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41 posts from December 2008

December 11, 2008

Mullen calls status with UF a "fluid situation"

GAINESVILLE -- Mississippi State held a press conference on Thursday introducing Dan Mullen as its next head coach. Florida plays at Mississippi State on Oct. 24 next season ... slightly interesting.

--Mullen was vague -- wishy-washy even -- when asked about his committment to Florida over the next month. He called it a "fluid situation." Mental note No.1 as new MSU coach: Work on coach speak.

--Mullen said that much of what he will do over the next month depends on Tim Tebow. Mullen didn't really clarify this, but he made it sound like he needs Tebow's formal blessing before officially cutting ties with UF.

--Mullen will make $1.2 million annually. He has agreed to a four-year contract but hasn't signed it yet.

--Mullen schedule this week went from a much needed break at UF to resurrecting the SEC West doormat. Kinda of a change of pace. Mullen is traveling around Mississippi today meeting his fanbase. On Friday he will begin recruiting. On Saturday he will focus on building a staff. No word yet on whether or not any UF assistants will head to MSU with Mullen.

--Mullen said he will be MSU's special teams coordinator -- Urban will be proud -- and leave offensive playcalling up to his offensive coordinator.

Will the spread-option offense work at MSU? A word of advise to MSU fans: Give it some time.

FOUR UF FRESHMEN HONORED
UF freshman Jeff Demps, Will Hill, Janoris Jenkins and Chris Rainey made the All-SEC freshman team. Demps and Rainey, both running backs, combined or 1,237 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns.

Hill ranked sixth on the team and first among freshman with 45. He led the team with 21 tackles on special teams. He also had two interceptions.

Jenkins, the freshman cornerback, finished the season with 34 tackles and 11 pass break-ups, which led the team and was tied for first nationally among freshman. Jenkins had three interceptions, which was the most among SEC freshman.

MEYER FINALIST FOR EDDIE ROBINSON AWARD
UF coach Urban Meyer is one of nine finalists for the football writers' national coach of the year award.

-jo-

Dan Mullen: Should he stay or go?

LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Should Dan Mullen stay or should he go? Sounds like that cheesy song by The Clash.

Anyway, to quote the song, if Mullen stays "there could be trouble." If Mullen leaves, then UF approaches this game with a heightened sense of awareness and with Billy Gonzales or Steve Addazio as the new OC. That's my take on it. Pretty sure Meyer, Addazio and Gonzales can handle things without Mullen around. Let Mullen leave.

Not having his quarterbacks coach around for the title game is a less-than-idle situation for UF quarterback Tim Tebow. That might be the biggest concern here.

Thoughts? I'm sure a few guys and gals out there have an opinion on this one...

-jo-

December 10, 2008

It's unclear whether OC Dan Mullen will coach Florida in title game

LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Just spent 30 minutes with UF quarterback Tim Tebow and Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford here at Disney World. ESPN's college football awards show is on Thursday and the awards finalists met with reporters on Wednesday.

Obviously, the story of the day is UF offensive coordinator Dan Mullen's move to Mississippi State. Tebow seemed pretty upset by Mullen's departure on Wednesday. He wasn't mad or anything like that but Tebow and Mullen are very close, so Tebow is sad to see Mullen leaving.

"He's a great coach and I wish him the best of luck," Tebow said. "It'll be sad. I enjoyed playing for him."

Tebow said on Wednesday that he has spent more time with Mullen over the last three years "than anyone on earth, so I think we know each other really well and we're going to miss him a lot."

Tebow also said he didn't know how Mullen's departure would affect his decision to stay at UF for his senior season. "It's something I'm going to have to look at," Tebow said.

Mullen will be introduced as Mississippi State's head coach on Thursday. It's unclear how his new position will affect the Gators' bowl preparations. Mullen, Tebow and UF coach Urban Meyer were each hesitant on Wednesday to say whether or not Mullen will coach in the bowl or help in the bowl's preparation.

Addressing reporters in Fort Lauderdale, Meyer said, "I'm not sure right now whether he will coach in the bowl game or not, but we are going to evaluate it and do whatever gives us the best chance to win the game."

Mullen accepted the position on Wednesday morning and flew to Starkville on Wednesday afternoon. He spoke with reporters at the airport (through a fence, I'm told). On Wednesday, Mullen did not commit to coaching Florida in the bowl game.

"We're going to have to work that out, that's something we're going to decide somewhere later down the road," Mullen said.

Sounds like something that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

-jo-

REPORT: Mullen to be named Miss. State coach

GAINESVILLE -- Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen will be introduced as the new coach at Mississippi State on Wednesday, according to ESPN's Pat Forde, who cited unnamed sources in his report. CLICK ME! The Jackson Clarion-Ledger first broke the story.

Attempts to reach Mullen on Wednesday afternoon were unsuccessful. On Sunday, Mullen said that rumors linking him to the head coaching vacancy at Mississippi State were not true. UF coach Dan Mullen also side-stepped a question about Mullen being a finalist for the head coaching position at Mississippi State.

A flight from Gainesville to Starkville, Miss., is schedule to land in the small Mississippi town at 3:54 p.m., according to flightaware.com

-jo-

EMAILS I GET: Tebow does not deserve the Heisman

Sicover

PICTURED: This week's SI cover. (Why is Tebow wearing UCLA colors on his wrist?)

GAINESVILLE -- The editorial board at Gator Clause occasionally publishes the emails that fill our inboxes. We have sole authority when it comes to this unfair abuse of power. This email comes to us from Ed McClean of Homestead, who thinks UF quarterback Tim Tebow had a great year but does not deserve the Heisman. Oklahoma and Texas played more difficult schedules, writes McLean...

Dear Joseph……

I agree, Tim Tebow did play very well against Alabama in this past Saturday’s championship game. He made some very nice throws downfield that I really hadn’t seen him make before. But honestly, I have a hard time giving him that trophy based on what Sam Bradford has done at OU this year. His offense set the NCAA scoring record and that’s pretty meaningful. He’s also guided OU to bigger wins than Tebow has this season. Those blowouts over a very good Texas Tech, a pretty good Oklahoma State team and a decent Missouri squad are bigger and better wins. I also can’t believe that Tebow didn’t put the Gators on his shoulders and carry them to victory over an UN-RANKED Ole Miss team in ‘The Swamp’. That loss was unforgivable!

