Home underdog status rare for Gators
Published: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 6:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 6:09 p.m.
We're in a different place this week and not just because Gainesville has that big-game atmosphere. We're in a different place because Florida is a home underdog.
These are not uncharted waters, but they've rarely been sailed.
In the 21 years since Florida started its incredible run of success and turned from a sleeping bear into a roaring Gator, we have seen UF as a home dog about as many times as we've seen Nick Saban smile at a news conference.
The last time the mighty Gators were underdogs at home was 2003 against FSU. The only other time was in 1999 against FSU. Florida has not been a four-point underdog at home against any team during the last two decades.
But the Gators are at +4 for this one even though the line started at six and has been bet down. This isn't as much about spreads and gambling (illegal at Bushwood, I'm told) as the perception about Alabama vs. Florida.
I can't tell you how many Gator fans have come up to me and asked, “So, do we have a chance?”
When did Florida become Wake Forest?
Look, I get why there is trepidation about this game. I saw the Alabama-Arkansas game, too. I guess it just depends on whether your stein is half-empty or half-full.
If it's half-empty, you are putting a lot of stock in what Alabama has done so far this year. The Tide have lived up to expectations. We thought this Alabama team would be a suffocating defense with a run-oriented offense manage by a rookie starting quarterback. Check. Watching Alabama dismantle the Razorbacks was like watching killer whales tossing around a seal before consuming it.
If it's half-full, you like the way that Florida is playing. The Gators have been better than I thought they would be. I'm still not sure how good they are, but they are better. I especially like the way the linebackers are playing.
If it's half-empty, you remember 2010 and 2009. In both of those games, Alabama was the better team and physically handled Florida. And Florida was out-coached in both games. Nick Saban and his staff had an answer for everything whether it was the jump pass or the corner blitz.
If it's half-full, you have a lot of confidence in Will Muschamp and Charlie Weis. Weis said Tuesday he plans to throw the kitchen sink at Alabama. I'm not buying into that. I think he said that so Alabama will think he's throwing everything at them and will prepare that way. But if you can't have faith in coaches with thick resumes as coordinators, what can you have confidence in?
If it's half-empty, you buy into that old saying, that Saban may have taught Muschamp everything Muschamp knows, but not everything Saban knows.
If it's half-full, you believe Muschamp knows Saban's tendencies and that he also took a lot from Mack Brown that Saban doesn't know about.
If it's half-empty, you're worried because so many of these Gator players haven't been on the big stage. So many of these Gators weren't around for the 2008 championship run or the 2009 season that was 13-1. So many of these Alabama players were part of a 2009 SEC title and national championship.
If it's half-full, you like the swagger these young Gators have. You've seen the Dominique Easley dance and it makes you think these guys are not going to be overwhelmed by the moment, because they are just having fun playing football.
If it's half-empty, you remember the last really big game played at The Swamp, the embarrassment that was South Carolina last season.
If it's half-full, you remember that it is still The Swamp. It will be full of fans who have had all day to party and who always seem to get a lot louder at night. Bryant-Denny Stadium was electric last season, and there's no reason to believe it will be any different Saturday night.
You can fill your stein or mug or Gator cup, or you can empty it. Either way, the perception of what might happen in this game has nothing to do with what will happen.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.
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