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Who has the edge?

RUNNING GAME

EDGE TO SYRACUSE

Syracuse tailback Kyle McIntosh's yardage is down from last season, but fullback Rob Konrad's 4.5-yard average gives the Orangemen a double-threat backfield the Gators cannot match. Florida will use a trio of tailbacks _ senior Terry Jackson, junior Eugene McCaslin and freshman Robert Gillespie _ because no one has distinguished himself this season. Jackson will be healthy for the first time since severely spraining his left ankle against LSU on Oct. 10.

PASSING GAME

EDGE TO FLORIDA

Florida's passing attack was woeful in the 23-12 loss to Florida State, but Syracuse's secondary has been suspect all season and does not have the depth to play seven or eight defensive backs on a single play, as the Seminoles did. Orangemen QB Donovan McNabb will be the most dynamic player on the field, but for pure passing attacks, Florida's Fun 'n' Gun is still tops.

IN THE TRENCHES

EDGE TO FLORIDA

This matchup should be fairly even. Syracuse has the better offensive line, Florida the better defensive line. Counting TE Stephen Brominski, four Syracuse players have started every game up front at the same position. But Florida's defensive line, led by DT Reggie McGrew, will make it tough to run, allowing the UF linebackers to pressure McNabb.

SPECIAL TEAMS

EDGE TO SYRACUSE

The Orangemen's Kevin Johnson has two kickoff returns for touchdowns this season _ four in his career _ and likely will get a chance to add to that total against Florida's frequently sloppy kickoff coverage. Orangemen PK Nate Trout was 12-of-16 on field goals, including 3-of-4 from 40 yards or longer. Average in its kicking game, the Gators' only chance for a big play on special teams lies with freshman KR John Capel.

COACHING

EDGE TO FLORIDA

Syracuse's Paul Pasqualoni is a bit of a mystery. The Orangemen have won nine or more games in five of the past seven seasons, but they always manage to lose one they shouldn't. This year's slip was a 38-17 loss to N.C. State. In nine seasons at Florida, Steve Spurrier has never lost to an unranked team. Spurrier also is considered one of the best game-day coaches, though he clearly was outcoached by the FSU staff this year. But he's had more than a month to scheme for Syracuse.

INTANGIBLES

EDGE TO FLORIDA

Everything outside the Orange Bowl will be distinctly Miami, but inside it will seem like The Swamp. Nearly 80 percent of the crowd will be cheering for the Gators. Florida also needs a victory to reach the 10-win mark for the sixth straight season. Syracuse, meanwhile, is looking to prove itself worthy of a Bowl Championship Series berth as the often-suspect Big East champion. And, don't forget, the Orangemen have the ultimate intangible: McNabb.

_ JOANNE KORTH

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