And let’s not kid, Alabama wasn’t a No. 1 team. They struggled and were Life-and-Death against LSU…..at team that was gave up over 100 points in a month. Alabama drummed up serious attention when they thumped Georgia (and we later found out that the Dawgs were also fraudulent this year). From there, who did Alabama beat? Arkansas? A terrible Auburn team? A horrendous LSU team? Who did Alabama beat? Nobody. Let’s face it, the SEC wasn’t the conference everyone thought it would be (myself included!).

While we’re at it, didn’t Colt McCoy of Texas have a better year than Tebow? And don’t the UT Longhorns have a case? They beat OU by TEN POINTS. Not a late field goal. Not because of bad officiating call. They beat the Sooners by 10 POINTS!!

I have immense respect for Tim Tebow. He’s an amazing player. A once in a lifetime kind of guy. A lot of fun to watch. But the fact is that Bradford and McCoy had better seasons.

Respectfully,

Ed McLean, Homestead 

Tebow's late surge could equal second Heisman

GAINESVILLE -- The speech after Ole Miss, routs against Georgia and LSU, the comeback against Alabama: It all could equal a second Heisman Trophy for UF quarterback Tim Tebow.

Heisman ballots are due today. According to one poll, Tebow's late charge could make for one of the closest Heisman races in history. A CBS poll of 32 Heisman voters (3.5 percent of all voters) projected Tebow as the Heisman winner. Oklahoma's Sam Bradford was second. Texas' Colt McCoy finished third in the CBS poll. Here's a link to the story by CBS Sportsline columnist Dennis Dodd. CLICK ME!

Another online Heisman poll (10 voters) by Heismanpundit.com projects Bradford as the Heisman Trophy winner.

One thing is for sure. It's going to be close. I always thought Tebow would be invited to New York but I never thought he'd actually win the Heisman. Guess he's got a chance. Every Heisman voter I've spoken to (except for one) has said they're voting for Tebow No.1 on their ballots. (FYI: I'm not a voter.)

Never count out Tebow, right?

The Heisman buzz means one thing for national championship game -- more hype! The game will either feature two Heisman Trophy quarterbacks or one guy who has won two.

-jo-

December 09, 2008

Take a listen to Tim Tebow's hype set to verse

GAINESVILLE -- Songwriter Ryan Parker on Tim Tebow. Click the play button. Warning: Hot chicks alert.

Vegas odds released for UF-OU title game

GAINESVILLE -- Florida is a three-point favorite to beat Oklahoma, according to the guys out in Vegas. CLICK ME! to view all the odds for all the bowls. Florida is 12-1 against the spread this season.

The over/under for the title game is 72. That's a lot of points, especially considering Florida's defense is allowing an average of 12.8 points per game (fifth nationally) and held the No.1-ranked team in the country to one offensive yard in the fourth quarter of the SEC championship game.

On the flip side, Oklahoma's offense is scoring points at a record-setting clip. The Sooners have scored more than 60 points in each of their last five games and are averaging 54 points per game, which leads the nation. (If you're wondering, the all-time record is 56 ppg, which was set by Army in 1944.) The Sooners have already scored 702 points this season, which is a all-time record.

Florida's offense, not too shabby in its own right, is ranked third nationally (45.15 ppg).

The over/under for the SEC championship game was 51 and Florida was favored by 10 1/2 points. The final score was 31-20. Pretty amazing.

-jo-

December 08, 2008

UF safety Ahmad Black got shafted

GAINESVILLE -- Ahmad Black was robbed.

What an absolute oversight by Southeastern Conference sportswriters to relegate Florida strong safety Ahmad Black to honorable mention all-SEC. Black had six interceptions and played his position next to perfect. He should have been first team.

Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Phil Trautwein and Brandon Spikes did make the AP all-SEC first team. Tebow was also voted the league's offensive player of the year.  Harvin showed up again on the second team offense, this time as a wide receiver. Harvin was the first-team all-purpose player.

Jermaine Cunningham, Carlos Dunlap and Joe Haden made second team all-SEC defense. Black was honorable mention and these guys made second team? The only safety better than Black this season in the SEC was Tennessee's Eric Berry, who was named the SEC's defensive player of the year.

Brandon James, Mike and Maurkice Pouncey, Jason Watkins and Jonathan Phillips also made the honorable mention list.

The entire team is right here. CLICK ME! Thoughts, anyone? I'm sure there are a few people out there with an opinion on this one.

Oh, by the way, I checked with Stubhub.com today. There was over 8,000 tickets available for the BCS national championship game on Monday. Average price as of Monday afternoon ... $770. Tickets were going for as low as $450 each, so some of you guys better jump on that. Probably not going to find it for much cheaper. The Gator Club of Miami is auctioning off two tickets. You can bid for that right here.

Anyone out there with tickets, I would love to hear how you got yours and how much you paid. Leave a comment. Anyone out there planning on buying tickets from a scalper at Dolphin Stadium?

-jo-

OU's Sam Bradford has surgery on left hand

GAINESVILLE -- Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford had surgery to repair ligament damage in his non-throwing, left hand on Sunday, according to Oklahoma.

The surgery lasted 90 minutes. Bradford was discharged from the hospital on Sunday morning and attended the Sooners BCS selection show on Sunday night.

"I was a clean, routine procedue and we expect Sam to bounce back quickly," OU head coach Bob Stoops said. "He'll be practicing again within 10 days and we've taken this week off anyway, so he won't miss much."

No.1 Florida (12-1) plays No.2 Oklahoma (12-1) on Jan. 8 at Dolphin Stadium in the college football national championship game.

-jo-

NOTEBOOK: McCarney could be leaving Florida; Tebow could be staying

GAINESVILLE -- Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney interviewed for the head coaching position at New Mexico on Sunday, according to UF coach Urban Meyer.

McCarney, who coached at Iowa State for 12 years before stints at South Florida and Florida, is considered to be a finalist for the position at New Mexico. New Mexico athletics director Paul Krebs is a friend of Meyer's. Krebs is the former Bowling Green athletics director who hired Meyer as a head coach in 2001.

MULLEN DENIES MISSISSIPPI STATE RUMORS
In related news, UF offensive coordinator Dan Mullen said on Sunday that rumors linking him to the head coaching vacancy at Mississippi State are untrue. Meyer also responded to a question about Mullen being a finalist for the Bulldogs' position, telling reporters the rumor was not true.

