Yes, this is an apology to the Gator Nation, but I’m not going to use Tim Tebow’s words, as I feel we’ve all heard them a good four million times too many at this point. Instead, I must borrow the words from one of the most revered characters in all of cinema: Happy Gilmore.
After Happy realizes that he does in fact need the help of his mentor, Chubbs, he issues this Tebow-like apology: “I'm stupid. You're smart. I was wrong. You were right. You're the best. I'm the worst. You're very good-looking. I'm not attractive.”
And those words sum up exactly how I feel about this year’s Gators—and specifically Urban Meyer.
Back in August, when everyone pretends to be Kirk Herbstreit, I wrote that while the Gators would win the East, they would not claim the SEC Championship and would therefore not reach the national title game.
Below are excerpts from that article. In italics, I’ve added a few follow up thoughts:
The 2008-2009 Gators have a loaded offense, the returning Heisman winner, a manageable schedule, and one of the country’s best coaches—a sure-fire recipe for a national championship contender.
But here are five reasons the Florida Gators will not only miss out on the national championship game but also on winning the SEC.
1.) The Defense
The Gator defense was flat-out awful last year, and while all those players are now a year older, we just don’t know if they’ll be any better.
In the SEC, it all starts in the trenches, so if Florida can’t get a pass rush or stop the run, it will be déjà vu in 2008. While I think Florida’s defense will be improved, it will still be a very young squad, and eventually that youth will catch up with them in a close game.
Defensive end Carlos Dunlap led the SEC in sacks and didn’t even start the entire season. Jermaine Cunningham was a freak. Brandon Spikes single-handedly stopped the best runners in the SEC. The defense had 24 interceptions, led by surprise star Ahmad Black.
I got served.
2.) Two-Minute Offense
Gator fans don’t want to hear this—and some will argue otherwise—but the fact is, Tim Tebow never led the Gators to a come-from-behind win last season, despite three chances to do so: against Auburn, LSU, and Michigan.
This is obviously not all on Tebow, as play calling and other players factor into the two-minute drill. But clearly the Gators did not have the late game execution they wanted in their three closest losses of last season—and it all starts with Tebow.
Yeah, umm, about the Alabama game. I got served again.
3.) Tebow Backlash
While I highly doubt too many defenders will actually get the last word on Number 15, some determined team will find a chink in the Gator armor and take down Gary Danielson’s man crush.
And with the way the BCS system works, that one loss could very well be the Gators’ undoing.
Now I actually did foretell this to a certain extent. The Ole Miss defense caused two things that were nearly unheard of: a Tebow fumble and a stuffed 4th and one run.
But instead of that one loss ruining the season for Florida, it actually propelled them (and Tebow specifically) to an incredible display of dominance for the rest of the season, which leads me to…
4.) Urban Meyer’s Stubbornness
For the record, I think Urban Meyer is a great coach. But the guy’s idol is Woody Hayes—and like Hayes, he carries that old school stubbornness (which some would call arrogance) to the field.
Whether it’s running Tebow off tackle 10 times in a quarter or calling the same bubble screen to Percy Harvin multiple times in a row, Meyer—at times—seems to get a little Tecmo Bowl on us.
It’s no news that Meyer has been down on the Gators’ running backs in his time at Florida, and you have to wonder if Meyer’s “You fumble, you die” attitude affects the way his kids run. At some point, you simply have to trust your tailback to take the ball and follow his instincts all the way to the house.
You simply have to give credit to Meyer for finally trusting his running backs.
Even though it took four and a half games to do so, the Ole Miss/Arkansas games finally opened Meyer’s eyes to the talented backs he has on his team—and allowed him to trust players not numbered 1 or 15. As a result, Tebow and Harvin were fresher and accounted for more big plays.
Well, in short, Auburn has been Florida’s daddy recently. And it’s not so much that Auburn has beaten Florida, it’s the way they’ve beaten the Gators—in the most heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, punch-yourself-in-the-face type of games.
In the end, though, I see a raggedy but stubborn Auburn team—with more conference losses than both Florida and Georgia—sneaking away with this year's SEC Championship.
Now before you judge me on this one, let it be known that I was not alone in this pick. Not only did the SEC media pick Auburn to win the West, no one saw Alabama performing like they did.
To address the SEC Championship game, though: Again, you have to be impressed with this win, especially since the Gators were missing their most dynamic player—and looked to have zero momentum heading into the fourth quarter. But they gutted it out and pulled off the win.
For the record, the Gators have won me over, and I see them claiming their second national championship in three years come January 8.
My National Championship score prediction: Gators, 48-31
As for you Georgia Bulldog fans: I told you so.