Plenty to play for

UF's Urban Meyer, left, puts his bowl winning streak on the line against outgoing Michigan coach Lloyd Carr.

Rob Mack/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, January 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 31, 2007 at 2:57 p.m.

ORLANDO — A year ago, Urban Meyer was looking for motivation for Florida's bowl game.

Because it wasn't just any bowl game.

During the week of preparation for the BCS national championship game against Ohio State, Meyer made sure a large board where the Gators ate their meals was constantly covered with clippings of stories. Their common theme — why Florida could not win.

“We don't need a bulletin board this year,” said UF quarterback Tim Tebow. “We've got a lot to play for — 10-win season, top-10 ranking, keeping things going for next year.”

This Florida team doesn't have a championship on the line but a team with only a handful of seniors knows that this is a game you will live with throughout the offseason.

“It's a whole different animal this year,” said Meyer, who is trying to win his fifth straight bowl game as a head coach. “There's a lot of excitement on this team and that's motivation enough.”

Florida's opponent is not without its own motivation.

This will be Lloyd Carr's last game, the Michigan icon announcing his retirement in November.

“I tried to do the best I could do. I tried to work hard every day,” Carr said Monday. “I've had fun.”

It also will be the last game as Michigan assistants for all but one coach — Fred Jackson. The rest were fired by new Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez, who will be in attendance at today's game.

And it's the final game for 29 seniors who have never won a bowl game.

“This is the last time I get to pull that helmet on and play for the maize and blue,” linebacker Shawn Crable said. “The last time I get to play for the coaches I love.”

So there is no lack of motivation in the two camps. But there is one advantage for Florida, which is expected to have a 2-to-1 edge in fans at the stadium.

“It will be like we're facing an away game,” said Michigan defensive end Tom Jernigan, “because it's right in their backyard.”

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