Among the many titanic opponents facing the Commodores this season, none looms larger than Florida's deity of a quarterback, Tim Tebow.
But try this on one for size: Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson admitted Monday that he actually didn't think too much of the future Heisman winner the first time his team lined up against him.
Not as a quarterback, anyway.
"The first we played him , he was a back-up," Johnson said. "I was kind of thinking, 'I don't know about this guy, he just looks like a fullback to me.'"
Ah, those were the days.
That game was a surprisingly thrilling one back in 2006, when the Gators let a 25-6 advantage in the fourth quarter in Nashville turn into a tenuous 25-19 lead with a few minutes left after two Vanderbilt touchdowns and some errant passes by up-and-down starting quarterback Chris Leak.
Tebow came in and did what he did best his freshman year: bowl over defenders for first downs, despite everyone in the stadium knowing what was going to happen when he came in the game.
Johnson didn't see him as much of a passing threat.
He does now, after Tebow sliced and diced Vanderbilt's secondary two straight seasons in blowout victories of a combined score of 91-36, completing 34-44 passes for 452 yards, six touchdowns, and one meaningless interception.
"After that (season), he kept doing great things after great things," Johnson said. "He was just lights out against us, and everybody else of course."
Not only can the guy run, he can throw too, and it doesn't hurt that he has an arsenal of weapons at his disposal that will create mismatches at just about every position on Vanderbilt's worn-out defense.
The Commodore secondary has consistently been among the best in the conference the past few seasons, but they've picked a bad time to start slumping.
South Carolina's Stephen Garcia and Georgia Tech's Josh Nesbitt are solid but they aren't anywhere approaching Tebow, yet they had huge days against Vanderbilt the past two weeks.
And the Commodores are catching the defending champs at a bad time.
Tebow and the Gators are closing in on a third national championship in four seasons, and they've won 18 games in a row.
Throw in the fact that they haven't lost to Vanderbilt since 1988, the Commodores are in the throes of a five-game losing streak, and that Florida just played a heck of a game on both sides of the ball in throttling Georgia, and there might not be a worse time to be meeting Tebow and his fellow behemoths.
"Obviously things don't get any easier playing the No. 1 team in the nation this week," Johnson said with a wry smile.
Then again, is there ever a good time to be meeting Tim Tebow?
The immense challenge posed by a national championship contender is welcomed by a coach who, despite being 2-7, hasn't lost any sort of competitive edge.
""It is fun to play against the best," Johnson said. "You can tell, (Tebow) wants to do his very best every play. He's above and beyond most players I've ever seen."
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