TEBOW SPEAKS ABOUT NFL
UF quarterback Tim Tebow spoke with reporters at length on Sunday following the BCS selection show. Tebow is expected to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy after his three-touchdown performance against Alabama on Saturday. Tebow said again on Sunday that he would consider leaving early for the NFL after this season. He also said he expects to return for his senior year.

"I love being at the University of Florida, and it would be an honor to come back and play my senior year. And that's something I really want to do," Tebow said. "I will look at it and see, and weigh my options, but it would be a blessing to come back and play a fourth year here."

"After the [national championship] game, I'll sit down and look at it and decide what's best for me. But I don't think so. Hopefully we'll be celebrating, but I don't think it will weigh too much on that decision."

KESTAHN MOORE INJURED
Florida running back Kestahn Moore sprained his knee against Alabama, according to Florida coach Urban Meyer. Moore's left knee was wrapped on Sunday during the Gators' team party for the BCS selection show. He was also using crutches. This is could be bad news for the Gators. While Moore hasn't contributed much as a runner this season he is one of the team's best blockers on offense and special teams.

HARVIN ON SCHEDULE TO RETURN
Florida coach Urban Meyer said on Sunday that Percy Harvin should be ready for "full practice" when the Gators fly to Miami on Jan.2 for the national championship game. Harvin injured his ankle against Florida State and missed the SEC championship game.

DAVID NELSON HATES OKLAHOMA
Florida receiver David Nelson grew up a Texas fan. That means one thing. He hates Oklahoma. Nelson lived in Oklahoma from fourth grade to seventh grade and attended high school in Wichita Falls, Texas, which is 30 minutes south of the Oklahoma border.

"I grew up in the heart of Big 12 country," Nelson said. "They never offered me a scholarship. I grew up a Longhorn fan, always hating Oklahoma."

Nelson's mother, Kathy Belcoff, attended physical therapy school at Oklahoma.

-jo-

December 07, 2008

Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford vs. opposing defenses

GAINESVILLE -- Now that we've already established that Florida and Oklahoma are going to the BCS title game, let's take a look at the body of works for the Gators and the Sooners. Think Oklahoma had an easier road to Dolphin Stadium than the Gators? The numbers certainly favor that opinion. Check out these comparisions, which are being distributed to Heisman Trophy voters across the country as I type this.

The highlight: Tim Tebow and has faced five top 20 defenses. Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford has faced one -- ONE! -- defense ranked in the top 20. Here's the kicker. The only team the Sooners have faced with a defense ranked in the top 20 was Texas Christian, which doesn't even play in the Big 12 (but probably should). The next best defense the Sooners faced this season, according to the national rankings, was Cincinnati's (No.24). Cincinnati plays in the Big East. As for Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, the best defense he faced this season was Oklahoma's (No.66).

By comparision, Tebow and Florida defeated five of the top 20 defenses nationally and 10 of the top 50 defenses.

While Tebow was facing some of the best defenses in the country, McCoy and Bradford coasted to the Heisman Trophy ceremony. Tebow faced just one defense ranked 70th or worse (No.72 Arkansas). Bradford played eight defenses this season ranked 70th or worse nationally. McCoy and Texas feasted off of 10 defenses ranked 70th or worse nationally.

Top 10 Defenses Faced
Tim Tebow               2
Sam Bradford            1
Colt McCoy              0

Top 20 Defenses Faced
Tim Tebow               5
Sam Bradford            1
Colt McCoy              0

Top 50 Defenses Faced
Tim Tebow               10
Sam Bradford            3
Colt McCoy              0

Defenses Ranked Worse than No. 70
Tim Tebow               1
Sam Bradford            8
Colt McCoy              10

Tim Tebow has faced the following defenses  (total defense, using rankings as of 11/30):

No. 3 Alabama
No. 4 Tennessee
No. 11 South Carolina
No. 13 FSU
No. 16 Ole Miss
No. 24 Miami
No. 27 Georgia
No. 29 Vanderbilt
No. 37 LSU
No. 38 Kentucky
No. 59 Hawaii
No. 72 Arkansas

Sam Bradford has faced the following defenses
No. 2 TCU
No. 24 Cincinnati
No. 50 Texas
No. 67 Nebraska
No. 71 Texas Tech
No. 85 Oklahoma State
No. 86 Baylor
No. 91 Missouri
No. 96 Kansas
No. 108 Washington
NO. 113 Texas A&M
No. 117 Kansas State

Colt McCoy has faced the following defenses:
No. 66 Oklahoma
No. 71 Texas Tech
No. 72 Arkansas
No. 78 Colorado
No. 85 Oklahoma State
No. 86 Baylor
No. 91 Missouri
No. 96 Kansas
No. 113 Texas A&M
No. 114 Rice
No. 115 UTEP

-jo-

It's Gators vs. Sooners in title game, according to Orange Bowl merchandise

GAINESVILLE -- The hats are out of the bag.

Several hours before the final BCS standings of the year were released on Sunday, the Orange Bowl Committee website had merchandise for sale on its official website featuring the Florida Gators vs. the Oklahoma Sooners in the BCS title game.

Buy your BCS title game gear here.

Bcshats

Florida (12-1), ranked No.1 by The Associated Press, defeated Alabama 31-20 on Saturday night in Atlanta to win the Southeastern Conference championship game. The Gators were ranked No.4 in the BCS standings before the game. No.2 Oklahoma (12-1) defeated Missouri 62-21 on Saturday in the Big 12 title game. Oklahoma was ranked No.2 by the BCS before Saturday night's 8 p.m. announcement of the final BCS standings.

The Orange Bowl Committee, the host of this year's BCS championship game, has dubbed the match-up between Florida and Oklahoma the "Battle by the Beach," according to official merchandise.

Bcsshirts

-jo-

December 06, 2008

FINAL: Get ready, South Beach. The Gators are coming.

ATLANTA -- It's a final. Florida defeated Alabama 31-20 on Saturday at the Georgia Dome in the Southeastern Conference championship game. The victory likely secured the Gators' spot in the BCS title game at Dolphin Stadium on Jan.8.

UF 31, UA 20
Who says these Gators don't know how to win the fourth quarter? UF quarterback Tim Tebow made his case for the Heisman Trophy on the Gators second touchdown drive of the fourth quarter here at the Georgia Dome.

UF went 65 yards to take a 31-20 lead. Receiver Riley Cooper, Tebow's roommate, caught the score to put UF ahead by 11. After all this -- this incredible game -- it appeas that the Gators might actually cover the spread (10 points).

