Each week, former Gator football player and now sports talk radio host Brady Ackerman will answer your questions about the Florida Gators. Whether it’s this week’s game or the game just played, no question is too hot for Brady to handle.
Brady: What are your impressions of UF’s victory over LSU?
I thought the Gators got another team victory in conference play by winning the battle of special teams, turnovers and opportunistic offensive play. The play of UF’s special teams was defined by the big-time hit from Riley Cooper on the opening kickoff of the second half. He is another true freshman from that outstanding recruiting class that is finding a way to contribute. UF did miss another field goal and had a punt blocked, but once again the special teams unit outperformed their opponents. Defensively, the Gators turned LSU over with three interceptions and the first fumble recovery of the season. UF came into the season preaching improved red zone defense and it showed Saturday. The Gator offense which had a terrific first drive terminated by a fumble were opportunistic in taking advantage of “Tebow tendencies” to find scores against a good LSU defense.
Ack: Tim Tebow accounted for all the Gator points on Saturday. Does that mean he should get more playing time?
The beauty of Tebow is he is maximizing his on-field production while breaking tendencies from prior games. Tebow brings energy and emotion to the Gator attack as well as a very good running threat. I said several weeks ago he is a weapon just like Percy Harvin and Dallas Baker. If Dan Mullen can continue to maximize his production (three touchdowns on his first nine plays) while keeping the offense in flow then more power to him. I think Chris Leak and Jemalle Cornelius deserve credit for the pass to get the ball to the one-yard line which set up Tebow’s first touchdown. I also think Chris has played at a high enough level that defenses have had a hard time adjusting to the sudden switch of quarterbacks. I look at it like the “Pony Express” at SMU, or like the running combo of “Thunder and Lightning.” Give Mullen, Leak and Tebow credit for making this work. Remember if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!
Brady: What did you think of Marcus Thomas’s return to the lineup and do you expect UF to take some hits publicly for his early return?
First, the on-field addition of Thomas was very evident on Saturday. JaMarcus Russell is a tough quarterback to sack and while UF did not get those numbers on Saturday he felt the pressure from Thomas. Marcus led the team in tackles. Enough said on his impact. With the injury to Javier Estopinan he was much needed against the Tigers. As for the reduction of the Thomas suspension, I imagine some folks will have take the shots at the Gator program but I doubt the President, Athletic Director and the University would let him back on the team if they were not confident he would stay straight. Look the President has been a strong advocate for banning of alcohol on campus among many other crusades. They would not risk their reputation for one student athlete unless there was a strong case for a reduction of the suspension. Why can’t we just trust the judgment of those in charge and move on?
Ack: Florida is in control of its own destiny now and could be in the hunt for the national title. What do you think? Can they do it?
This will be a question all week that Urban Meyer will have to prep his team on handling. Fans are allowed to think big. I mean, c’mon this is the University of Florida. I think the players will handle the media fine, but it’s the classmates on campus that are really going to be patting them on the back. Meyer must keep the team focused, and strangely enough on the task at hand which is the third consecutive SEC team that has their backs against the wall. Alabama, LSU and now Auburn all had must win games against Florida because they experienced an early conference loss. As for the conference UF must beat Georgia to take care of the SEC East and they should still be in control of their destiny regardless of the outcome on the plains. Tennessee has Alabama, LSU and South Carolina while Georgia has Auburn and Florida, so the Dogs are not out of it especially if they get a win over UF. That could keep them in the race. Remember this when thinking about the national title race: UF has four games away from home the rest of the season plus the SEC title game. USC and Ohio State have big games at home in November and not title games.
Ack: You keep preaching a “plan to win” in the SEC. Did it work Saturday?
Urban Meyer has his plan to win and I have my “Ack Plan to Win” in the SEC with these great defenses. First, you must out rush your opponent: Florida 99 LSU 90. It was not dominating but UF was balanced rushing 32 times and passing 28. The second phase is field position. UF won the field position in the “money quarter” the third and also outscored LSU 9-0. Finally, quarterback play is vital in the SEC. Chris Leak was terrific on the opening drive of the game and the last drive of the first half. Tebow would finish the second drive to give the Gators the lead. But Leak’s third and 15 completion to Caldwell gave the Gators a chance to get to the scoring zone. Tebow and Leak would combine for 223 total yards and 3 touchdowns with just one turnover versus the number one defense in the country. JaMarcus Russell would finish with 247 total yards from scrimmage with 3 interceptions and a crucial fumble.
Brady: What are your early thoughts on Auburn?
First, you must stop Kenny Irons and the Auburn running game. If you can make Brandon Cox throw the football then you have a shot at beating them. Courtney Taylor is the only legit receiving threat at this point in the season. Defensively they are fast and aggressive but not as big as LSU. Their secondary has been very average in conference play and has given up some serious yards. The lines of scrimmage are still beat up from physical battles with LSU and Arkansas.
Brady: UF is 6-0 at this half way point. Any predictions for the second half?
First of all UF is 6-0 for the first time since 1996 and I don’t think they have played a flawless, perfect game wire to wire yet. That is good news because I think they can play better. DeShawn Wynn needs to get back to improve the running game and a bigger dose of Percy Harvin is certainly coming. UF must also make some field goals and keep its defensive line healthy. Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina and FSU stand in the way of the school’s second perfect regular season. Today I like UF’s chances as much as any team in college football, but they must get the toughest win which is this week against Auburn. The Tigers will be ready and UF needs to run the ball better and get back up emotionally. I said 10-2 and to Atlanta in the pre-season but right now that looks like the worst case scenario. At least for now all is right in the Gator Nation.
Brady: Any mid-term awards or improvements that need to be made?
Chris Leak has now won five consecutive games against ranked opponents and UF will need his experience at Auburn, Georgia and Tallahassee. The defense has been great, giving up one touchdown only in five of the six games on the season. The MVP of the offense has been the offensive line which has far exceeded anyone’s hopes and looks very strong. UF needs to make some field goals, improve the third down defense and scored more points with the offense. UF is “ofer” on field goals giving up 40 percent on conversions on third down and averaging just 29 points per game.
Check out College Kickoff this weekend on Sun Sports at 7 p.m. Friday. Go to http://www.sunsportstv.com for more information. Also you can catch my radio show on ESPN Radio Gainesville and Ocala Monday-Friday 7-10 a.m. (http://www.floridasporstalk.com).