For the moment, and a night game in Vanderbilt lurks…a chilly night game, nothing to take lightly…as well as a game against South Carolina and hated rival Florida State on their home turf. From CBS Sports:
No matter what happens the rest of the way, the house-divided Jacksonville Municipal Stadium witnessed the nation’s best one-loss team. That, we can say with certainty after Florida’s 49-10 trouncing Georgia.
Care to argue? Things change and, yes, there is still a wild and wacky November to go. But that’s exactly what the Gators are counting on. Anything to bump them up the BCS ladder.
Ask yourself or ask the Gators, who is playing better?
“At this moment?” Florida safety Will Hill said. “No one.”
Hill didn’t stop there. When the votes are in and the computers stop whirring, it may be a 12-1 Florida having to jump one of the unbeatens at the top to get in the championship game. The SEC is one of the few places that would even be possible. Conference pride would dictate that, of course, a one-loss Florida would be better than, say, an undefeated Penn State.
And yes, Hill has seen the Nittany Lions, one of the two/three unbeaten teams at the top of the polls.
“We know they’re a good team but I feel as though they haven’t played anybody yet, a real good team,” Hill said. “We think we could do a much better job. We play with a lot of intensity and emotion. We would come out victorious if we were to be put into the national championship game.”
Well, there it is. Among the closed-mouth Gators there was some candor Saturday night. Unfortunately for the Gators, getting to that title game is out of their control at the moment. They’re coming from No. 8 in the BCS but that position is guaranteed to improve on Sunday. But by how much?
Since losing to Ole Miss on Sept. 27, Florida has outscored the opposition 201-43 in four games. They came within a point of scoring 50 twice in those games. The Bulldogs may have tap-danced in the end zone last year but it was Florida doing the Gator Stomp after the game.
Urban Meyer made sure Georgia knew it. He called two obvious timeouts in the final minute for no good reason just to let the Dawgs stew in their own juices. Redshirt freshman returner Chris Rainey took a late kickoff and all but taunted Georgia, faking like he was going to take a knee and then taking off.
“I told him, ‘Catch the ball, Chris and get down. We don’t want to get anybody hurt,’” Meyer said. “He speaks a different language than I do.”
The precocious Gators are making their run with one of the youngest teams in the country. Sixty of the 85 scholarship players are freshmen or sophomores — that’s more than 70 percent. Sophomores were responsible for the two of three interceptions of Georgia’s Matthew Stafford.
The Bulldogs had more experience and, somehow, less motivation. Four times in the first half, they were at the Florida 30 or deeper and came away with three points. After a field goal helped Mark Richt’s team cut the lead to 7-3, the coach tried to surprise Florida with an onside kick.
Bad move. The poorly executed pop-up by Blair Walsh was fielded neatly by Buster Rowley, usually a long snapper.
This was supposed to be the renewal of one of the bitterest feuds in the country. It turned into the second-biggest win for Florida in the series history. The biggest? The Spurrier team of 1996 won by 40 in 1996 during that national championship season.
How’s that for an omen?
“This,” Meyer said, “is a game we had to have.”
You might say that. The Gators are this close to returning to the SEC championship game. They can clinch the SEC East with a win next week at Vanderbilt.
The defense that was so soft last season — Urban Meyer used that word about four times in his postgame — has arrived. Big time. Stafford had thrown five interceptions this season coming into this game. He threw three in the second half against the Gators who made him pay on every one.
Joe Haden ran one back 88 yards to the Georgia 1. Dustin Doe picked one off when it was 35-3. Ahmad Black made it a pick party by returning the final interception 64 yards.
“We were extremely soft (last season) on defense,” Meyer said. “I don’t think you can call a defense soft more than we did.”
There’s that word again. This one isn’t soft but it’s younger than a green banana. Fourteen of the 22 in the two-deep are freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores.
“Our defense,” linebacker Brandon Spikes said, “is growing up before our eyes.”
This is the new Florida since Sept 27. The one that looked unfocused six weeks ago in losing to Ole Miss is dead. This is the new Tebow, too. His stats are going to be less impressive from here on in. That’s because there are more weapons than just Tebow doing the jab step into the line and throwing a dart somewhere.
The highest scoring team in the SEC is living up to its other label: The fastest team in America. Receiver/running back Percy Harvin rushed for Florida’s first touchdown. Rainey (six yards per carry this season) and Demps (10.0) are both home run hitters in their first season.
The only thing that might slow them down was the boot on Tebow’s left foot. The quarterback said it was a minor sprain of his ankle. But anything that upsets Florida’s delicate balance is cause for concern. It was Tebow being stopped on a fourth-and-1 against Ole Miss that has the Gators needing help to get to the national championship game.
“I think a lot of good things did come out of Ole Miss,” Tebow said. “One, never take a team lightly, never play haphazardly. Enjoy the moment, enjoy the game.”
And enjoy Meyer, who won’t give up the obvious. So, Urban, who is playing better than you guys?
“I read your articles every week,” Meyer said. “You tell me.”