Tebow was beside himself after the touchdown throw. He ran to the student section and celebrated wildly then ran to his team and hugged injured receiver Percy Havin and shouted in Harvin's ear.

UF 24, UA 20
Tim Tebow and the Gators responded in a big way to Alabama's impressive third quarter. Tebow led the Gators 63 yards to retake the lead with 9:21 left in the game. Tebow optioned to Jeff Demps for the one-yard score to give UF a 24-20 lead. David Nelson had a key 32-yard reception on the drive and the inside pitch to tight end Aaron Hernandez on third-and-5 from the UA 9 was a great call by the Gators.

UA 20, UF 17
--After an impressive offensive drive from Alabama, the Tide settled for a 27-yard field goal by Leigh Tiffin with 13 seconds left in the third quarter. UA receiver Julio Jones continues to contribute. He had a 22-yard reception on this drive to put Bama in field goal range. UA's offensive line is dominating.

Momentum is favoring the Tide after UF kicker Jonathan Phillips missed a 47-yard field goal attempt with 3:48 left in the third quarter. Phillips, who entered the game perfect on the year, pushed the kick wide right. A side note here, Phillips hasn't kicked a game winner since his sophomore year of high school.

Florida's drive stalled after a series of poor offensive plays. UF went to Demps one too many times and Tebow threw a pair of incompletions. The Gators are missing Percy Harvin right about now. Bama taking over at its own 25 with 3:48 left in the third quarter.

UA 17, UF 17
Alabama freshman receiver Julio Jones has four receptions for 104 yards. Three of those four catches came on Alabama's first scoring drive of the third quarter. Alabama tied the score at 17-all with 6:20 left in the third quarter when Mark Ingram rushed for a two-yard score.

Alabama converted twice on third down during the drive and moved the ball 92 yards for the score. Jones had receptions 18, 6 and 14 yards. Bama's offensive line dominated the Gators' front four during the drive. UA running backs Glen Coffee and Mark Ingram are pounding the Gators linebackers thanks to huge holes in the offensive line produced by center Antoine Caldwell.

UF 17, UA 10
Welcome to the big time, David Nelson. The reserve receiver gave UF a 17-7 lead with 2:59 left in the first half with a five-yard touchdown pass from Tebow. Tebow has two touchdown passes this half. On this drive, Tebow converted a key third-and-long with a QB keeper near midfield. Tebow barrelled headlong into two Alabama defenders to make the first down. Later, Tebow delivered a strike to tight end Aaron Hernandez to the UA 4.

INJURY UPDATE: UF left guard Carl Johnson has a sprained knee. UF cornerback Joe Haden has returned from a sprained ankle.

Some halftime stats: Tebow has completed 8 of 13 passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns. He has also rushed for 48 yards on 11 carries. Alabama's Glen Coffee has rushed for 62 yards on 10 carries.

FIRST-HALF THOUGHTS: Florida needed to remember how to play a close football game again. Alabama was a pretty good teacher. UA took a 10-7 lead but Florida scored on its final two possessions of the half to lead by 10 at the half.

--UF held Alabama to three-and-out on the Crimson Tide's second offensive possession of the second quarter but it came at a price. UF sophomore cornerback Joe Haden appeared to injury his knee during punt-return coverage. The entire defense crowded around Haden. This could be the return of Wondy Pierre-Louis.

UF 10, UA 10
--A 51-yard catch from Tim Tebow to receiver Riley Cooper led to a 24-yard field goal for the Gators with 8:59 left in the first half. It was a beautifully timed pass from Tebow. It gave the Gators first-and-goal from the UA 4 but Florida played it conservatively and settled for Tebow runs and a field goal.

UF is trailing for the second time this season here at the Georgia Dome. Alabama is leading 10-7 at the end of the first quarter and driving. Entering this game, UF trailed for 15:38 this season. The biggest deficit Florida has faced this year is seven points.

UA 10, UF 7
So much for UF's streak of first-quarter dominance. Alabama is the team surging here at the Georgia Dome in the first quarter. The Tide just took a 10-7 lead on a 30-yard Leigh Tiffin field goal. Bama started its drive on the UF 25 and UF's defense did a solid job of holding Alabama to only a field goal (3:28 in first quarter). DT Lawrence Marsh and CB Janoris Jenkins made impressive stops.

UA 7, UF 7
Joe Haden meet Julio Jones. Haden, UF's best cornerback, was abused by Jones, UA's freshman receiver for a 54-yard play moments after UF took a 7-0 lead. On the next play, UA running back Glen Coffee rushed for an 18-yard touchdown. Get ready for a great game, folks. UF 7, UA 7.

UF 7, UA 0
OK, be honest...who had UF receiver Carl Moore in the first-touchdown pool? Moore caught a three-yard touchdown pass from UF Tim Tebow to take a 7-0 lead with 8:17 to play. UF's defense held the Crimson Tide to three rushing plays and a punt to begin the game.

What a catch for Moore, who transferred from a northern California junior college over the offseason. Biggest catch of that guy's career. He went down low to make the grab, displaying excellent hands and athleticism. Runs by Tebow and Demps highlighted the drive. The Gators are looking good.

PREGAME BELOW
Teams taking the field here at the Georgia Dome. This place has never been so loud. Alabama appear to outnumber Florida fans but not by much. Brandon Spikes was a pregame captain for the coin toss and soaked in the atmosphere, waving his arms and looking upward at the expansive crowd.

--Florida's Percy Harvin is a no go today, according to the university. He was seen in sweat pants before the game.

Gator Clause is in the Hyatt in downtown Atlanta and currently watching a Christmas parade go by on Peachtree Ave. There are dogs and storm troopers. Interesting.

ANYWAY, game day is here, finally. Fans are already screaming at each other here in downtown Atlanta. What a great week it was leading up to today's big game between No.2 Florida (11-1) vs. No. 1 Alabama (12-0) in the Southeastern Conference championship.

We've written about the contrasting offensive styles of Florida and Alabama, the legacy of Tim Tebow and the softer side of Urban Meyer and how the depth of his personality has contributed to his success. We've also discussed Alabama coach Nick Saban and his remarkable turnaround of the Crimson Tide (and why he couldn't do the same thing for the Dolphins).

Today in the Miami Herald, our preview story touched on how Tebow actually fell in love with Alabama football his senior year at Ponte Vedra Beach Nease and almost committed to coach Mike Shula because of it.

