A few thoughts to jump start your Friday morning.
THE SIGN OF A GREAT TEAM
Third-ranked Florida went on the road to Mississippi State Thursday night and left its A and B games back in Gainesville. Yet, they still won the game by 11 points and remained unbeaten in Southeastern Conference play (7-0) and made it 12 wins in a row, their longest winning streak since the 2007 NCAA championship season. Good teams find ways to win when they don’t bring their A game. Great teams find ways to win when they don’t have their A or B games going. Billy Donovan and the Gators get Texas A&M at the O-Dome Saturday (4 p.m.) where they will have a chance to win their 27th straight game at home and move Donovan within one game of his 16th straight 20-win season.
LAST RECRUITING WEEKEND BEFORE SIGNING DAY
This is the last recruiting weekend before next Wednesday and National Signing Day. General consensus is that Florida currently has a class that is ranked somewhere between five and seven, but that could change. The Gators won’t overtake Alabama but they have a chance to move on up. Most experts say the Gators won’t get corner Adoree’ Jackson or defensive end Lorenzo Carter, who likely select USC and Georgia respectively, but no one should be surprised if the Gators close with lineman Damian Prince, receiver Isaiah McKenzie, quarterback Treon Harris (FSU commitment) and receiver C.J. Worton, who decommitted FSU after visiting Florida last weekend. If the Gators land those four, that will make a 25-man class that will definitely rank in the top five, a terrific accomplishment for Will Muschamp after a 4-8 season.
The day before Tim Tebow committed to the Florida Gators, Alabama’s entire coaching staff spent 12-plus hours at the Tebow farm in west Jacksonville. Urban Meyer was in Pennsylvania recruiting along with co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. That evening, as Meyer and Mattison sat in the university jet waiting to take off that cold December night, Mattison looked at Meyer and said, “If we lose him, it will set us back five years.” Meyer didn’t want to hear it. “Five years,” Mattison repeated a couple minutes later. Meyer told his trusted lieutenant to shut up but periodically on the flight back to Gainesville, Mattison would look over at Meyer and mouth the words “five years.” Neither Meyer nor Mattison slept much that night.
Tebow was set to announce the next afternoon at Nease High School, an announcement carried live on ESPN and preceded on the network by “The Chosen One,” a documentary about Tebow, who was already a high school legend. Throughout the day there were no hints whether Tebow was going to choose Florida or Alabama. Two hours before he was supposed to announce, Tebow still hadn’t made up his mind. An hour later, he came to his decision.
There was a packed auditorium at Nease, a crowd that was probably 70% Gator and 30% Alabama. About 15-20 minutes before he went on the podium, Tebow called Alabama coach Mike Shula to tell him he had decided to go with his heart and choose Florida. He tried to call Meyer but the battery on his phone died. Meyer wouldn’t know Tebow’s decision until he heard the screams of joy from wife Shelley and kids, who were watching on ESPN. Meyer was too nervous and was pacing in his back yard.
When Tebow made his announcement, the fans erupted in the auditorium and the phone lines for Paul Finebaum’s radio show in Birmingham were jammed with jilted Bama fans. Little did Florida fans know that the Gators would go 48-7 the next four years, win two national championships and post three 13-1 seasons. Tebow won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and went 35-6 as a starter.
RECRUITING FLASHBACK, PART II
The thought was the Gators were going to lose the recruiting battle for the class of 2006 to Florida State when Myron Rolle chose FSU over the Gators back on September 2, 2005, but Florida began picking up momentum two weeks prior to Tebow choosing the Gators. After the Gators beat Florida State, 34-7, on Thanksgiving weekend, Florida picked up four commitments including Brandon James, but the big fish were still in the pond. Percy Harvin chose the Gators one week after the Tebow announcement. Two weeks later at the US Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Carl Johnson and Brandon Spikes joined the Florida class. Tebow, Harvin, James and Spikes all earned All-America honors during their Florida careers. The class also included future All-SEC performers Jermaine Cunningham and Riley Cooper along with Johnson, Marcus Gilbert, Dustin Doe, Markihe Anderson, Wondy Pierre-Louis, Lawrence Marsh, Maurice Hurt and Terron Sanders, all of whom started at least one year.
Unless it’s basketball, Kentucky doesn’t win many recruiting battles with Alabama but the Wildcats landed defensive tackle Matt Elam Thursday. A wide body at 6-5, 350, Elam figured to become the next Mount Cody in the middle of the Bama defensive line but he pulled the shocker and chose the home state school. Kentucky has a chance to finish in the top 25 in recruiting for the first time since Bear Bryant was the head coach and they didn’t do football recruiting rankings in those days.
TOLERABLE SUPER BOWL WEATHER
I won’t get my wish. There will be no blizzard at the Super Bowl, which might lead Roger Goodell to schedule another one in an outdoor stadium north of Atlanta sometime in the near future. Every day I hear all those arguments about how football should be played in the elements, but I don’t buy them. This is the championship game and it should be decided by who has the best football team not who was lucky enough to have the wind at their backs in the fourth quarter or whose player slipped on the ice. If the game is going to be played up north, then put it in a dome. Otherwise, put it in the south or in California.
THE OBLIGATORY SUPER BOWL PREDICTION
I like the Broncos to win it. I think Peyton Manning understands that that there are no guarantees that he will ever get back to the big stage again, so he will give a performance to remember him by in case he doesn’t ever make it back again. I’m not going to predict a score because I never predict scores all that well, but I do think Denver is going to win it, probably by 10 or more points.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Back in the 1960s before people discovered that she could actually sing, Carole King was writing music for everybody on the planet. One of the best songs she ever wrote was “Don’t Bring Me Down” which became a big hit for Eric Burdon and the Animals. I loved The Animals and saw them perform the song live in New Orleans in 1965, but I think the best version of the song I’ve ever heard is the one done by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at the Farm Aid concert in 1985. I’m a little bit partial to Tom’s version since I heard him play it with The Epics back when we went to Gainesville High School.