Thursday, September 13, 2007

SEC Game of the Week

Nobody’s Perfect
Tennessee at Florida

September 10, 2007
By Bob Epling

Urban Meyer is a perfect fit for Florida.

Sharp looking fellow, youthful enough to attract prep football stars wanting in on the ground floor of a dynasty, but experienced enough to make sure all those high school heroes know who is in charge.

Perfectly confident, too.

Just enough swagger to remind alums of that fellow who used to coach Florida … what’s him name - Steve somebody? But, enough humility to pay homage to the great Spurrier and avoid acting as if Florida football was invented about the time Meyer brought the spread option to the Sunshine state.

Results? You guessed it, another perfect fit at Championship U.

By leading the Gators to a BCS title in his second year, Meyer capped a never-been-done run of major sport perfection at Florida, the football Gators wedging their title between back to back basketball championships.

So, a glamour coach at a glamour school in a state saturated with glamour players. Perfect.

Now, can the football Gators make it two titles in row?

Surely, nobody’s that perfect.

The defending national champions face their first test of 2007 when the Gators welcome Tennessee to the Swamp, and the teams opened the season with vastly different schedules.

Florida is 2-0 after beating Western Carolina and Troy. The Gators had been almost perfect until halftime of last week.

Florida walloped the WCU Catamounts 49-3 to open the season, and led the Trojans by the same score this past Saturday. At halftime.

Then, like a wrinkle line suddenly appearing on Heather Locklear’s face, perfection changed to simply very good. Troy outscored the young Gators 28-10 in the second half to make a decent game out of what had been just one more scrimmage to tune up for SEC play.

Still, this offense is easy on the eyes.

Sophomore QB Tim Tebow runs like a bull, and has passed for more than 500 yards in two games. Receivers, particularly Percy Harvin, regularly produce dazzling runs and catches. The Gators operate the spread option attack, the great equalizer across the nation this season (see Appalachian State-Michigan), better than anybody outside Morgantown.

So far, they have been able to outscore overmatched opponents and let a young defense try to grow up.

Traveling down from Rocky Top, Tennessee is 1-1 against much more difficult opposition.

The Volunteers went west to open the season and got ambushed 45-31 by the Cal Golden Bears. The offense played well, but the defense could not slow Cal’s speedy wide receivers, an ominous omen for a matchup with Florida.

UT followed up the loss up with a solid victory over Conference-USA stalwart Southern Miss, winning 39-19. Senior QB Erik Ainge came up big with 276 yards passing, and running back Arian Foster added 125 yards on the ground.

The Big Orange employs an innovative offense too.

Coordinator David Cutcliffe installed the no-huddle attack used so well by the Indianapolis Colts and former Cutcliffe pupil Peyton Manning. The results have been positive.

The no-huddle is not a hurry-up offense, Ainge typically runs the play clock down to zero as he does his best Manning impersonation complete with finger pointing, foot stomping, and all sorts of traffic directing. The offense does limit defensive substitutions however, a factor that might confuse the young Gator defense.

The winner of this game joins South Carolina in the driver’s seat for the SEC East division crown.

There should be plenty of offensive fireworks because neither defense has shown an ability to slow down anybody, let alone shut them down.

Florida must be considered the safe pick because the Gators are at home, but don’t be surprised if Tennessee’s offense plays keep away and controls the game.

Remember nobody’s perfect.

Game Ball: Florida