Florida can thank LSU lineman for getting swagger back

As Pete Thamel of The New York Times writes, Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators appear to have gotten their swagger back after thumping SEC rival LSU on Saturday night.

Tim TebowThere were moments all over the field Saturday night that showed how re-energized Tebow was. He chest-bumped Mullen before the game. He knocked helmets with Percy Harvin after a 70-yard touchdown pass — a career high for both — in the game’s first minute. He led the team in celebratory helmet slaps, fiery fist pumps and any other signs of emotion.

“That’s the difference between this year and last year,” Tebow said. “They scored and they made it within 6 points and we knew we had to put a drive together. That’s where you see a difference now, a more mature team and a more poised team.”

Tebow is a more mature and poised player, more content to share the wealth with his teammates and not try to do everything himself. That is one reason his 10 passing touchdowns and 3 rushing touchdowns through six games are off last year’s pace.

Even after its stunning loss to Mississippi, Florida (5-1) is in line to win the SEC East. Few things are certain in college football when it comes to the national championship game, but it is likely that whoever wins the SEC will have the best shot of any league champion to play for the title.

Tebow and Florida can partially thank LSU defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois for getting their swagger back. Even in a blowout win over Arkansas two weeks ago you could tell Tebow and the Gators were still feeling the effects from their loss to Ole’ Miss. But once Jean-Francois shot his mouth off about ‘taking Tebow out,’ UF seemed to re-focus.

Florida is still a juggernaut – I don’t care what anyone says.

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Karma’s a Whore Vol. II – Florida destroys LSU

Tim TebowLSU defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois said early this week that if he and/or his linemates got the opportunity to knock quarterback Tim Tebow out of their game Saturday against Florida, they would do so.

Not only did the Tigers fail to knock Tebow out of the game (Jean-Francois didn’t even play due to an injury), they failed to do much of anything as the Gators routed their SEC rivals 51-21 in Gainesville Saturday night.

Tebow completed 14 of 21 passes for 210 yards and also threw two touchdowns with zero interceptions. On the third play of the game, Tebow found Percy Harvin for a 70-yard touchdown pass after an LSU defender tipped the ball up while trying to make an interception. From there, the Gators mounted a 20-0 lead before the Tigers made a small rally to cut the score to 20-14 early in the second half. But the comeback was short lived as Florida scored touchdowns on their next three possessions and the rout was on.

An outcome like this proves how broke the college football voting system is. LSU was ranked seven spots higher than Florida in the polls, yet was smoked by 30 points. Remember LSU’s big win over Auburn a couple weeks ago? Looks pretty weak after Auburn lost to Vanderbilt (who lost to Mississippi State Saturday) and unranked Arkansas the past two weeks.

Florida proved tonight that they’re still the team to beat in the SEC. Furthermore, this game might have proved that the SEC is weak as a whole this season.

Karma’s a whore: Jean-Francois will not play against Tebow, Florida

Tim TebowEarly this week, LSU defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois said that if he and his fellow linemates got the opportunity, they would take Florida QB Tim Tebow, “out of the game” when the two teams meet Saturday evening.

Turns out Jean-Francois won’t get the opportunity to back up his words because the Tiger defensive lineman won’t even make the trip to Gainesville due to a groin injury.

“He wasn’t able to do much on it,” LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette said Friday night at the team hotel in Ocala, Fla., according to USA Today. “He practiced during the week, but the trainers ruled him out. And the coaches didn’t want to dress him out if he wasn’t going to be able to play.”

Bonnette said Jean-Francois’ absence had nothing to do with what he said this week about going after Tebow.

“Of course not,” Bonnette said, according to The (Baton Rouge) Advocate. “He’s still injured … There’s no point in letting Florida know … We thought he would be recovered by now.”

Granted Jean-Francois later backpedaled and said that LSU “had great respect for Tim as a player,” but I’m sure that was hand-fed to him by someone in the program. But still, he made those comments knowing he might not even play? Way to go champ.

Couch Potato Alert: 10/10

Oklahoma vs. Texas
This year’s Red River Rivalry battle at the Cotton Bowl has more marquee value than in past years; as for the first time since 2004 both teams will enter the game ranked in the top five. Heading into this season, the Longhorns offense was thought to be their biggest strength. But it has been the Texas defense that has provided most of the swagger. The Longhorns are ranked fourth nationally in total defense and that is a big jump since the 2007 unit set a school record for most yards allowed in a season. They will get stiff competition come Saturday against top-ranked Oklahoma. The Sooners are in the top five nationally in all offensive scoring categories, led by the nation’s second-rated passer Sam Bradford. National coverage begins Saturday at 12 PM ET on ABC. Click here for the official Oklahoma-Texas smack thread.

LSU vs. Florida
“The Showdown at the Swamp” marks the first time the last two national champions have faced each other since Notre Dame defeated Miami, 29-20, in 1990. The stakes are high for both schools; Florida must win to maintain any realistic hope of staying in the hunt for a berth in the BCS championship game, while LSU needs the win to stay on course to repeat as National Champions. And the matchup got even more intense after Tigers defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois promised that the LSU defense will try to knock Gator quarterback Tim Tebow out of the game. Later in the week, Jean-Francois said his comments were misinterpreted by the press. National coverage begins Saturday at 8 PM ET on CBS.

