FOUR BITS: Florida wins, Saban finds a way

1 » CBSSports.com pit two of their national columnists – Mike Freeman and Dennis Dodd – against each other on Friday. Their task, respectively, was to argue why the No. 1 Florida Gators or No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide would win the 2009 SEC Championship game. Freeman began with this: “There simply isn’t enough time to list every reason why Florida will beat Alabama in the SEC title game, so let’s just start with a few: Urban Meyer is a big-game coach and Nick Saban isn’t; super-virgin [senior quarterback] Tim Tebow; a faster defense; more depth and more speed overall.” He then focuses on Crimson Tide QB Greg McElroy, calling him “pedestrian” and explaining that the Gators’ defense will overwhelm the Alabama offense in every way.

2 » Dodd responds by calling Saban a “mad scientist” who will “create [a] way to beat the Gators.” He even admits that “it’s hard to pick against the Gators in this game.” Yet his entire argument rests on running back Mark Ingram rushing for 150 yards and winning the Heisman Trophy, kick returner Javier Arenas grabbing an interception and scoring a return touchdown (against a special teams that has barely allowed double-digit punt return yards the entire season) and Saban using revenge to fuel his team to victory.

3 » As part of his brand new television show, Sports Jobs with Junior Seau, the future Hall of Fame linebacker played the part of a reporter and followed around Sports Illustrated reporter Andy Staples during the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in October. The story that Seau came up with? Gators senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes is “a monster” and absolutely dominant on the field. More coverage from SI includes Stewart Mandel’s article focusing on the weight of expectations the Gators face, Andy Staples’ column about the absences of junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap and Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower and Corey McCartney’s three reasons why Florida will lose on Saturday.

4 » No. 13/17 Florida basketball hits the road Friday night for its first true road game of the season against the Jacksonville Dolphins at 7 p.m. at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. The game will air live on FOX Sports Florida.

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Track Florida Gators en route to Atlanta

The No. 1 Florida Gators are on their way to Atlanta, GA, to face the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2009 SEC Championship. An ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive EXCLUSIVE, the following is the flight information for the Gators, who are flying over on an American Airlines Boeing 757-800 twin-jet. You can also track the flight live while it is in the air!

ORIGIN: Gainesville Regional Airport (KGNV)
DESTINATION: Hartsfield-Jackson Intl. Airport (KATL)

DURATION: 1 hour 42 minutes

DEPARTURE: 12:09 p.m. EST [scheduled 12:00 p.m. EST]
ARRIVAL: 1:51 p.m. EST [scheduled 12:49 p.m. EST]

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Haden named an All-American, Tebow to present

Florida Gators junior cornerback Joe Haden was chosen to the 2009 All-America Team by the American Football Coaches Association on Thursday. Haden, who is also a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, was the only Florida player to land a spot on the team, the first Gators CB since Keiwan Ratliff (2003).

Beating out senior quarterback Tim Tebow for the honor was Texas Longhorns QB Colt McCoy, while Georgia Bulldogs punter Drew Butler was selected over Florida junior Chas Henry. Four Alabama Crimson Tide players (running back Mark Ingram, offensive lineman Mike Johnson, linebacker Rolando McClain, CB Javier Arenas) were honored.

Tebow received a different distinction on Wednesday, however, as he was announced as a presenter for The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards on Thursday, Dec. 10. Along with Faron Kelly, Disney’s director of sports marketing, Tebow will be presenting the Disney Spirit Award (for college football’s most inspirational figure) that he won in 2008. Tebow is a 2009 finalist for the Maxwell Award (most outstanding college football player) and O’Brien Award (nation’s best college quarterback) while teammates Haden, senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes (Bednarik Award – outstanding defensive player) and Henry (Ray Guy Award – nation’s best punter) are also listed as nominees.

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SIX BITS: Strong is No. 1, vote for Tebow, Alabama players, Jones vs. Haden, volleyball in NCAAs

1 » Over the past few days, OGGOA has reported that Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong is the leading candidate to replace Steve Kragthorpe as head coach of the Louisville Cardinals. Yesterday, it was reported that Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich planned to wait until after the 2009 SEC Championship game to contact Strong after asking Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley for permission. Jurich expanded on his stance to the Courier-Journal Tuesday evening. “I want to get the program rolling, I want to get after it, but I gave my word to several people that I didn’t want to be a disruption to their program,” he said. “A lot of guys are still playing for a lot of important things. I’m the last person I want to get in the way.”

2 » Senior quarterback Tim Tebow has been named as one of three finalist for the 2009 Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award, which is given annually to the top quarterback in college football. The other two finalists are Texas Longhorns QB Colt McCoy and Houston Cougars QB Case Keenum. Fans are given 5 percent of the vote and can cast their ballot for Tebow to win the award every day until Dec. 6 by visiting http://www.VoteOBrien.org.

Check out four more very informative Florida Gators BITS after the jump…
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Strong is No. 1, vote for Tebow, Alabama players, Jones vs. Haden, volleyball in NCAAs

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SIX BITS: Meyer profiled by SI, replacing Dunlap, Saban on UF, stopping Ingram, Stoops’ influence?

1 » In the latest Sports Illustrated, S.L. Price profiled Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer. His article is a must-read for any Gators fan. “The Florida coach is alternately a hard-ass and a softy, cocky and calculating, smug and sentimental. But there’s no inconsistency in his football program, which is, as usual, on track for a national title.”

