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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

ESPN College Gameday Final

ESPN College Gameday Final

Gators ready to stay focused for stretch run
Florida coach Urban Meyer checked the messages on his cell phone late Saturday night and was surprised by one in particular.
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick had called Meyer shortly after the No. 4 Gators blasted No. 25 South Carolina 56-6 on Saturday.
"Just make sure you stay on top of them," Belichick advised Meyer. "They're going to be hearing a lot."
What haven't the Gators heard during their six-game winning streak? That they're playing better than any other team in the country? Even better than No. 1 Alabama, which they'll meet in the Dec. 6 SEC championship game in Atlanta's Georgia Dome?
Florida has dominated SEC opponents like never before, becoming the first team in league history to win six consecutive games by 28 points or more.
Since losing to unranked Ole Miss 31-30 in The Swamp on Sept. 27, the Gators have outscored their past six opponents 299-63. They outscored those opponents -- including then-No. 4 LSU, No. 6 Georgia and No. 25 South Carolina -- by a whopping 101-0 in the first quarter.
"I think it's one of the most impressive stats I've seen," Meyer said. "The momentum our players think about, and our coaches stress to our players, is very important, whether it's a blocked punt or great defense. That's why we ran a reverse on the first play of the game. I always feel like early momentum is worth at least 14 points."
And once the Gators get rolling, they've been nearly impossible to slow down. Florida scored three touchdowns in 135 seconds against South Carolina, which came into the game ranked No. 1 in the SEC in total defense. Seven Florida players produced plays of 20 yards or longer, and the Gators had 519 total yards, including 346 rushing.
The Gators will play FCS opponent The Citadel at home Saturday, and then will play at rival Florida State on Nov. 29.
Meyer said he is confident his team will stay focused until the showdown against the Crimson Tide in three weeks.
"I have a lot of trust in the maturity of our team," Meyer said. "We have a great core group of guys I have a lot of trust in."

Firing On All Cylinders
By Chris Low, ESPN.com
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A tearful Tim Tebow promised the Florida fans this back on Sept. 27.
Ole Miss had just come into the Swamp and shocked the Gators, and Tebow and the rest of his teammates were struggling to find answers.
The Gators' Heisman Trophy winner didn't vow that they would win the rest of their games. He didn't guarantee that they would average 49.5 points along the way. He didn't promise that the Gators would put themselves in a position where they control their own destiny as far as getting to the BCS National Championship Game.
But he did promise that fans would see a different Florida football team the rest of the way.
"What I said was something I could control, and that was that we were going to play with a passion, an enthusiasm and love for the game like this university has never seen before," Tebow said. "I knew I could control beyond a shadow of a doubt my effort, our team's effort and the kind of intensity we play with.
"I said what I said to give our fans confidence and our team confidence that we were going to come out and play with the kind of effort and passion that we're playing with right now."
Call Tebow a prophet, because since that disappointing September day, there hasn't been a better or more complete team in college football.

Finding An Identity

By Adam Rittenberg, ESPN.com
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Handshakes had been exchanged, the postgame prayer had been recited at midfield and Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel was ready to get out of the cold.
His players had other ideas.
As Tressel began to move toward the locker room, the Buckeyes took off running toward a large contingent of their fans in the southeast corner of Memorial Stadium.
"They've got a flair for the dramatic," a smiling Tressel said, before joining the players.
Tressel doesn't mind this kind of drama: singing Carmen Ohio, slapping hands with supporters, acknowledging signs in the stands. OK, he might not have liked Terrelle Pryor's taunting Illinois fans after Saturday's 30-20 win, but, as Pryor explained, it's all in fun.
If this is as dramatic as it gets for the Buckeyes, they'll be thrilled. They've been through plenty of plot twists this season, and they're hoping the script stays the same the rest of the way.
"Thank God, it feels a little more calm now," wide receiver Brian Hartline said. "Unfortunately, it's the end of the season. It will be talked about -- did we waste time dealing with that kind of stuff? Maybe, but the facts are the facts and this is where we're sitting."

Three Weekend Observations
By Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com

1. Because of quarterback problems and other personnel losses, LSU is a shell of the team that won the BCS National Championship last season. But give the Tigers credit for coming back from a 31-3 deficit against Troy to earn a 40-31 win at Tiger Stadium. Because of its resolve, LSU avoided the worst loss ever by a defending national champion.

2. Does any team want to win the ACC? The league had three teams in last week's BCS rankings, and each of them -- No. 16 North Carolina, No. 19 Florida State and No. 24 Wake Forest -- lost on Saturday. Miami, which lost its first two ACC games, is now in the driver's seat in the Coastal Division.

3. One of the best coaching jobs in the country has gone largely unnoticed. Rutgers lost five of its first six games, but has somehow rebounded to win four games in a row, including a 49-16 rout at South Florida on Saturday. If the Scarlet Knights beat Army and Louisville to finish 7-5, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano will have to get serious consideration for jobs at larger schools.

The term "student-athlete" has always meant something at Vanderbilt -- and we can all respect that. Now, for the first time in 26 years, the term "bowl-eligible" means something at Vanderbilt. How cool is that?
Helmet Stickers Go To:
• QB Jeremiah Masoli, Oregon
21-26, 387 total yards, 5 TDs vs. Arizona
• CB D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt
2 rec TDs, 2 Ints vs. Kentucky

If anyone tells you he knows how the ACC is going to turn out, he's lying. What a crazy conference. But the competitive balance sure makes it fun.
Helmet Stickers Go To:
• RB Shonn Greene, Iowa
211 rush yards, 2 TDs vs. Purdue
• QB Case Keenum, Houston
402 pass yards, 7 total TDs vs. Tulsa

Right now Florida is playing the best football in America. It's not only that phenomenal offense, but defense and special teams as well.
Helmet Stickers Go To:
• CB Jason McCourty, Rutgers
2 Ints, TD, fumble rec vs. USF
• WR Percy Harvin, Florida
167 rush yards, 2 TDs vs. South Carolina

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