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ULTIMATE PREVIEW: Healthy Tebow could make all the difference

Expanded version of the Ultimate Preview this week...

LINK: Florida Gators aiming to stop Georgia's Moreno
LINK: X's and O's: Tebow studies how they work, by NY Times college football writer Pete Thamel

GAINESVILLE -- UF quarterback Tim Tebow dropped a bombshell on Gators coach Urban Meyer earlier this week. His knee is back to 100 percent.

That's right, folks. Tebow has been playing a little dinged up this season ever since throwing and interception against Arkansas. Tebow hyper-extended his knee on the play but didn't tell anybody, apparently not even his own coach.

"He was just sore and he never tells you anything," Meyer said. "I would ask how he feels and he would say, 'Fine.' Then the other day he said, 'Boy, my knee is feeling really good. I said, 'Your knee? What are you talking about?'"

For what it's worth, several reporters noticed the difference in Tebow's running style against Arkansas. I asked Meyer after the Arkansas game if Tebow was injured and Meyer said that Tebow didn't let on about an injury. I even asked Tebow and he smiled and said he was fine.

"[Tebow] doesn't come to me with anything," Meyer said. "He just told me the other day in the training room. I walked by and said, 'How do you feel?' He said, 'Great. My knee is finally feeling better.' I said, 'Your knee?'

"He told me last year he was 100 percent before we played Georgia and I later found out he couldn't pick his arm up."

It's hard to believe that Meyer didn't know Tebow was injured against Georgia last season. After all, Tebow was receiving pain-reducing injections in his right shoulder by that point in the season and was limited in practice before the Georgia game. I bring all this up because Tebow's injury certainly played a major role in the outcome of Georgia 42, Florida 30. Meyer admitted earlier this week that Tebow's lack of mobility contributed to Georgia's six sacks.

Tebow is apparently healthy for Georgia this time around and it could make all the difference. Of course, Tebow's health isn't the only upgrade to UF's offense at this crucial point in the season when compared to 2007, but it is the most important difference.

The biggest question on the eve of UF-Georgia: How will last season's end-zone celebration from Georgia affect Saturday's game? It's an unquantifiable question but one I attempted to answer earlier this week with an in-depth look at two of college football's most important intangible emotions: motivation and momentum. ESPN picked up on this angle today with a story by college football writer Mark Schlabach.

Will the "Gator-Stomp" effect play a role? Miami coach Randy Shannon believes it will. He chimed in with his opinion earlier this week: "Something will happen in that game. I can guarantee that. You better go to that game. You would get a great story. Don't come to ours. I'm serious. Something is going to happen after what happened last year. You can book that."

You can also book UF's defense relying on its linebackers to limit UGA redshirt sophomore running back Knowshon Moreno. Moreno rushed for 188 yards against UF in 2007. Limiting Moreno was the topic of my story in today's Miami Herald.

UF's defense does not feature a single senior but experience could be one advantage for the Gators' linebackers. Georgia's offensive line is composed entirely of underclassmen, including two true freshmen and one redshirt freshman.

Georgia's play-action passing game took advantage of the Gators' young secondary in 2007. Quarterback Matthew Stafford tossed a career-high three touchdowns against the Gators. Stafford returns and so does Georgia senior receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, who had had his way with UF cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis in 2007. Pierre-Louis entered this season as the returning starter but was benched earlier in the season in favor of true freshman cornerback Janoris Jenkins.

In an interesting twist of fate, Jenkins injured his shin against Kentucky last week and Pierre-Louis returned to the starting line-up. Jenkins was limited this week during practice and had a brief practice session on Friday in the hopes of gaining his form before Saturday, but if Jenkins is unable to return then Pierre-Louis will get another shot at stopping Georgia's receivers. Pierre-Louis did have an interception against Georgia last year and returned it for a touchdown. Anyone remember "The Flip?"

