Sunday, September 20, 2009

Re-Thinking Florida's Win over Tennessee

Like many Florida fans, I was seduced by the expectations -- that Florida was unstoppable, at least as it related to Tennessee, a team that couldn't even handle UCLA at home last week.

And like many fans, I was as disappointed with a rivalry win as you could be -- which is to say: Not disappointed, but the celebration was muted. You could feel it, walking out of The Swamp.

24 hours later, I have bought into a couple things that make the win seem better:

*Monte Kiffin is the best defensive coordinator in college football, and the Vols have a pretty damn good defense. That will be the best D Florida will see until Bama in the SEC title game.

*The Gators were missing a home-run threat at wide receiver (Deonte Thompson), and the biggest weapons (Demps, Hernandez) were battling some kind of flu.

*INT and goal-line fumble aside (the former took a great play by the best defensive player in college football; the latter was just plain stupid), Tim Tebow played well.

*Even if Tennesee's running game was locked in, Florida's defense dominated, and they still look like the best defense in the country. Regardless of how the offense plays, that is big.

*The expectations were way out of whack. For that, I sort of blame Urban Meyer for not talking up Tennessee during the week -- the points about Kiffin, or their returning solid core.

*The game could have easily been 30-6 -- or worse. The 10-point spread masked two things: Florida miscues (not just the turnovers, but that stupid excessive-celebration penalty that kept UT's final TD drive alive) and Tennessee playing not to win, but simply not to be blown out.

*That last point can't be overstated: Tennessee's entire game plan was to keep it within, say, 20. They had no interest in winning the game. It happened to be that their only offensive strength -- Hardesty and the run game -- was actually working, but it bled the clock.

*Florida was not punished for playing a close game -- presumably because Texas played a close game at home vs. Texas Tech and because USC lost to Washington. With their built-in advantage as last week's top-ranked team, Florida looked better than the rest of those top teams.

(I still think that after three weeks, Alabama looks like the best team in the country. And I think Cincinnati looks better than either Florida or Texas; if UF or UT had beaten Rutgers and Oregon State -- both on the road -- as convincingly as Cincy -- with that 70-point rout in between -- they would be overwhelming No. 1. Compare Cincy to, say, Penn State's early schedule, which has been a joke.)

Anyway, I was happy with the win 24 hours ago -- but not exactly thrilled. I am happier about it now. Urban made the best point: The Gators are 3-0. And that's all that matters. As long as they keep winning, they will play for the national title.

-- D.S.

2 comments:

J said...

Greetings Dan,

I thoroughly enjoyed your post and agree with your assessment of the game on Saturday. As a long time Vol fan I had mixed emotions going into the game at the Swamp. I really had no delusions of grandeur for a win, but wanted to see how my team would play. I expected a route with all the bulletin board fodder that was served up for the months preceding the game. I came away with more respect for my new head coach. I'm looking forward to what the next few years have in store... and unlike most Vol fans I'm realistic and hopeful about the change in Orange Nation. It takes time. As I have done in years past, should an SEC team reach the National stage (again) I will continue to cheer for our conference’s dominance… Cheers - Jonathan

MizzouHoops said...

I must be missing something:

Played well?
Passing: 115 yds, INT 0 TDs
Rushing: 76 yds (3.2 avg), fumble, TD

Less than 200 yards total offense. INT, fumble in the red zone. If that is playing well, what would palying poorly look like?

"*INT and goal-line fumble aside (the former took a great play by the best defensive player in college football; the latter was just plain stupid), Tim Tebow played well."