Somebody’s going to beat Florida this year.
If the first eight weeks of the college football season have shown us anything, it’s that there are no great teams this year. There’s a handful of very good ones, and Florida is among those, but very good rarely gets you through the SEC gauntlet unscathed.
So why not Georgia?
OK, don’t answer that. The Bulldogs have given fans plenty of reasons (about 27.7 per game) to approach a possible upset with skepticism. But anybody that’s watched the top-ranked Gators this season — especially in the last two weeks — knows this isn’t the kind of team that’s typically considered good enough to march unbeaten through the nation’s best conference.
The defense is legit, especially when stud linebacker Brandon Spikes, who’s expected to return from injury on Saturday, is at the center of it. But offensively, this isn’t the Florida team that embarrassed the Bulldogs 49-10 last year. It’s not even up to standards of the 2007 team that Georgia beat by two scores.
Without recently departed pros Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy, Florida lacks the explosiveness associated with an Urban Meyer offense. Instead, the 2009 Gators rely on a power ground game that features a couple of 180-pound running backs. They (Jeffery Demps and Chris Rainey) have top-end speed, but shouldn’t scare anybody between the tackles. Two weeks ago, they combined for 60 yards on 15 carries and Florida was held to just 3 yards per carry. And that was against an Arkansas defense that ranks ninth in the SEC in run defense (by the way, Georgia’s run defense ranks fifth in the conference).
Teams with flaws as exposed as Florida’s don’t often go undefeated in this league. The last time anybody made it through the conference without a hitch was in 2004 when Auburn went 12-0 and got shut out of the national championship game.
Last year, when an outmanned Ole Miss team went into the Swamp and beat the eventual national champs, Florida was a more complete team than it is now. And in 2007, when LSU won the conference and the BCS championship, the Tigers lost twice in SEC play.
History tells us an upset awaits.
So why not Georgia?
We could talk about the Dogs’ defensive confusion, their lack of a running game or their inconsistent quarterback play here. But, unfortunately, there’s no way we’re getting through this column without a mention of Tim Tebow.
No matter how you feel about his unflagged excessive celebrations, his loopy throwing motion, his NFL prospects, his fashion glasses or his too-close-for-comfort encounters with Urban on the sidelines, the Florida quarterback is still the single most valuable player in the college game.
His numbers (165 passing yards and 66 rushing yards per game) don’t measure up to his folk hero status and probably won’t win him the second Heisman trophy that he should’ve gotten last season. But when your defense needs a stop in the fourth quarter, the last person you want taking the snap for the other guys is Tebow.
And like it or not, that’s the simplest answer to "why not Georgia?"
Brent Holloway is the sports editor for The Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.