The gods of college football are awfully strange sometimes...especially the meth snorting dieties who rule the SEC. Why do I say this? Have you noticed that Houston Nutt still has a job over ten years after first being hired at the University of Arkansas? What about how Les Miles keeps pulling magic out of his ridiculously oversized hat on the way to what feels like a National Championship game appearance for the dumbest coach this side of Rich Kotite? I'm truly perplexed by the way that things shake out on a weekly basis in the SEC. Perhaps nothing exemplifies the wild and wooly action of the nations premier football conference more than the fact that, once again, Steve Spurrier will face his alma mater this weekend with a chance to ruin their season.
During his first year, Spurrier upset Florida in Columbia and denied first year coach Urban Meyer the chance to win an SEC Championship in Atlanta. Last year, Florida's National Championship hopes were saved by the slimmest of margins as Florida blocked three kicks to preserve a victory of Spurrier and South Carolina in The Swamp. Come this Saturday, Florida will face off with its former head coach again in Columbia with Florida still clinging to the hopes of a return trip to Atlanta and a second straight SEC title. Florida needs some help along the way, Auburn needs to beat Georgia on Saturday and Tennessee needs to lose one of its remaining two SEC games against Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Nevertheless, the fact remains, for the University of Florida to win the SEC East title in 2007, they must defeat the program's first Heisman trophy winner and the modern day architect of its football program. No matter what the coaches and players involved tell you, this game will always be special, so long as Spurrier is standing on the opposite sideline. Does it have the same feel as the initial matchup in 2005, or of Spurrier's return to the Swamp last year as the enemy? No. Does it change the surreal feeling of seeing the man who returned glory to the University of Florida football program try and take his alma mater down a notch in the SEC standings. Not in the least.
As for the actual game, well, it should be interesting. (Isn't every SEC night game this year?) It's a night game in Columbia which always produces a raucous atmosphere, and the Gamecocks are coming off an embarrassing loss to Arkansas that saw them give up approximately 1500 yards rushing to the measty combo of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. Fortunately for South Carolina, Florida's two leading rushers are a wide receiver and a QB/Baby Rhinocerous who's limited by a sore shoulder. Florida couldn't take advantage of Carolina's weak run defense if they wanted to. And trust me, Dan Mullen has no use for running straight at opposing defense as he much prefers to trick people to further prove his offensive genius. On the other hand, South Carolina looks like they'll be without the services of safety Emmanuel Cook and corner Captain Munnerlyn (That name is so ridiculous if you introduced yourself to someone using that moniker you're likely to be laughed out of the room) so Florida should be able to throw the ball effectively. However, Florida needs to keep their young and extremely beat up defense (They're starting a true freshman converted guard at DT for the second straight week) off the field in order to prevent Spurrier from executing the "death by papercuts" offensive strategy he has employed so effectively against Florida in their two previous meetings. So Florida's going to have to find a way to sustain long drives on South Carolina through running the ball and using the short to intermediate passing game, neither of which have been strengths of the Gator offense in 2007.
I'm less than confident that a young Gator defense won't be outwitted by Spurrier and the Gamecock offense multiple times come Saturday evening. I called this loss in September after watching the secondary (and defense in general) struggle and I've seen little to make me change my mind up to this point. However, I also predicted a loss to Kentucky for these very same reasons and ended up wrong due to an offense that was nearly unstoppable in Lexington. Florida's gonna need Tebow and Harvin and all the rest of their spectacular skill position players to have great games if the Gators are to escape Columbia with a win and their division title hopes alive late Saturday evening. It also might help if they could find a way to conjure up a little more of this kind of magic.
I just watched that clip about five times in a row. That never, ever gets old.