GAINESVILLE -- UF quarterback Tim Tebow is not easily influenced. He never wore a visor.
For everything that Tim Tebow represents, for everything that everyone loves about the guy, here's one more reason to respect him. He's no frat boy. He's no Steve Spurrier.
Me: "Tim, did you ever wear a visor?"
Spurrier, The Visor, returns to Gainesville on Saturday for a game between his No.24 South Carolina Gamecocks (7-3, 4-3 in the Southeastern Conference) and the No.3 Florida Gators (8-1, 6-1). That's the subject of this week's often imitated but never duplicated Ultimate Preview.
Tebow might not wear the visor, but he and Spurrier are linked forever, nonetheless. Both won Heismans as quarterbacks for the University of Florida. Saturday's match-up between Spurrier and Tebow is the first time in the history of college football that a Heisman Trophy winner has played against a team coached by another Heisman Trophy winner.
Tebow, a Jacksonville native, grew up a fan of Spurrier's Gators but says it hasn't been much of a problem looking beyond that this week and preparing for the Gamecocks' talented defense. Tebow didn't seem very distracted last season. He accounted for seven touchdowns against Spurrier and his Gamecocks. Tebow's scoring frenzy against South Carolina helped him become the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy.
One year later and it seems all eyes are on Tebow once again to see if he uses South Carolina as a springboard into serious discussion for the Heisman. Overall, Tebow's numbers are down compared to the rest of the Heisman field, but many believe Tebow is playing the best football of his career right now. Since losing to Ole Miss, Tebow has completed 70 percent of his passes, thrown for 11 touchdowns without an interception and led his team, with relative ease, to an SEC East Division championship. In his last two games, Tebow has accounted for 10 touchdowns (five rushing, five passing).
While Tebow currently trails a few Big 12 quarterbacks in the race for the Heisman, UF's signal caller finishes the season against the No.3- , No.4- and No.5-ranked defenses in the nation. If Tebow and UF breeze through that schedule, then many Heisman voters believe he will deserve serious consideration for the award.
Let's let Spurrier give us the details this week.
"It's a national TV game at 3:30 down there at Gainesville," Spurrier said. "A lot of our players haven't been there. We were talking in our meeting yesterday and ironically -- our schedule this year -- we haven't gone to Georgia, Tennessee or the bigger stadiums in the SEC. It's the first game that our players will play in front of over 90,000. It will be a little louder, maybe, than the games we've had."
You've got to love Spurrier for his little digs. "Maybe" Ben Hill Griffin Stadium will be a little louder than South Carolina's other road games this season: Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Kentucky? Maybe, just maybe, The Swamp, will produce the loudest noise the Gamecocks have heard this season even before kickoff. We're pretty sure a few people inside the stadium will stand up and cheer when the opposing coach is introduced.
Second place on the intriguing-storylines list behind The Return of Spurrier Part II is the match-up between South Carolina's defense and Florida's offense. Led by several stars, the Gamecocks' defense is ranked No.1 in the SEC (256.5 yards per game) and third nationally. Florida features the league's No.1 scoring offense (42.8 points per game), ranked seventh nationally.
South Carolina's defense is led by linebackers Jasper Brinkley (6-2, 269 pounds) and Eric Norwood (6-1, 253 pounds) and strong safety Emanuel Cook (5-10, 203 pounds). Cook, who starred at West Palm Beach Palm Beach Gardens as a running back and defender, is one of the best players in the SEC but was not recruited by Florida's Big Three: UF, UM and FSU.
"I've used that as motivation my whole career," Cook said. "This is a statement game."
In addition to Cook, South Carolina's secondary also features another player from South Florida. Freshman Akeem Auguste, who starred at Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna, is the Gamecocks' starting free safety.
Cook and Auguste will be flanked by junior cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. Munnerlyn, apparently, isn't the healthiest eater on the team. He is, however, one of the best cornerbacks in the SEC.
"Try to get him away from Bojangles, don't get mad at me Bojangles, they've got some good chicken, but Captain loves fried chicken," Spurrier said. "He does. He loves fried chicken. It's OK occasionally but you can't make a steady diet. It's not proven to be the best."
BY THE NUMBERS, RECORDS WATCH
Here's a number to keep in the back of your mind as you're watching Saturday's game. 49: That's SEC record for career rushing touchdowns, held by Georgia running back Herschel Walker. UF quarterback Tim Tebow enters Saturday's game with 41 career rushing touchdowns, which already ties him for sixth all-time along with Arkansas' Darren McFadden and Alabama's Shuan Alexander.
Tebow rushed for five touchdowns last season against South Carolina. If he matches that performance on Saturday, Tebow will be tied for second on the career SEC rushing list with LSU great Kevin Faulk. Here's the Top 10:
1. 49, Herschel Walker, Georgia
2. 46, Kevin Faulk, LSU
3. 45, Carnell Williams, Auburn
4. 44, Dalton Hilliard, LSU
5. 43, Bo Jackson, Auburn
6. 41, Tim Tebow, Florida
41, Shuan Alexander, Alabama
41, Darren McFadden, Arkansas
9. 40, Charles Alexander, LSU
10. 37, Deuce McAllister, Ole Miss
OL Jim Tartt (shoulder)
OL Carl Johnson (knee)
QB Cameron Newton (neck)
DL Omar Hunter (ankle)
CB Jacques Rickerson (dismissed)
OL Jim Barrie (knee)
DT John Brown (wrist)
S Dorian Munroe (knee)
S John Curtis (knee)
TE Cornelius Ingram (knee)
LB Brendan Beal (knee)
WR Moe Brown (knee)
OL Kevin Young (shoulder)
RB Brian Maddox (knee)
LB Melvin Ingram (toe)
LB Rodney Paulk (knee)
RB Taylor Rank (shoulder)
S Chris Culliver (suspension)
OL Lemuel Jean-Pierre (knee)
DL Clark Gaston (transfer)
OL Heath Batchelor (suspended)
UF 35, South Carolina 17