It’s put up or shut up time. Put up for Urban Meyer and the Gators. Shut-up to those who have criticized Urban Meyer’s “flaky” offense, dissed his coaching record because it took place at Bowling Green and Utah, and/or scoffed at The Pit, The Champions Club, and the numerous other changes he has implemented in his brief stint at Florida.
The Southeastern Conference brethren stand to learn a lot about the Florida Gators, Urban Meyer, and his coaching on the plains of Auburn. Sure, eyes were opened this past weekend with Florida’s 23-10 win over a very talented LSU squad. But, to upend the western division elite (save Arkansas) Crimson Tide, Bayou Bengals, and Tigers on consecutive weekends, while running their record to 7-0, 5-0 would be a tremendous accomplishment for a staff in only their second year.
Saturday presents itself as the most dangerous game on the Florida schedule. Not only must Florida win on the road, but it must do so against an Auburn team that has something to prove. The Razorbacks humiliated the Tigers 27-10 before a packed house at Jordan-Hare Stadium. An Auburn loss could prove disastrous in their quest to get to Atlanta. They’re sure to be focused this weekend. And there are plenty who think that Florida is walking right into a trap against an angry Auburn team.
I spoke with a veteran high school coach yesterday who told me, “Florida had better be ready. You know Tuberville will have them ready. They’ll be coming after them, man.”
And though he is friends and coached with a member of the Auburn staff- he is hardly a fan.
It’s not exactly “Showdown Saturday in the SEC” with a schedule that includes Ole Miss at Alabama, Vanderbilt at Georgia, and Kentucky at LSU. The eyes of the south will be on Meyer and the Gators- who have an opportunity to remain unbeaten and leading the pace for the Eastern Division crown.
Florida moved up to the #2 spot in the Associated Press poll, but the critics are still out there.
“I don’t think the better team won the game,” LSU safety Jessie Daniels said after Saturday’s loss. “They played a great game defensively, but we weren’t on the same page with our defense. There were a lot of miscommunications, which led to some breakdowns.”
And exactly what message did defensive coordinator Bo Pellini fail to properly convey when Florida quarterback Tim Tebow knocked you three yards backward in your first meeting? Jesse, that was as classic a hit and run as you’ll get when a true freshman quarterback meets a pre-season second team All-Southeastern Conference strong safety. Did you even get his tag number? You met him once more and were only able to wrap him up before help arrived.
Those are especially strong words from a player who wasn’t even among the three best safeties on the field.
You need only take a quick spin around opposing message boards or the radio dial north of the state line to experience the doubt in Florida. Meyer’s offense has been called everything from “gimmicky” to “finesse” from “The Shed Spread Offense” to “Chicken Scratch Spread”. And to a lesser degree- still is.
Obviously, there are those fans who wouldn’t look you in the eye and give you an atta-boy if the Gators ran the table, beat Ohio State on New Years Day, Southern Cal the following Saturday, and the Chicago Bears on Sunday. But, I’m talking about those that can put the school flag that prominently flies in the front yard away and honestly assess what they’ve seen. While not criticizing, many of them too are still sitting on the little gray fence in Camp Neutral. Many of you know have spoken to those people
Heck, even the oddsmakers have Auburn an early two-point favorite.
Tennessee’s 51-33 thrashing of Georgia coupled with Auburn’s loss has seemingly turned the Auburn game as Florida’s last big conference hurdle. Gators fans aren’t buying into that theory. A little thing called reality says that you throw the record book away when Georgia arrives along the banks of the St. John’s River.
Still, I, like Fred Sanford before me, firmly believe that this is “The Big One”. It won’t be the last big one, but this game will go along way toward creating The Urban Legend and dispelling the myth that this offense can’t possibly work against quality Southeastern Conference teams. If Meyer and staff can get the Gators attention and refocus them on the task at hand once more before the much needed bye week- then there will be many more believers. Damn that gimmicky Urban Meyer.