Saturday, November 29, 2008

Florida 45, Florida State 15

The talent disparity between these teams can be summed up with the following two statements:

1. The Florida Gators were quarterbacked by Tim Tebow.
2. The Florida State Seminoles started Christian Ponder at QB, but eventually replaced him with Drew Weatherford.

The Gators eviscerated Florida State with almost contemptuous ease, dispatching the Seminoles on a dreary, rain-soaked day that left the field at Doak Campbell Stadium a morass. It didn't slow down Florida, which put up 502 yards on the Seminoles despite few contributions from Percy Harvin.

They didn't get much from Harvin because he twisted his ankle on a goal line play. ABC announcer Bob Griese practically wrote Harvin's postmortem before Percy was able to limp off the field, declaring him out for the SEC Championship Game and probably the bowl game. That seems premature to me. We don't know his status yet; suffice it to say losing Harvin would be a huge blow to UF's chances against Alabama.

Aside from the Harvin injury it was a lovely game in crummy weather. The Gators racked up 317 rushing yards on a theoretically stout FSU defense; Chris Rainey picked up 97 yards, Jeff Demps 89, Tim Tebow 80, Emmanuel Moody 40. That's balance we can believe in.

Tebow accounted for four touchdowns, three through on the air, one on the ground, but he only threw for 185 yards, probably not enough to make a dent in the Heisman race. He's got one more marquis game to impress voters; if Tebow wants to repeat as the Heisman winner, he'd be well advised to throw for about 300 yards and notch five or six touchdowns.

His favorite target today was tight end Aaron Hernandez, who caught four passes for 61 yards. Hernandez scorched FSU twice on shovel passes I saw coming from the second he went in motion, but which evidently caught the Seminoles completely by surprise. Hernandez has emerged as a viable third option behind Harvin and Louis Murphy, who reeled in another touchdown pass today. Even David Nelson caught two passes.

The game was never really in doubt. Florida scored on its first, third, fifth and sixth possessions and entered halftime with a 28-9 lead. Florida State's most effective weapons were kicker Graham Gano, who nailed all three of his field goal attempts but did his only extra point blocked by about three different Gators, and return man Michael Ray Garvin, who repeatedly gashed UF's coverage unit. Bizarrely, the Seminoles had great field position throughout the game, but never showed any ability to capitalize on their good fortune.

For his part Urban Meyer moved to 12-1 against UF's four big rivals: FSU, Georgia, Miami and Tennessee, and he's won those games by a combined score of 408-180.

Florida's last remaining challenge is abundantly clear: defeat the 12-0, number one-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game next Saturday. Do that and, barring some kind of SkyNet-esque computer revolution, the Gators will reach their second national championship game in three years. Expect a preview next week.

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