From today's Miami Herald ...
The defensive transformation of Terron Sanders and Ahmad Black
UF quarterback Cam Newton in car accident
GAINESVILLE -- It doesn't say much for a team's chances when a coach admits that one of his motivating factors for a game is not to be blown out. But that's exactly what Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said on Wednesday when asked about Florida's wide margin of victory in the Gators' last four games.
Since losing to Ole Miss, No.4 Florida has outscored its opponents by an average of 39.5 points per game. Florida is favored by 24 points against Vanderbilt, according to one offshore sports book. Florida beat Vanderbilt 49-22 in 2007.
"I think the blowouts kind of encourage you to get to work," Johnson said. "You don't want to be on the bad end of one like we were last year against [Florida]. I think that motivates your guys to get out and learn the game plan and get prepared to play them."
Johnson is emphasizing mistake-free football this week during practice. While Florida's last four games have been blowouts, Johnson has noticed a trend that could help his team keep the game close.
"[Florida] does not have a lot of weakness, no," Johnson said. "But you never know what's going to happen in a football game. The thing I see when they have those blowouts is the other team helps them out a whole bunch."
Take away last season's lopsided homecoming win for UF and Vanderbilt has played well against Urban Meyer's Florida teams. In 2006, Vanderbilt never seriously threatened the Gators but the Commodores did keep the game close, losing to Florida 25-19. In 2005, Vanderbilt tied the game with a late score only to lose to UF 49-42 in double overtime.
"In those games where we had chances to win we just didn't give up a whole bunch of bad plays and made them earn everything," Johnson said. "We just sort of hung in there and we were probably a little better offensively those years and kept the ball away from them some."
There's another important SEC match-up this weekend that's probably a little edgier than Florida at Vanderbilt. Alabama at LSU will mark the first time Bama coach Nick Saban has returned to Tigers Stadium since he left to be the coach of the Dolphins.
LSU coach Les Miles says Saban's return isn't a big deal. (Yeah right, Les!)
"We've really discounted all those things, to be honest with you," Miles said. "I think it's going to be fun. I expect it will be a very loud, very passionate stadium. I wouldn't expect there would be much negativity surrounding it in any way."
What does Miles think is going to happen, that Tigers Stadium is going to give Saban a standing ovation? There's a rumor out there in Internet land that Miles has been referring to Saban as "the Devil." When asked about this, Miles denied it.
"Oh my gosh, no," Miles said. "Are you kidding me?"
Pretty sure folks in Miami have a few names for Saban.
Let's take stock of all the awards watch list that feature Gators...
Quarterback Tim Tebow is a semifinalist for the Maxwell Award (national player of the year). Tebow is also a semifinalist for the Wuerffel Award and Davey O'Brien Award.
Coach Urban Meyer is a semifinalist for the Munger Award (national coach of the year).
UF linebacker Brandon Spikes is a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year) and Lott Trophy (defensive impact). Spikes is also on the Nagurski watch list (defenseman of the year) and is a semifinalist for the Lombardi Award (best lineman or linebacker). Spikes is also on the Butkus Award (best linebacker) watch list.
Lineman Jermaine Cunningham is on the Nagurski Award watch list.
Kicker Jonathan Phillips is a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award (best kicker).
Punter Chas Henry is a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award (best punter).
Expect Brandon James to be a finalist for the Tatupu Award (best special teams player) and Randy Moss Award (best return specialist). Tebow will also probably be a finalist for a few more quarterback awards, including the Manning Award and the Sammy Baugh Trophy.