who set a UF record for field goal attempted in a season (30) in 2009 and had the second-highest total of field goals made in school history (22).
» Freshman QB Trey Burton…who has been receiving extra attention at tight end during practices and is one of Meyer’s favorite youngsters. With other TEs injured and developing, Burton may see action early and often.

INJURIES and INACTIVES
Injuries (All out)
Senior defensive tackle Terron Sanders (knee), redshirt freshman TE Jordan Reed (knee) left tackles redshirt sophomore Matt Patchan (wrist), sophomore Xavier Nixon (knee), sophomore LB Dee Finley

Inactives
Redshirt sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. (indefinite suspension), junior S Will Hill (team decision)

FLORIDA ON ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY

The host of the first game to air Saturday on ESPN, Florida will be profiled in part during the network’s College GameDay broadcast beginning at 9 a.m. on ESPNU (hosted by Erin Andrews) and continuing from 10 a.m. until noon on ESPN. The main feature on the Gators will be a report from Tom Rinaldi focusing on Meyer’s decision to unretire one day after resigning from his job before the 2010 Sugar Bowl. Additionally, ESPN will feature a sound bite from Meyer talking about Florida’s offense, which will then be discussed by analysts Desmond Howard and David Pollack.

Read OGGOA’s Florida Gators vs. Miami RedHawks preview after the jump!
Continue Reading » Week 1: No. 3 Florida Gators vs. Miami RedHawks

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TWO BITS: Powell, Easley, GameDay, returns

1 » Rumors are running rampant throughout the Florida Gators program Wednesday that five-star freshmen defensive end Ronald Powell and defensive tackle Dominique Easley have skipped either one or multiple practices recently due to anger over how they have been treated by veterans on the team – assumingly the starting offensive line. Further rumors emerged that the duo cleaned out their respective lockers and may even be considering transferring. Though the former information (missing practice) appears to be the most concrete, the latter seems to be a bit of a reach at this point.

The latest reports – from the Miami Herald and The Gainesville Sun, respectively – have Powell’s and Easley’s high school coaches unaware that there is anything wrong. Powell’s coach, Pete Duffy, told the Sun that his former player is “happy and very excited” at Florida; he had not heard about him missing practice. Easley’s coach, Pete Gambardella, told the Herald that Easley neither seemed upset, disgruntled nor angry when speaking to his former player Wednesday morning.

UPDATE: Powell and Easley are both practicing with the team.

2 » In a press release Wednesday, ESPN announced that College GameDay will return to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL, for the Gators’ game against the Kentucky Wildcats on Feb. 5. The show’s first time visiting the basketball team since 2008 will also include former Florida dazzler and network reporter Erin Andrews, who told OGGOA that she will be in attendance as well, likely for her duties of hosting the first hour of GameDay at 10 a.m. on ESPNU.

Extra BIT » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (ribs) and Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin (migraines) each returned to practice with their respective team on Wednesday after missing a number of days due to injury. Tebow had missed two practice and the Broncos’ last preseason game; Harvin had been sidelined after collapsing during practice on Aug. 19.

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Gators dazzler, ESPN reporter Erin Andrews: “I really don’t think I’m that big of a deal.”

The last year has been one of ups-and-downs for former Florida Gators dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews. From having to deal with an unfathomable episode regarding her privacy to performing on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and just recently signing a new two-year deal to remain a featured member of the ESPN broadcast team, Andrews has appeared strong, resilient and unrelenting. On the brink of the greatest undertaking of her career – hosting the first hour of College GameDay live on ESPNU and joining the cast of Good Morning America – she took time out of her schedule to speak exclusively with OGGOA about her career as a Gators dazzler, recent trials and tribulations, perspective on her own fame and love for the University of Florida.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Growing up in Tampa, was the University of Florida always at the top of your list for college? How did you wind up there?
ERIN ANDREWS: “Growing up in Tampa, there are three schools: Florida State, Miami and Florida. Obviously because Florida was closest to Tampa, Tampa is really like Gator haven. I made the comment one day to my dad, which he’ll never let me live down…because I was such a sports fan growing up, I said to him, ‘Dad, I really want to go to a college that has a good football team.’ And he was like, ‘Oh, that’s a great thing to live by Erin. I’m glad that’s what you’re choosing your education by.’ At the time it sounded really stupid, but actually it was kind of funny that it worked out that way because by going to Florida, I knew they had a great journalism program, but also because Florida has such a good football team, we were exposed to TBS, we were exposed to ESPN, we were exposed to all the national sports media coming to the campus to see the team, to see [head coach Steve] Spurrier. That was really good for me to kind of be around that at the time. Actually, that wasn’t a stupid comment.

AS: How much of an influence did your father’s [six-time Emmy Award-winner Steve Andrews] profession have on your major and eventual career?
EA: “My dad played a huge part in it. I grew up with my father being on TV. It just wasn’t a big deal to me. We’d turn on the TV at 6:00 and there was my dad. I grew up at the TV station; I played around on the TV set. So that just wasn’t a big deal – being in front of the camera – because I was so used to [watching] my dad. He was a giant sports fan, so that’s where I got my passion for sports and watching it and becoming familiar with the broadcasters and announcers that I liked – and the athletes. That’s where it all just kind of snowballed. I decided that I wanted to be a broadcaster. I loved the stories with coaches and athletes. I told my dad when I was young, ‘I want to do this for a living.’ He also laughed at me and said, ‘You know, everybody wants to do this for a living.’ I went to Florida, we checked out the journalism school. I really liked it. I just enrolled and it began – the whole process. The first couple years at Florida you don’t really get a taste of your major until probably your junior and senior year – that’s when I was very serious about it.

