Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Green Ticket Game

LSU at Florida
SEC Game of the Week
October 11th at 8:00 PM ET CBS
by Bob Epling

(article originally appeared in 10.7.08 Game Day Weekly)

Ever heard of a “green ticket” game?

There will be one Saturday night in Gainesville when LSU visits Florida.

What is a green ticket game? Let me explain.

Growing up in Atlanta, a buddy of mine could get into any sporting event. Call him the General (because he calls himself that).

Take a little April 1974 baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers … fellow named Aaron passed a guy called Babe on the all-time homerun list. The General was there.

January of 1977, at the old Omni arena downtown, a standing room only college basketball crowd showed up to see mighty UCLA take on the Tennessee Vols with their Ernie (Grunfeld) and Bernie (King) show. John Wooden was there (as an announcer). So was the General.

At the end of the 1982 college football season, undefeated and #1 Georgia met undefeated and #2 Penn State in the Sugar Bowl. Joe Paterno and Vince Dooley. Herschel Walker and Curt Warner. Toughest ticket you could imagine. The General was there.

Georgia-Georgia Tech basketball games, NBA playoffs, NFL games … there was always one way to get in the game.

Green tickets.

Here’s how it works. The General stands in line to enter the game, and says to the ticket-taker, “You taking green tickets tonight?” while flashing a ten-dollar bill, or maybe a twenty depending on the event. I’ve seen ticket takers laugh him off, shoo him away, and even throw him out (in which case he simply went to another line), but most would take the “green ticket” or say something like … “it’s two green tickets tonight.”

A green ticket game … we’ve got one in Gainesville Saturday night.

Now that you know how to get into this game, what will you see?

For Florida fans, a speedy and talented team on both sides of the ball and in special teams, but with an offense struggling to gain the rhythm and consistency required to win another national title to go with the 2006 championship.

Heisman winner Tim Tebow, after accounting for fifty-five touchdowns last season, including more than twenty by way of rushing and passing, has amassed just ten through five games in 2008, only two on the ground. The offense has particularly struggled in short-yardage situations where the lack of a big, strong running back to complement QB Tebow becomes acute.

Still, the Florida speed can be breathtaking and game-changing.

Against Arkansas Saturday, three tiny Gators turned in huge plays to spearhead the 38-7 victory.

Brandon James (5’7, 186) scored on a two-yard shuttle pass and recovered a botched Arkansas punt return. Chris Rainey (5-9, 185) scored on a 75-yard run by spinning around a tackler and outrunning the Hog defense to the end zone. Jeff Demps (5’8, 176) scored on sprints of 36 and 48 yards. All three of them would not be tall enough to get on some of the rides at your local amusement park.

The (4-1) Gators will need the speed Saturday night.

LSU is also fast, but the Tigers are big too.

The defending national champions are 4-0, and coming off a bye week. The LSU offense may have found its quarterback two games ago when redshirt-freshman Jarrett Lee relieved injured Andrew Hatch and led a second-half rally and win against Auburn on the road.

The Tigers also have the big back Florida is missing in Charles Scott, a workhorse averaging 17 carries and 132 yards per game. Wide receivers Demetrius Byrd and Brandon LaFell offer tempting targets on the flanks.

Defensively, consider this game a wash.

As with offense, Florida has better speed, but LSU offers a better balance of speed and strength.

In my opinion, LSU is the best team in the SEC.

However, any conference team going undefeated seems unlikely. The Gators have lost already, but LSU has not … yet.

The Gators win a green ticket game.

Game Ball: Florida