I think Kentucky fans, mostly made up of part-time and half-hearted football fans, often fail to recognize the difference between good teams. We look at stats, we look at Sports Center, we read all kinds of stuff on the Internet that tells us this player is great and that player is overrated.
When it comes to basketball, a UK fan can tell you that there is a huge difference between a Perry Stevenson and a DeMarcus Cousins, even without knowing the star rating. UK fans can often tell other schools more about their basketball teams than their own fans can. There is a reason for this. UK is a basketball school. The vast majority of UK fans like football, but they love basketball. That's why the football discussion on Kentucky fan sites can sometimes be a little hyperbolic or even occasionally incoherent. It usually boils down to criticizing the coaching and the quarterback, or the punter, or whoever was the major proximate cause of the catastrophic play that cost us the game.
So assuming this is so, le me explain the premise of my comments here. Alabama is a powerful, extremely talented football team, but particularly when seen through the lens of a mediocre football team like Kentucky, Florida is a horror.
The reason for that is really, really simple. -- Tim Tebow. Tim Tebow is a complete athletic freak. In all my years I have never seen an athlete as powerful, large and focused playing quarterback. You occasionally see athletic freaks in football -- Bo Jackson and Javon Kearse come immediately to mind, but there have been others. Tim Tebow is such a one, and may surpass all the others. He is like Ken Stabler in the body of Javon Kearse with the disposition of Reggie White, a quarterback with remarkable, unprecedented size and strength with a supple and highly intelligent mind. He is among the more passionate and powerful team leaders I can ever recall in college football. In short, he is one of a kind. Superman, if you will.
Consider his ballhandling on Saturday. Florida runs, with Tebow, a kind of hybrid spread/triple option/single wing God-awful offense with blazingly fast and elusive athletes, of which Tebow is one. I could never tell on half the option plays who had the football until the play was over, which is exactly how the option is supposed to be run. It was otherworldly, and I can't see how any team can consistently stop an offense with that much speed with a weapon like Tebow running it. Tennessee somehow managed to slow him down a little, but apparently Monty Kiffin is not sharing the secret of that with the rest of us, because Kentucky could not do anything with them until they took their foot off the gas.
Florida's offense is scary not just because of how deceptive it is -- teams have been running variations on the triple option for years -- but because of the speed and size of the athletes behind it. With a healthy Tebow, I don't see how anyone can outscore Florida. But without Tebow, Florida becomes just another very good football team, because all these ungodly schemes simply do not work the same way without him. True, Tebow's backup, John Brantley, has had far fewer snaps and you wouldn't consider him to be as polished as Tebow was at running the offense, even though he's highly skilled and arguably a much better pure passer. But Brantley, no matter how skilled, lacks an entire dimension that Tebow brings in spades -- Earl Campbell-like power.
Defensively, the Gators are very good, but their defense is nothing like their offense. What makes their defense as threatening as it is is that the Gators almost always get out to a quick lead, and allow the defense to take some chances on passing downs, bringing lots of blitzes and forcing penalties, hurries, and sacks. If you can run the football, you can move it on the Gators, but you can't get behind the chains or the will come for you, and their speed off the edges is formidable.
Now consider the Crimson Tide.
Alabama has many weapons -- a strong-armed quarterback in Greg McElroy, a big-play receiver in Julio Jones, a wonderful combination of speed and power in the backfield with Mark Ingram, Roy Upchurch and super-frosh Trent Richardson. They were able to victimize the Arkansas Razorbacks' weak defensive line and crush the Hogs in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama is scary, but in a conventional, bigger-than-you kind of way, not in an alien creature kind of way like Florida. Their offense is completely conventional, normal, and solid. They don't try to beat you with tricks, or ballhandling, or gimmicks (even though they did run a clever flea flicker out of the wildcat formation that got them a 50-yard strike to a wide-open Julio Jones). Alabama beats you the old-fashioned way -- with power, precision, superior athletes and great coaching. They are a no-nonsense, SEC power football team in the mold of all the great SEC football teams that came before them with the notable exception of Tebow-led Florida.
Then, there is the Alabama defense. Simply put, it is indomitable, with the giant 2-gap-playing Terrance Cody leading the charge. There is no better defensive team in the nation, if any are as good. But again, Alabama doesn't use tricky gimmicks, or weird stuff. They stunt like all teams, and they run some special plays, but basically they just physically whip your butt and tackle your team, whoever has the ball. No fluff. No gimmicks. No nonsense, just plain old-fashioned, kick-your-butt-like-you-talked-about-my-momma defense. Not vanilla, but not innovative, either.
Alabama is familiar-scary because they come straight at you and beat you mano-a-mano, and Kentucky can compete with that better than they can with the unearthly Florida offense. Kentucky is not likely to beat Alabama at their own game, but that is the difference between the Tide and the Gators -- Alabama plays football, and the Gators play Tim Tebow's Space Alien game. Tim Tebow's game is horrible, kind of like the alien in Predator. All their stuff is so well camouflaged as to be invisible, and then they turn that laser-gizmo on Tebows's left side and his huge, fast, powerful body against you to blast you into 31-0 first-quarter holes so the defense can tee off on you every play. Tricky. Subtle. Alien. As deceptive as it is powerful.
Alabama is more like Godzilla. There is nothing subtle about Godzilla. He's just a big, bad, fire-breathing lizard that's gonna crush your city, eat your people, and breathe fire on all your defenses. He isn't hiding behind anything, doesn't have any shields or advanced technology or tricky gizmos. Godzilla just dares you to drag your carcass up there and do something about his plans to eat your grandma. Not subtle. Not tricky. Not weird or otherworldly. Just a big, strong, mean-ass monster reptile with a bad attitude and napalm halitosis. Something humans can relate to and appreciate even as he rips your world apart.
"So what you're saying is that we have a better chance against Godzilla than the Predator alien," you ask?