2 » As has been previously reported by OGGOA junior defensive end Justin Trattou will start in place of suspended junior DE Carlos Dunlap on Saturday. Helping Trattou will be redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Jaye Howard, a former DE who gained 60 pounds in the offseason to move inside. “For [Trattou], it’s an easy transition because he’s been there before,” defensive line coach Dan McCarney said. “He’s always taken reps. I rotate 12, 11 guys every game, so when a guy is out because of injury or discipline or whatever it is, it’s not like I’m going to throw a guy out there in the championship game that hasn’t played and played a lot.” Howard is especially effective against the run and will have a chance to make an impact when Alabama Crimson Tide running back Mark Ingram runs right at him. Assisting the Gators coaches in this move is redshirt junior DT Brandon Antwine, who is active for Saturday’s game after sitting out the last six weeks with a bad shoulder.

Check out four more very informative Florida-Alabama BITS after the jump…
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Meyer profiled by SI, replacing Dunlap, Saban on UF, stopping Ingram, Stoops’ influence?

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FOUR BITS: Heisman, Big Board, Keys, Redshirts

1 » Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow continues to gain ground in the Scripps Howard Heisman Trophy poll. Accounting for five touchdowns and 311 total yards on Saturday, Tebow now holds the No. 2 spot on the list, earning three first-place votes. Ahead of Tebow is Texas Longhorns QB Colt McCoy (5), while Stanford Cardinal RB Toby Gerhart (2), Houston Cougars QB Case Keenum (0) and Alabama Crimson Tide running back Mark Ingram (0) round out the top five. Ingram led the poll the last three weeks. Voting tabulations are made on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis, with each voter ranking a top five.

2 » Skyrocketing up ESPN analyst Mel Kiper’s NFL Draft Big Board all season, junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap has fallen back to earth after his recent DUI arrest. Dunlap dropped 14 spots from No. 3 last week to No. 17 on Wednesday. Also on the list are junior cornerback Joe Haden – a “polished cover corner with tackling ability to match” – who is up to No. 7 after holding down the No. 9 spot last week, and junior tight end Aaron Hernandez brand new to the list at No. 19. Kiper says Hernandez has “great hands and excellent run-after-catch skills for a TE.” Noticeably absent from the board for a second-straight week is senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, who last appeared at No. 25 on Nov. 18.

3 » ESPN Insider and Football Outsiders are featuring the five keys to the Florida vs. Alabama game. While OGGOA cannot reprint the article, here is the gist of it. The five keys and teams with the potential advantage for each are as follows: Yards Per Play (Florida – 6.8 vs. 6.0), Sack Rates (Alabama – 3.9% vs. 10.5%), Second Quarter (Push), Turnover Battle (Push), Field Position Advantage (Florida – 14th vs. 25th).

4 » The Orlando Sentinel reports that redshirt senior safety Dorian Munroe will apply for a medical redshirt and expects it to be granted by the NCAA. Junior cornerback Moses Jenkins, sophomore left tackle Matt Patchan and senior transfer WR Carl Moore have all been granted medical redshirts so far in 2009.

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FOUR BITS: Tim Tebow, Greg McElroy, SEC tickets

1 » Surveying four Southeastern Conference head coaches, ESPN’s Ivan Maisel came to one inevitable conclusion: Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow is the difference between his team and the Alabama Crimson Tide when it comes to the 2009 SEC Championship game. “The Crimson Tide don’t have a quarterback who has started 22 consecutive victories, has won a National Championship and a Heisman [Trophy], and is 34-5 overall as a starter,” Maisel writes. “Alabama doesn’t have Tebow.”

» In other Tebow news, he has been named as one of five finalists for the 2009 Walter Camp Award given to college football’s Player of the Year.

2 » Alabama QB Greg McElroy has done his job for the Crimson Tide so far in 2009. Leading the team to an undefeated regular season, McElroy’s SEC passing numbers are comparable to Tebow’s (though he does not use his legs). McElroy has also proved that he can get it done with the game on the line, like he did last week against the Auburn Tigers. Nevertheless, “he’ll need that same kind of poise Saturday (and maybe then some) against the best defense he’s faced all season.”

3 » Tebow may be getting all the press, but does it really take The Huntsville Times to point out that the Gators are about more than just their star QB? Paul Gattis writes that, “when it comes to the Gators, they are more than their brightest stars.” For example, Florida senior wide receiver Riley Cooper has more catches and receiving yards than Alabama’s Julio Jones – and twice as many touchdowns, too. That is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Gators’ complimentary players.

4 » Tickets to the SEC Championship showdown of the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country are the hottest things going right now. Averaging $583 per seat on StubHub, ticket prices for the 2009 game in the resale market are almost $100 more than they were in 2008. The SEC has even gone as far as to alert fans to be cautious of purchasing counterfeit tickets.

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Dunlap’s father says son likely out vs. Alabama

Carlos Dunlap, Sr., the father of Florida Gators junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap who was arrested and charged with DUI Tuesday morning, told the Orlando Sentinel that his son will likely miss the upcoming Southeastern Conference Championship game against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday.

Dunlap, Sr. informed the Sentinel that he had already spoken with head coach Urban Meyer about the incident. Meyer told him that he must speak with administrators before making a final decision, but likely would not be able to play Dunlap in the Gators’ biggest game of the season up to this point. An official statement is expected to be made after Tuesday’s practice at approximately 6 p.m.

“I got the sense that he won’t be able to play,” Dunlap, Sr. said. “I asked him if there’s anything he can do — it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t ask — and he said he doesn’t know what he can do. We’re supposed to meet tonight.” He then expanded on his son’s recent mistake. “You think you’re in control and the next thing you know you’re in trouble. I am dumbfounded right now. He’s always been so anti-drug, anti-drinking. But it’s not what you do, it’s how you respond to what you do.”

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