Massaquoi has 28 receptions, including four touchdowns this season but he is not the Bulldogs first option downfield. Georgia freshman receiver A.J. Green (6-4, 190 pounds) has emerged as one of the best young playmakers in the country. Expect a battle between Green and UF cornerback Joe Haden. Green leads the Bulldogs in receptions with 39 and is averaging 82.8 receiving yards per game with five total touchdowns.

After touching the ball just three times last week against Kentucky, UF's most dynamic offensive playmaker, junior receiver Percy Harvin, wants to the ball in a bad way on Saturday. Harvin rushed for 97 yards on 10 carries against UGA in 2007 and caught two passes for 41 yards. With UF running backs Jeffery Demps and Chris Rainey relieving Harvin of his backfield duties, the junior will have more chances to make an impact as a receiver.

No.5 UF (6-1, 4-1 in SEC) vs. No.8 Georgia (7-1, 4-1)
Where: Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. Saturday's game marks the 76th time UF and Georgia have played in Jacksonville. The two teams have played 86 times total.
The series: According to UF, Georgia leads the series 46-37-2. According to UGA, Georgia leads the series 47-37-2. Georgia's records show a 52-0 Bulldogs win in a game played in Macon, Ga., in 1904. Florida did not field an official team until 1906.
Recent history: UF has won 15 of the last 18 meetings between the two schools and 17 of the previous 24 contests.

--UF's offense leads the SEC in scoring with an average of 42 points per game.
--UGA's offense is ranked second in the SEC in scoring, averaging 34.2 points per game.
--UGA leads the SEC in total offense with an average of 431.2 yards per game.
--UF's offense is ranked third in the SEC behind UGA and LSU, averaging 410.3 yards per game.
--UF's defense leads the SEC in defensive scoring, allowing an average of 11.9 points per game.
--UGA's defense is ranked eighth, allowing 20.2 points per game.
--Florida's offense is ranked second in the SEC in rushing behind Alabama, averaging 196.0 yards per game. Florida is ranked sixth in the SEC in passing offense (214.3 yards)
--UGA is ranked first in the SEC in passing offense (258.8 yards) and ranked fourth in the SEC in rushing (172.5 yards per game).

--UF has not turned the ball over in five of its last nine games.
--UF's six turnovers are tied for the lowest total in the nation with UNLV and Central Michigan.
--Florida's plus-10 turnover margin this season is tied for third nationally.
--UF is one of only three schools to throw only two interceptions this season. Baylor and Penn State are the other teams.

UF is second nationally and first in the SEC in red zone offense. The Gators have scored on 28-of-29 trips inside the red zone and have been perfect in six of seven games. UF has scored on its last 18 trips inside the red zone, which is the longest streak ever under UF coach Urban Meyer.

--UF quarterback Tim Tebow needs one rushing touchdown to set the school career touchdown record. He has 36 and is currently tied with former UF great Emmitt Smith.
--UF running back Jeffery Demps is averaging 11.9 yards per carry, which leads the nation. He is averaging 47 yards on touchdown runs.
--Over the last three games, Demps and fellow running back Chris Rainey have carried the ball 52 times for 487 yards (9.4 yards per carry) and four rushing touchdowns.

--UF is 27-1 under Meyer when the Gators score first.
--UF is 11-0 under Meyer when the Gators block a punt.
--UF is 29-1 when they hold an opponent to less than 100 team rushing yards.

DL Torrey Davis (undisclosed), CB Janoris Jenkins (shin), OL Jim Tartt (shoulder) and Emmanuel Moody (ankle).
DL Omar Hunter (ankle)
OL Jim Barrie (knee), TE Cornelius Ingram (knee), S John Curtis (knee), S Dorian Munroe (knee), LB Brendan Beal (knee)

TE Tripp Chandler (shoulder), LB Dannell Ellerbe (knee),
WR Tavarres King (ankle)
S Quintin Banks (knee), OL Vince Vance (knee), LB Akeem Hebron (knee), WR Tony Wilons (ankle), OL Chris Little (foot), LB Marcus Washington (shoulder), LB Chris White (Achilles), DT Trinton Sturdivant (knee), DT Jeff Owns (knee)

Florida by three pumpkins. That's my prediction. Thoughts?



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