Major League Baseball LCS Series
The animosity between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox is not ready to approach the level of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, but their contempt for each other is a good undercard. Back on June 5th, the Rays’ Game One starter, James Shields, hit Red Sox outfielder Coco Crisp with a pitch that triggered a bench-clearing brawl between the two teams. Has this issue been resolved? Stay tuned for the answer. Meanwhile, the National League Championship series boils down to how well the Los Angeles Dodgers left-handed pitchers throw to the Philadelphia Phillies lethal left-handed hitting. The Phillies led the NL with 214 homeruns, with Ryan Howard leading the way with 48 followed by Chase Utley with 33, and both players bat left-handed. The top of the Phillies’ lineup also includes switch-hitting Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, who both have outstanding on-base percentages. NLCS Game Two is Friday at 4:30 PM ET and Game Three is on Sunday at 8 PM ET; all NLCS games are on Fox. ALCS Game One is on Friday at 8:30 PM ET and Game Two is on Saturday at 8 PM ET. All ALCS games can be seen on TBS.

New England Patriots vs. San Diego Chargers
Their franchise quarterback is out for the season, and somehow the Patriots have still put together a successful start to their 2008 season. On the other side of the field, the Chargers have been one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL. To avoid falling further back in the AFC standings, the Chargers must try to defeat a Patriots team that has eliminated them from the past two post-seasons. Inconsistent play on both sides of the ball has plagued the Chargers all season; they have lost three games by a total of 10 points. Coverage begins at 8:15 PM ET on NBC

College Football Week 7 Primer

Time to check out the big games, top matchups and potential upsets as college football heads into Week 7.

Top 25 vs. Top 25

Colt McCoyNo. 5 Texas at No. 1 Oklahoma, 12:00 PM ET ABC
Boy the schedule makers really screwed ABC by showing this game at Noon didn’t they? People on the west coast will have to get up at 9:00 AM to see the best game of the week. Ouch. The Sooners get a huge boost to their defense with the expected return of DT DeMarcus Granger and redshirt freshman Frank Alexander. They should help generate a pass rush, which will be imperative in stopping Heisman candidate Colt McCoy. Offensively for OU, the switch to the no-huddle has been a tremendous success for QB Sam Bradford, who seemingly has a leg-up on McCoy in the Heisman race. This game will come down to which secondary can rise to the challenge and which team can establish a running game against their opponents’ stingy front seven. At least on the onset, the Sooners have the edge in both categories.

No. 17 Oklahoma State at No. 3 Missouri, 8:00 PM ET ESPN2
This is going to be a shootout, which only favors QB Chase Daniel and the host Tigers. Missouri has scored in 19 of 20 quarters this year and have now gone 49 straight possessions with no three-and-outs. That’s a remarkable feat to say the least. But the Cowboys bring plenty of offense to the table themselves, scoring 56 points per game in their last four outings. Although MIZZOU doesn’t provide a huge challenge defensively, it must be noted that OK State has yet to face a tough defense on the road this year. The Tigers are 14-point favorites and that bodes well considering they’re 12-3 in their last 15 games as the favored team.

No. 4 LSU at No. 11 Florida, 8:00 PM ET CBS
Things got interesting on Tuesday when Tigers’ DL Ricky Jean-Francois stated that if he and his linemates got the opportunity, that they would take Florida QB Tim Tebow out of the game. Considering the Gators will try to use this game as a springboard to get back into the national championship hunt, Jean-Francois’s comments only fuel the fire. LSU has a new set of cornerbacks this year who have suffered communication breakdowns in previous games. Expect Tebow and speedy wideout Percy Harvin to try and torch the inexperienced Tigers’ secondary. Even though they have the edge in the plls, it’ll be tough sledding for LSU this Saturday in “The Swamp,” especially considering Gators’ head coach Urban Meyer is 22-2 lifetime in Gainesville.

Upset Watch

Vanderbilt CommodoresNo. 13 Vanderbilt at Mississippi State, 2:30 PM ET
The Commodores have the better overall team, talent and coaching, but if the 2008 College Football Season has taught us anything so far, it’s to expect the unexpected. This is a dangerous game for Vandy considering its coming off an emotional home win over Auburn and now have to go on the road to face an inferior Bulldog squad. Where the Commodores are currently ranked is roughly where East Carolina (college football’s previous Cinderella story) was a couple weeks ago when they were upset by NC State on the road. Granted, NC State is arguably a better team than Mississippi State, but the SEC doesn’t produce cupcake programs. Beware the upset.

Other notable games:
No. 6 Penn State at Wisconsin, 8:00 PM ET ESPN
The Badgers have dropped their first two Big Ten games of the season while the high-powered Nittany Lions are out to prove that they’re the best team in the conference.

Tennessee at No. 10 Georgia, 3:30 PM ET CBS
The Vols are off to a 0-2 start in the SEC, but they gave Auburn a run for their money a few weeks ago. This is always a great matchup and nothing beats a SEC game “Between the Hedges.”

Notre Dame at No. 22 North Carolina, 3:30 PM ET
Some believe the Irish are back after starting the season 4-1 and they’ll get the opportunity to prove it facing the ranked Tar Heels on the road.

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