AS: You obviously spent a good amount of time at Weimer Hall but some of your most exciting times were likely at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. While at Florida, you were famously a member of the Dazzlers for four years. Was that something you had planned on doing from the beginning?
EA: “I grew up dancing my whole life with my little sister [Kendra Andrews]. That was just something I knew that Florida had – a dance team. I loved mine growing up and the experience that I had. I actually auditioned my senior year of high school and didn’t make the team and then went back out my sophomore year and I was on the team my sophomore, junior and senior season[s].”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Erin Andrews…after the break!
Continue Reading » Gators dazzler, ESPN reporter Erin Andrews: “I really don’t think I’m that big of a deal.”

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ESPN adds Erin Andrews to College GameDay

In a press release Monday, ESPN announced that its two-time Emmy Award-winning program, College GameDay Built by The Home Depot, will expand to three hours – with the first hour being aired exclusively on ESPNU – and feature a new personality, former Florida Gators dazzler Erin Andrews.

The show will maintain Chris Fowler as its host and Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard as its analysts, while adding Andrews to the team. She will anchor “several segments during the first hour on ESPNU, and contributing reports, interviews and features during the ESPN portion of the show,” according to the release.

“As part of her role, Andrews will also work as the sideline reporter on the game from which College GameDay originates from, if the game is on an ESPN network (ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, etc.). In addition to her responsibilities across ESPN platforms, Andrews will provide select reports on ABC’s Good Morning America throughout the year.”

In related news… former Florida quarterback Jesse Palmer will continue as an analyst on ESPN’s College Football Primetime and College Football Live as well as during Saturday pregame, halftime and postgame studio segments on ABC.

Also in related news… former Gators softball player Jenn Brown will join Primetime as a sideline reporter during its Thursday games.

Photo Credit: Patrick Fraser/Vanity Fair

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Florida Gators basketball returns to Top 25 polls

Winning the 2009 Legends Classic over the weekend, which included a defeat over the (at the time) No. 2 Michigan State Spartans, Florida Gators basketball (6-0) returned to the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches Top 25 polls on Monday for the first time since Jan. 19. The Gators are in the No. 13 and No. 17 spots, respectively.

In other news: ESPN College GameDay will be on-site at the 2009 SEC Championship game between the No. 1 Florida Gators and No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide.

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UF trounces FIU, senior class sets SEC record

Senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes ran an interception back 41 yards for a touchdown, senior quarterback Tim Tebow took off on a career-long 55-yard touchdown run and there was still 9:18 left in the first quarter. That was how Saturday started for the No. 1 Florida Gators (11-0, 8-0 SEC), who defeated the Florida International Golden Panthers (3-8, 3-4 Sunbelt) 62-3 in a game that was a showcase for the Gators’ record-breaking senior class and lengthened the longest winning streak in school history and currently in the nation to 21 consecutive victories.

Running onto Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for the second-to-last time in their Florida careers, the group ended the game as the winningest all-time Southeastern Conference senior class with a record of 46-5. Tebow would take seven caries for 102 total yards on the ground while accounting for 215 more with two touchdowns through the air on 17-for-25 passing. It was the fifth time in his career that Tebow rushed for more than 100 yards. Redshirt sophomore QB John Brantley took over for Tebow early in the third quarter, compiling 146 yards passing and three touchdowns as well as 23 yards on three carries.

Redshirt sophomore running back Chris Rainey had a monster game of his own, carrying four times for 30 yards and a touchdown while also reeling in three receptions for 61 yards and a score. Both of Rainey’s touchdowns came in the second quarter, putting the Gators up 28-0 with 9:41 left in the first half. Fellow redshirt sophomore wide receiver Deonte Thompson led the Gators in both receptions (5 – career high) and receiving yards (66). Nine Florida players had receptions on Saturday, seven with more than one including seniors Riley Cooper (48 yards, touchdown), redshirt David Nelson (45 yards) and Brandon James (15 yards) as well as redshirt freshmen Omarius Hines (50 yards, touchdown) and Frankie Hammond, Jr. (38 yards, touchdown).

Defensively for the Gators, redshirt sophomore Jaye Howard recorded a team-high seven tackles, senior linebackers Ryan Stamper and Dustin Doe each recorded a sack and redshirt junior defensive tackle Lawrence Marsh split another with Howard. Spikes’ interception at 13:10 in the first quarter was the sole turnover of the game for either team. Florida’s defense held FIU to only 189 total offensive yards (most of which came against the second and third units), while only allowing the Golden Panthers to convert 4-of-15 third-down attempts.

Sophomore kicker Caleb Sturgis continued to struggle, missing his fourth consecutive field goal attempt – this time a 53-yarder. Sturgis, however, made all eight of his extra points while redshirt senior Jonathan Phillips had his sole attempt blocked in the fourth quarter. James was silent in the return game, bringing back two kickoffs for 53 yards and four punts for 25 yards. Coverage teams allowed FIU an average of 24.9 yards per return on seven chances.

Florida finishes its 2009 regular season against the in-state rival Florida State Seminoles on Nov. 28 at 3:30 p.m. The Gators will wear special Nike Pro Combat jerseys for the game, which will feature an appearance from ESPN College GameDay and is also the last in The Swamp for the 2009 senior class.

Game Notes:
– Junior tight end Aaron Hernandez missed the first quarter on a coach’s decision. Head coach Urban Meyer would not elaborate.
– Redshirt junior linebacker A.J. Jones injured his MCL during the game. He is out for FSU, after that to be determined.
– Redshirt junior left guard Carl Johnson (ankle) and junior center Maurkice Pouncey (bone bruise) were both injured in the game but will most likely be able to play next week.

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