Friday, November 13, 2009

Tebow Farewell Tour: South Carolina

Every week marks one more farewell for Tim Tebow. Against an opponent. In a rival SEC town. He is a one-man Farewell Tour. Games to go: 5

Tomorrow, Tebow will play South Carolina one last time -- and his final SEC road game. Let's look back at Tebow's history vs. the Gamecocks:

2006: Everyone remembers the game for Jarvis Moss' TWO blocked kicks, but Tebow scored what would turn out to be the game-winning TD, a 12-yard run on 1st and 10 with 3 minutes to go. On the same drive, Tebow had a key conversion on 4th-and-1 from Florida's 29.

(Fun trivia: Chris Leak had arguably his finest moment as a "dual-threat" QB, rushing for 30 yards on 3 carries on that game-winning TD drive.)

2007: With a night game on ESPN, this may have been the performance that locked up the Heisman for Tebow: 7 TDs. That's right: 7. (7!) Two passing and five rushing. SEVEN. He threw for 304 yards (22/32) and ran for 120 (on 26 carries). It was the quintessentially dominant Tebow performance of his entire Florida career.

(It was almost like Meyer, Tebow and Florida were punishing Steve Spurrier for having the temerity to beat Florida at in Meyer's first year in 2005, then to ALMOST ruin Florida's national-title hopes in 2006. There was some vengeance in there.)

2008: South Carolina was not a very good team. Florida was... well, the soon-to-be national champ. It was 21-0 after the 1st quarter, 28-0 a couple minutes into the 2nd, and the game was non-competitive. Tebow sat virtually the entire 4th quarter.

Notable: I remember thinking Tebow's two passing TDs were a nice foreshadowing of '09: A 46-yarder to Deonte Thompson and a 5-yarder to Aaron Hernandez. Tebow had a rushing TD, too, but was largely held in check: 14 carries for 39 yards (2.8 ypc).

(If the 2007 game was about punishing Spurrier, the 2008 was about humiliating him -- it was Spurrier's worst loss ever at The Swamp, and one of his worst losses ever as a coach.)

So here's the context: In 2005, Spurrier and South Carolina beat Meyer and Florida. But that was pre-Tebow. In 2006, Florida barely survived, and Tebow played a small but key role. In 2007, Tebow throttled USC. In 2008, Florida humiliated the Head Ball Coach.

All signs would point toward Meyer, Tebow and Florida owning Spurrier and South Carolina. This season isn't like the past two seasons -- at least offensively. But Florida's D is better than the one last season that held USC to two field goals. The special teams are spectacular.

And, as Tebow and Co. showed against Georgia two weeks ago, when they are motivated by rivalry, they find another gear. And Spurrier gets Meyer and Tebow's blood boiling.

I can understand the reasoning behind thinking this game will be close; I think it will not be close.

The defense will hold South Carolina to a couple field goals and maybe the errant TD; the offense will score more than 30 (or, perhaps some of those 30+ points will come from the D -- like Spikes' pick-6 a year ago -- or from something on special teams -- a blocked punt or a punt return TD).

It is this team's -- and Tebow's -- final SEC road game. Expectations from home fans at The Swamp are more daunting than the hoots and jeers from the Columbia crowd. Tebow and Co. will embrace the hostility from the South Carolina fans... find strength from it... and, ultimately, throw it back in their faces.

Prediction: 37-13.

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