On the blog, we've broken down the head-to-head match-ups that could mean the difference between winning and losing. We've also conducted an interview with college football legend Lou Holtz. If that wasn't enough perspective, we even interviewed a beat writer who covers Alabama for his perspective on the game. We swapped questions and Gator Clause managed to ENRAGE A BUNCH OF BAMA fans over on his blog ... very fun stuff.

I'm off to eat some breakfast, if you're at work or hanging out on the computer during the game, make sure to join us during today's game, which kicks off at 4 p.m. We'll be blogging live.

I'll leave you guys the highlight of Friday's press conference with Meyer and Saban. When asked if he marveled at Alabama's offense, Meyer said, "I don't marvel a lot."

-jo-

December 05, 2008

Q&A with Lou Holtz on Urban Meyer, SEC title game and Tim Tebow

GAINESVILLE -- College football legend Lou Holtz is one of Florida coach Urban Meyer's mentors. Meyer was an assistant for Coach Holtz at Notre Dame and Meyer still leans on Holtz for advice from time to time. I had hoped to speak with Coach Holtz on Thursday for a story that ran in today's paper but the timing was a bit off. You can read the story here, CLICK ME! It ran on the front page of The Miami Herald today.

LouholtzGator Clause caught up with Holtz on Friday morning to talk about his relationship with Meyer. Holtz also helped Gator Clause breakdown the match-up of Saturday's game between No.2 Florida (11-1) and No.1 Alabama (12-0) and talked at length about UF quarterback Tim Tebow's place in college football history and also Tebow's chances of winning the Heisman Trophy this season.

Gator Clause: What part of your affable personality do you think rubbed off on Coach Meyer?
HOLTZ: [Laughs] Oh, I don't know. Urban has stayed in touch with me. I talked to him two days ago. I go up and talk to him about games and watch him practice in two-a-days and in the spring and I'm going to go up and watching Florida in their bowl preparation as well. It was just like me with Woody Hayes. You take away a lot of things. You learn a great deal about why people do things. But when you become a head coach you've got to be yourself and do your own thing and follow your own philosophy. If he took anything away from me, it would be the Woody Hayes philosophy: fundamentals, getting people to accept their role and work.

We just had a way of approaching the game -- we had a plan to win. When you've been in coaching as long as I have, you have certain things you believe. We would have a discussion [at Notre Dame] and someone would say, 'I think we ought to do this,' and all our coaches would have a meeting and I would make the final decision. I'd listen to everybody once and I'd say, 'No. This is what I'm doing and here's why. Because when I tried to do it this way, here's what happened. This was the result. These are the type of problems you have.' You not only have to educate people on what we did but why we did it.

HoltzGator Clause: What do you see different in your coaching and Urban's?
HOLTZ: There's a lot of things I see in him that I really like. He does it better than I ever did it. No.1: Everything starts with fundamentals and toughness. If you don't have fundamentals and you don't have toughness, then you're kidding yourself. You can talk and motivate and do this and that but the basis of any game of football is good fundamentals and toughness, whether you're on the high school level, the college level or the pro level. He does a great job in recruiting but he does a great job in utilizing a person's talents and abilities. I think that's very, very important in coaching. The way he has used Brandon James, for example, as a punt returner, kick returner, running back or wide receiver. How he's used Percy Harvin, whether it be from tailback or receiver. Percy Harvin is one of Florida's leading ground gainers, leading receivers, all-purpose yardage, etc. [Meyer's] got Tim Tebow as a freshman, utilizing his talents and abilities in certain situations. What he has done with Louis Murphy at wide receiver.

But he also lets his coaches coach and he holds people accountable. I think that's a big thing, that his players and coaches are held accountable. As any good leader, whether he's running a business or running a football team, [Meyer] would be very successful.

Gator Clause: You said in team meetings that you would ask all of your assistants their opinions, did you ever get any dissenting opinions from Urban?
HOLTZ: Oh, yeah. Whether it'd be about how a receiver is played, etc. If an assistant who I have great respect for -- and certainly Urban would fall into that category -- if he felt very strongly about something and I wasn't violently opposed to it because my experiences said that wasn't the right way to do it, I would acquiesce to the assistant coach on the way he wanted to do something and what he believed in. Urban was very vocal.

Lou_holtz_1Gator Clause: I know you're probably as interested in this SEC championship game as anybody. What's the one key match-up you're going to keep an eye on?
HOLTZ: I think the offensive line of Florida vs. the defensive line of Alabama. How Florida is going to block Terrence Cody. How they're going to handle the pressure and protect the passer. Alabama has a great defense and a great defensive scheme. I think the other thing that is going to be critical is the two strengths of Alabama. Well, I think they have many strengths. But total defense and offensive line are the big ones. How is Florida's defensive line going to be able to handle the size and the strength of the offensive line of Alabama. Are they going to move? Are they going to stunt? What are they going to do to neutralize that. So, both teams have an awful lot of strengths. Alabama on offense is very methodical. They're very relentless in their ability to run the football. Everything they do is contingent upon their ability to run the football and then that's where John Parker Wilson can then throw the ball. But they aren't the type of team that can just drop back and throw. So, those two match-ups between the defensive and offensive lines of both teams I think will be critical.

Holtz2Gator Clause: Tim Tebow's place historically in football. Where do you think it stands?
HOLTZ: I think Tim Tebow might be the best leader and best competitor I've seen. Maybe there are some other people I could throw on that list but I can't think of them right now. His speech to the public and to the team after the loss to Mississippi, if they go on to win, that will go down as the same thing, 'Win one for the Gipper.' If they can go on to win it all.

Tebow's stats are not as good as a Colt McCoy or Sam Bradford or even a Graham Harrell but I think his value to the football team, his intangibles, his competitiveness -- what he did against a very good Florida State team in a downpour, in a hostile environment, I don't think you can minimalize his competitiveness. I just think the guy is one of the absolute greatest that has ever played.

Gator Clause: Even though it's a statistical down year for Tebow, do you think Heisman voters will take into account everything you just said?
HOLTZ: Oh, they might not. But if you go back and you look when Archie Griffin won the Heisman as a junior, I think he gained 1,600 and some yards and averaged 6.4 yards per try. His senior year, he gained 1,400 yards and averaged 5.4 yards per try. His senior year, he scored four touchdowns and he won the Heisman again. The reason he won the Heisman again, I think there are two reasons. One, there weren't any other people having outstanding years like there are this year, like a Colt McCoy or Sam Bradford. But the fact that Ohio State went undefeated that year. I think if Florida wins this game, then I think people would have to look at it very, very seriously, his intangibles.

