Gators eyeing SEC showdown in Atlanta
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Someone asked Florida coach Urban Meyer, fresh from standing in the rain for three and a half hours, if he looked forward to his Gators playing under the Georgia Dome next Saturday.
"The Dome," Meyer said, sounding more like a teenager than the coach of the hottest team in college football. "That's why we get up in the morning. That's why we shave. That's why we brush our teeth. That's why we hug our kids: to get to that Dome."
Now that the No. 4 Gators have put away No. 20 Florida State 45-15, they can focus on the Dome. You can, too, you playoff-loving masses. Close your eyes and envision a real, honest-to-Final-Four postseason. Florida's next opponent is No. 1 Alabama. Call it the SEC championship game if you must, but it's really one half of a seeded semifinal bracket come to life: No. 1 playing No. 4.
Meyer is treating the Crimson Tide with the respect that a Final Four would demand. He said after the game Saturday that his coaches began watching video of Alabama two weeks ago.
"In the bye week," Meyer began. " Not a bye week, but against The Citadel."
Meyer said he dispatched offensive line coach John Hevesy and running backs coach Kenny Carter to begin game-planning for the Tide.
"What happens on a Sunday is it takes a minute to get organized," Meyer said. "We'll be fully organized Sunday. Against The Citadel, we could game-plan and let [Hevesy and Carter] get a jump-start."
If Saturday is any indication, Meyer ought to hope for that eight-month-old roof on the Georgia Dome to spring a leak. The Gators produced 502 yards and their most points ever in Doak Campbell Stadium in a rain that alternated between drizzle and downpour. Bobby Bowden Field looked like a rice field. Florida decided instead to plant a few Seminoles.
Tim Tebow, who is having an outstanding season that suffers only in comparison to his output in 2007, accounted for touchdowns in just about every possible way for an offensive player. The junior Heisman winner threw for three scores, rushed for one, pitched to Jeffery Demps for a fifth, and, as only Tebow could do, threw the key block on a direct snap that Percy Harvin took in for the Gators' other touchdown.
By the middle of the fourth quarter, Tebow's white jersey had turned brown with mud, save for the garnet field paint that covered his right shoulder. By that time he was standing on the sideline, after completing 12 passes with a soaked ball in 21 attempts for 165 yards, and adding another 80 on the ground.
By comparison, three Florida State passers playing in the same conditions combined to complete 10 of 32 passes for 140 yards, three interceptions and no touchdowns.
So, Tim, maybe a thought or two drifted toward the Crimson Tide?
"We didn't look forward to the SEC championship game," Tebow said. "Florida State is a great team. This is a big rivalry game."
But if the coaches started looking at Alabama video, you didn't even sneak a peek?
"I haven't looked at any," Tebow said, astonished that anyone thought he might peek ahead of Florida State or, perish the thought, The Citadel.
Now that everyone is looking forward, the next big issue for the Gators is whether Harvin will play against Alabama. The fleet wide receiver got sandwiched by linebacker Nigel Bradham and corner Korey Mangum late in the second quarter. He stayed on all fours, stopping only to grab his right ankle. Meyer described it as a sprain and said he would wait to see what the doctors say Sunday. Harvin left the locker room on crutches with his ankle in a boot.
Meyer has never coached against Alabama coach Nick Saban. Asked where their paths have crossed, Meyer said they haven't, beyond the SEC head coaches meetings. Meyer said they have been cordial toward one another.
"Helluva coach," he added.
Helluva game. Get your bracket ready.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Ivan at Ivan.Maisel@ESPN3.com. His new book, "The Maisel Report: College Football's Most Overrated & Underrated Players, Coaches, Teams, and Traditions," is on sale now. For more information, go to TheMaiselReport.com.