Power vs. finesse? Gators don't think so

Published: Friday, December 5, 2008 at 6:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 5, 2008 at 6:33 p.m.

ATLANTA The media being the media, a popular story line has emerged this week for Saturday's SEC Championship Game.

Power vs. speed and finesse.

Traditional offense vs. the spread.

It's a classic matchup, a clear and intriguing contrast in styles and philosophies.

Alabama is power and a traditional offense. Florida is speed and finesse in the spread.

It's a great story line. But is it an accurate one?

The Gators don't think so. The perception that Florida is all speed and finesse and no power is not reality, the Gators say.

"We don't see ourselves as a finesse team," Florida running backs coach Kenny Carter said. "The perception, I guess, is what it is. All that really matters is at the end of the day is you've either got a 'W' or you don't, whether you're finesse or tough. Our whole thing is just to play physical and do the best we can."

The Gators say they're ready to match toughness with toughness, power with power on Saturday.

To just about everyone, Alabama is clearly a power football team. Throughout the season, they have controlled both lines of scrimmage and pounded the football with a strong, downhill running game in a tailback-oriented offense.

To just about everyone, Florida is clearly a speed and finesse team that spreads the field and throws the ball over the lot with the Heisman-winning quarterback and tries to get its speedy skill players into open space.

Much of that is accurate, of course. But here's Florida's argument why the Gators aren't a finesse team, but a power team.

* The Gators lead the SEC in rushing (36 yards more per game than Alabama).

* They're second in the league in scoring defense and third in rushing defense and total defense.

* They rushed for more than 300 yards against the No. 3 defense in the nation (FSU) a week ago, and have had success on the ground against some of the SEC's most physical defenses.

* They've controlled both lines of scrimmage.

* And, oh yeah, they have a 235-pound quarterback who has a habit of running over defenders.

Add it all up, and it's a pretty strong argument.

"We take a lot of pride in being tough," Carter said. "We're leading the SEC in rushing. You don't do that with just finesse. There are a lot of people (on defense) who can run in this league and a lot of physical defenses. You don't lead this league in rushing without being a physical team.

"That's a big deal to our linemen, that's a big deal to our backs, it's a big deal to anybody that carries the ball. You have to play physical. We feel like we're a downhill offense. We're about as downhill as you can get. It's all about being tough."

All this week, the talk has been about the contrasting styles between UF and Alabama. UF coach Urban Meyer, who shakes his head whenever he hears that UF is a finesse team, said there isn't much of a difference between the two teams.

"It's contrasting, but it's very similar," Meyer said. "We believe in running the football. We believe in the development of the offensive line, running the ball and pass protection.

"It looks a lot different, but we're not. I think we throw the ball probably about the same amount of times per game (as Alabama). We don't throw it 50 or 60 times a game."

The Gators and Tide are exactly alike in that they have great offensive balance between the pass and the run. Both have strong defenses and special teams.

And both have offensive lines that have been physically dominant down the stretch.

The Gators think they're plenty tough where it counts the most up front.

"We have great elusive tailbacks, we have a quarterback (Tim Tebow) who can power run and throw the football, we have wide receivers than can run like tailbacks," UF offensive line coach Steve Addazio said. "Ultimately, though, can you put your hand on the ground and rock off that football and knock people back?

"That's what we pride ourselves in, having the toughness to do that. I think our line has a great ability to set the tempo for the game. It's our responsibility to play that way. That's been our style of play now for a long time here. We're a very physical front and it shows that way on tape. That's a point of emphasis."

But the perception persists that UF is a finesse team.

Tebow said it's provided motivation for the Gators all week.

"Alabama is a powerful team, but we have a little bit of power, too," Tebow said. "I'm looking forward to it."

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