Lou_holtzbookGator Clause: How's your Heisman ballot shaking out going into this final championship week?
HOLTZ: I think this has been the year of Big 12 quarterbacks. You have Sam Bradford, you have Colt McCoy, you have Graham Harrell. I would not underestimate Tim Tebow's chances to repeat because who are the people outside the Southwest? For example, there is no real Heisman candidate on the West Coast. There's no real Heisman candidate in the Big Ten, although Shonn Greene (Iowa State running back) had an incredible year. There's no real Heisman candidate out of the east. Are the people in the Southwest and the Big 12 area and the people nationally going to divide their ballots and split it between McCoy and Bradford and Harrell? If that's the case, then Tebow might have a better chance than people think.

Gator Clause: Do you think this game is going to be closer than what the oddsmakers placed the line at?
HOLTZ: Oh, absolutely I do. I think this game will be very, very close. If anybody, I'd say Florida was a one- or two-point favorite at the most. Alabama has trailed so little this entire year and don't underestimate their kicking game, their return game, there ability to find a way to win. When you look at what they've done, you've got to be impressed by it but Florida is an excellent football team. This game is going to be played on turf and that's a little bit different. Both teams play on grass, so that will be interesting. What I'm sitting here looking at, there are five conference championship games starting tonight. Out of those five conference games, four of them have one team with a double-digit favorite. Ball State, I can understand why they're a double digit over Buffalo. I can understand why Tulsa is a double digit over East Carolina. I can understand why Oklahoma is a double digit over Missouri. I cannot understand why Florida is a double digit over Alabama.

-jo-

Dainty Florida will roll the rough and rugged Tide

GAINESVILLE -- Big game this weekend up in the ATL. Stubhub expects No.2 Florida (11-1) vs. No.1 Alabama (12-0) to rank in its top 10 list for ridiculously inflated ticket prices. And that's not top 10 for a college football game. That's top 10 regardless of sport. Only Super Bowl and World Series tickets have gone for more. Club seats in the Georgia Dome are pushing $1,300.

Gator Clause isn't leaving Gainesville until Friday night, so I'll have plenty of time to bloggy blog until then. Something a bit odd I just realized. While interning for The Birmingham News, I covered Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson when his Hoover Bucs won a high school state championship. As a preps writer for The Herald, I covered Tebow's state championship in 2005. Pretty cool, huh?

Both Wilson's and Tebow's state championship wins were blowouts by the fourth quarter. The only difference in the two state championship games -- and this has something to do with my officially licensed prediction of the game -- Tebow played nose guard in the fourth quarter for Ponte Vedra Beach Nease. So, that whole idea about UA's rough and rugged style of play being too much for UF's dainty little spread-option offense ... it's nonsense. UF 38, UA 18

Saturday's game will be much more than a contest between Tebow and Wilson, of course. There will be plenty of talented players on the Georgia Dome's artificial turf and we're here to highlight a few important match-ups because, well, like y'all, I'm pretty excited about watching this game...

11) UA cornerback Javier Arenas vs. UF receiver Percy Harvin: Assuming Harvin plays more than a decoy role (I doubt it), this could be one of the best one-on-one match-ups on Saturday. Harvin will play receiver if he does anything. Arenas is looking forward to the challenge. When asked about Harvin this week, Arenas said he expects Harvin will play.

10) UA receiver Julio Jones vs. UF cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Joe Haden: Jones and Jenkins know a little about each other going in. They squared off in a high school all-star game over the summer. Jenkins has three interceptions and leads the team with 10 pass break-ups. Haden is one of the nation's brightest up-and-comers. He's second on the team with 69 tackles and eight pass break-ups. He also has two interceptions. Jones leads UA with 46 receptions for 723 yards and four touchdowns. He's the Crimson Tide's only downfield threat. UA tight end Nick Walker is second on the team in receptions (26 for 262 yards, two TDs).

9) UF quarterback Tim Tebow vs. UA linebacker Rolando McClain: In this corner, the Mac Attack (team-high 82 tackles, 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, three sacks), standing six feet and four inches and weighing in at 249 pounds. Wearing a crimson hat and menacing scowl, Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain. And in this corner, The Chosen One (tougher to take down than the Berlin Wall, 12 rushing touchdowns, third-down conversation machine, 43 career rushing touchdowns), standing six feet and three inches and weighing in at 240 pounds, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and heavyweight CHAMPION OF THE WORLD, Tim Tebow.

8) UF offensive coordinator Dan Mullen vs. UA defensive genius Nick Saban: Florida's offense leads the Southeastern Conference in scoring. The Gators are averaging 46.3 points per game. (That's a big number.) Alabama's defense leads the league in points allowed. The Crimson Tide is allowing 11.5 points per game. (That's a small number.) Florida's offense leads the SEC in total yards (449.4 yards per game). Alabama's defense leads the league in total yards allowed (248.5 yards per game). Something's gotta give, right?

7) UA tackle Andre Smith vs. UF end Carlos Dunlap: NFL scouts (and me) will be watching this match-up. Many consider Smith the best offensive lineman in the nation. Dunlap leads the Gators with nine sacks and is peaking at the perfect time. Sounds a lot like a young Derrick Harvey.

6) UF center Maurkice Pouncey vs. UA nose guard Terrence Cody: Cody is the guy that allows UA linebacker Rolando McClain to fill the gaps and make the tackles. UF leads the SEC in rushing yards per game (237.1 yards per game) and Cody will do his best to limit UF on first down. Cody (6-5, 365 pounds) will be highly motivated for this game. He's from Fort Myers. Pouncey is one of the best young offensive linemen in the country (along with his brother, of course). Maurkice and guard Mike Pouncey will also be highly motivated for this game. The Pounceys' stepfather, Robert Webster, who was severely injured (lost a leg) at work in Lakeland last week, is expected to make the trip to Atlanta for the game.

5) UA tight end Nick Walker vs. UF strong safety Ahmad Black: Here's a match-up that will draw my attention. Nick Saban loves to get his tight ends involved and UA will be looking to isolate Walker (6-5, 248-pound senior) in one-on-one coverage against Black, UF's undersized (5-9, 185 pounds) strong safety. Walker is Alabama's second-leading receiver (26 receptions for 262 yards). Black (What a story this kid has turned out to be, right.) leads UF in interceptions with six. Another thing: Getting Black out of the run-box will be one of the top priorities for UA quarterback John Parker Wilson. In the words of Black, "Pick party!"

4) UF linebacker Brandon Spikes vs. UA running backs Glen Coffee, Mark Ingram and Roy Upchurch: UF linebacker Brandon Spikes leads the Gators in tackles (80) and is a finalist for the Nagurski Award. UA's trio of power running backs are all downhill runners. Coffee is averaging 6.2 yards per carry (102.9 yards per game). Ingram and Upchurh are just as tough to take down. Expect some big collisions, folks.

3) UA's sure hands vs. UF's defensive thievery: UF has forced 21 turnovers during its current eight-game winning streak and converted 16 of those turnovers into touchdowns. Alabama has lost nine fumbles this season and quarterback John Parker Wilson has only thrown five interceptions. Alabama cannot afford to turn the ball over.

2) UF nose tackle Lawrence Marsh vs. UA center Antoine Caldwell: The importance of this match-up cannot be overstated. Marsh, recovering from a sprained medial-collateral ligament, has been UF's most reliable interior defensive lineman. Caldwell is a finalist for the Remington Award, given to the nation's best center, and helps pave the way for Alabama's between-the-tackles running game. UA is second in the SEC in rushing yards per game (201.5 yards). Florida is third in the league in rush defense (102.8 yards per game).

1) UF quarterback Tim Tebow vs. UA nose guard Terrence Cody: UF leads the SEC in third-down conversions (48.9 percent). UA leads the league in third-down conversion defense (25 percent). Another interesting statistical comparison: UA leads the SEC in fourth-down conversion (8 of 9, 88.9 percent). UF's defense leads the league in denying teams on fourth down (8 of 21, 38.1 percent).

1A) UA strong-side linebacker Cory Reamer vs. UF scatbacks Jeffery Demps and Chris Rainey: What!? All this hard work in the middle of the night and this is your No.1 match-up of the biggest game in SEC history? I can hear you now, "Goodman, you're an idiot." Well, hear me out first before you leave a snarky comment. UA is allowing an SEC-best 73.6 rushing yards per game, but the Crimson Tide hasn't faced a running game quite like Florida's. That's where Reamer comes in. This guy is fast. Reamer (6-4, 218 pounds, another Hoover High guy) was actually a defensive back in high school. UF leads the SEC in rushing (237.1 yards per game) on account of the team's speedy backfield. With Percy Harvin likely injured, the bulk of UF's rushing responsibilities will fall to Jeffery Demps and Chris Rainey, who, gulp, limped off the practice field on Thursday after reaggrevating his groin pull. Demps and Rainey like to get outside. Reamer will be waiting.

-jo-

December 03, 2008

Will Tebow go pro? He'll consider it

GAINESVILLE -- Florida junior quarterback Tim Tebow said on Tuesday that he will probably request a formal evaluation of his NFL draft projection at the end of the season. UF linebacker Brandon Spikes and receiver Percy Harvin are expected to do the same.

Barring injuries, Spikes and Harvin are likely gone. Tebow's decision might be a little more complicated. If Florida wins the national championship, will Tebow return?

-jo-

SEC championship game: 'This is basically Frazier vs. Ali'

GAINESVILLE -- CBS's college football television guys, Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson, had a conference call on Tuesday to promote Saturday's SEC championship game. They did a good job. Gary Danielson could be Don King. Here's a transcript of the conference call...

How can the consensus No. 1 team in the nation be a 10-point underdog?
Lundquist: "The victories by Alabama have been much harder for them and much closer games, and there's a romance to Florida at what they've done, just the perception of the team. They are so interesting to watch and they've catched the imagination, I think, of who watches college football. Now, I don't know how that impacts the guys who decide these things. I was not surprised to see Florida installed at a near double-digit favorite."

Danielson: "Everybody loves offense and loves points. We've been through this before. Remember the Ohio State team that had to play Miami in the Fiesta Bowl? No one gave them a chance because they played ugly. I even think of the Buffalo Bills, who were supposed to be the new-age offense and the New York Giants beat them in the Super Bowl. ... The Florida offense is more impressive because, to be honest about the SEC, their defenses are much more superior than the offenses. What Florida's offense has done against defenses is more impressive than what Alabama's defense has done against offenses, which are somewhat down this year."

Is Tim Tebow's apology to Florida fans after the Ole Miss loss going to be the stuff of legends like Babe Ruth's called shot?
Lundquist: "He kind of put the team on his back. I think you all know he waited 45 minutes to an hour before he made the statement. I just think if Florida goes on and beats Alabama and gets to the title game and wins the title game, this thing will take on a life of its own. It will be remembered as one of the great statements by a college player for a long time. I don't mean to overstate this, but I'm thinking George Gipp and win one for the Gipper."

Danielson: "Most of his teammates knew what he was all about and now the rest of the country knows what his teammates already knew. ... He didn't promise wins. He promised effort and leadership and intensity and that's how all good leaders do it."

Should Texas or Oklahoma have represented the Big 12 South in the Big 12 championship game?
Danielson: "I wish, and it would have been my idea and I know it can't happen, they should have just asked Missouri to step aside (as the North champion). This is clearly a once-in-a-lifetime thing with them being ranked 2 and 3. Everybody knows one of them should be playing for the national championship. I wish the commissioner of the Big 12 would have said, 'Let's let them replay this in the Big 12 championship.' ... What's so charming and why everybody will get caught up in the Alabama-Florida game is that it's going to be decided on the field."

Has too much been made about the contrast in styles between Florida and Alabama?
Danielson: "I don't think enough is being made out of it. The great fights, the great matchups, style makes the fight. I've been doing this for a long time. I've done two national championships and done pretty much every big rivalry. This is the most intriguing matchup I've ever done and basically it's because of the styles. This is basically Frazier vs. Ali. This is ugly vs. pretty. This is new vs. old. This is spread out vs. tight. You can pick an angle here and you've got a contrasting style. ... Whoever wins will be which team overcomes a big mistake and doesn't get in awe of the enormity of the game. Remember when Florida won the national championship game? Ohio State ran back the opening kickoff."

Why doesn't Alabama seem to have the hype that Florida has coming into the game.
Danielson: "That's just because they (Crimson Tide) don't make ESPN highlights as easily. We get fascinated with big plays and football is more than that. I will say this, though: The Alabama sum is better than the parts. There's no doubt about that. ... They definitely play better as a unit than individually. If you look at Florida, their sum is the spread but that only highlights their parts. The spread gives you the parts that kill you. There's the contrast."

Do you expect Percy Harvin to play?
Danielson: "Yeah, he'll play. He's played so many times with a bad ankle. I'm sure he will play. Play calling and strategy is always 50 percent of what you have and 50 percent of what you think you have. Even if Harvin isn't 100 percent, Alabama has to keep in mind the other 50 percent."

It looks like there's an outside shot for Tim Tebow to win the Heisman again.
Danielson: "Outside? I don't think it's outside. I think he's one of two guys. He's right there. If he has a great game in this one, you better have a great one against him. I've got to say the stats in the Big 12 are like pesos to me. Everybody's got stats there. It's 300 pesos for half a gallon of milk."

Why are all those stats being piled up in the Big 12?
Danielson: "There are more NFL-ready guys (on defense) in this league (the SEC) than any other league at this time. Right now, there's just a deficiency in quarterbacks in this league. If you aren't really good in this league (at quarterback), they'll chew you up. You don't get away with what you do in this league than in other leagues."

The perception of Nick Saban is different than Urban Meyer's. Saban isn't considered warm and fuzzy. Is that unfair?
Lundquist: "I've known Nick Saban since he was Bill Belichick's coordinator at Cleveland. I wouldn't say he's a friend. I know him as well as anybody in my end of the business can know him. ... When we're in the room with him he has a relationship where there's an exchange of respect. He is as gracious and kind as anybody can be. He'll take the time to answer questions. Every once in a while he'll lose his temper. He'll answer thoughtfully and he'll take questions for as long as you want."

Danielson: "I'd say I'm not interested in warm and fuzzy. When I was player I was like, 'How about a play?' ... I don't even respect warm and fuzzy. I feel like you're trying to play me. You know where you stand with them. You don't like it, they don't care."

-jo-

Meet Lane Kiffin, a man with a wife

LanekiffinGAINESVILLE -- OK, I'll be the first wise guy to write what everyone is thinking. Lane Kiffin's wife is ... not going to fit in in Knoxville. [Insert stupid joke about Tennessee hiring Lane Kiffin to replace Phil Fulmer here.]

Seriously, Lane Kiffin. Tennessee forced out one of the SEC's all-time best coaches (who played for the SEC championship last season) for Lane Kiffin. General Neyland ... Phil Fulmer ... Lane "Bleeping" Kiffin!

In case you haven't heard, Kiffin said something really stupid during his introductory press conference: "I'm really looking forward to embracing some of the great traditions at the University of Tennessee. For instance: running through the 'T,' singing "Rocky Top" all night long after we beat Florida next year. It will be a blast.

"That line was Mike's idea, by the way. All right, Urban?"

Seriously, did Lane Kiffin just apologize to Urban Meyer for talking smack during his press conference. Oh, jeez...[sigh].

Top 10 things Urban Meyer thought when he learned Lane Kiffin got the Tennessee job.

10) He married up.

9) My name is Urban and his is Lane. That's a weird analogy, but it works. Urban:Florida as Lane:Tennessee.

8) Would I even hire Lane Kiffin to baby sit my kids?

7) Email Marsalis Teague.

6) Call Bobby Johnson and laugh.

5) Why did Lane Kiffin apologize to me during his first press conference?

4) Who is Lane Kiffin's agent?

3) Call Emmanuel Moody and laugh.

2) Tell Foley to give Billy and Dan more money.

1) Job security.

-jo-

Who would win in a fight, Tebow or Bama LB Rolando McClain?

GAINESVILLE -- To fill blog space and build our egos, the editors at Gator Clause swapped questions with Alabama beat writer Gentry Estes of the Mobile Press-Register. We asked Mr. Estes a few questions about Alabama and Mr. Estes did the same (but about Florida, of course). To read Estes' Q&A with Gator Clause, CLICK ME! (They should be up on his blog on Wednesday.)

If you're going to read Gator Clause's Q&A with Mr. Estes, you should probably know going in that he's a UGA alum and he thinks Tim Tebow would lose a fight to Bama linebacker Rolando McClain. For the record, Gator Clause takes Tebow in a fight against everyone and everything except for maybe this. (But it's cool. Gentry and I actually went to the same high school, so we'll let this one slide. Irondale Shades Valley. Go Mounties!)

Gator Clause: Alabama lost to a former Louisiana directional school in 2007. What the heck happened this year?

Mr. Estes: Many of the bad apples were removed from last year's bunch. Players grasped Saban's system and bought into his philosophies a lot better. Experience and leadership returned at key positions like offensive line, running back, quarterback and defensive back. Saban signed a top-rated recruiting class – bringing in the likes of Terrence Cody and Julio Jones – while hiring a perfect fit in simple, run-oriented Jim McElwain as offensive coordinator to play to the team's strengths. Probably the more important factor of all, Alabama has been remarkably fortunate to not sustain one major injury since the start of preseason camp.

GC: A lot of Alabama's best players were recruited to Tuscaloosa by former Alabama coach Mike Shula. How much credit should Shula get for the Tide's undefeated regular season?

Mr. Estes: There's no question Alabama could not have gone 12-0 this year without the holdovers from the Shula era – nine scholarship seniors and others like Andre Smith. And sure, Saban inherited them. But he also inherited a rash of discipline issues that helped create a mess at the end of last season, resulting in no Alabama players being selected in the 2008 NFL Draft. If Shula gets credit for this year's success, he should also receive the same amount of blame for last year's failures.

GC: Will Alabama left tackle Andre Smith be the best player on the football field on Saturday?

Mr. Estes: Well, there is a Heisman Trophy winner on the other sideline. And a healthy Percy Harvin is pretty good, too. But is Smith the best offensive lineman? Certainly. Richest future NFL player? Yeah, that too.

GC: In the last seven games, Florida has outscored opponents 136-3 in the first quarter. Can Alabama come from behind?

Mr. Estes: That's a good question, and difficult to answer since Alabama has trailed for exactly 23 minutes and 11 seconds this entire season. One would think the best way to get the Tide out of its comfort zone would be to take away the run and make John Parker Wilson throw to win the game. It's just no one has been able to do that yet.

GC: Who wins in a fight, UA linebacker Rolando McClain or UF quarterback Tim Tebow?

Mr. Estes: McClain. Got to think he's seen a scrap or two that Tebow has not.

-jo-



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