A most appropriate ending to a most unusual season

If you play the lottery, don't. If you don't it is time to invest. In a sports year where down is up, left is right and right is wrong the Florida Gators added to that craziness Saturday night on Ron Zook Field at Doak Campbell Stadium.

Think about it. The Red Sox won the World Series. The Europeans trashed our boys in the Ryder Cup. The US Olympic Basketball Team was so UN-likeable that Americans were rooting against them. A South Korean gymnast went to court to try and swipe a gold medal. The University of Florida is on the verge of finding its next coach in Utah! Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

The Gators victory Saturday night was not a shocker. Shoot, I picked Florida 17-16, not too far from the actual score. But it was so atypical of the Gators to win somewhere they had not won in 16 years. And yet it was so perfectly consistent with the three years under Ron Zook. The Gators did good things when you least expected it, like last year at LSU and two wins over superior Georgia teams. But you balance that out with poor performances when you never expected it, like the final minute of several games and three losses to Mississippi schools.

Ron Zook's tenure will be marked by both, and remembered for both. You look at these last three games and think of what the future might have held. But you also look at these last three games and wonder how they managed to let four games slip away earlier in the year.

Trenches Battles Told The Story

Last week I wrote in this space that this was a game that would come down to the play of one unit more than anything else, the Florida offensive line. The Gators clearly outplayed FSU's vaunted defensive front, paving the way for a hundred-yard game for Ciatrick Fason, another 46 for Skyler Thornton, and a 237-yard effort from Chris Leak. It seemed throughout the game that on the biggest plays, they got the job done. And how about Mike Degory plowing ahead for the needed yardage on fourth down late in the game. Florida's "big uglies" were beauties in Tallahassee.

Of course, Florida's other line deserves a ton of credit too. Ray McDonald, Marcus Thomas, Jeremy Mincey and Joe Cohen won their private battle as well, hounding both Wyatt Sexton and Chris Rix all night and stuffing FSU's running attack for just 34 yards.

Dee Webb was sensational, and I thought Jarvis Herring was having a great night BEFORE his game-clinching interception. Brandon Siler is going to make me purchase a thesaurus because I am running out of superlatives to describe his play.

Coulda Woulda Shoulda Talk Abounds

Florida's fabulous finish has most of the college football world proclaiming it shows the Gators gave up on Ron Zook too quickly, and it's hard to argue with that point. In fact, I agree with it. I never endorsed making a coaching change, and I remain convinced paying off contracts is something schools should not do.

But it's too easy to think everything clicked just as that decision was made. It's too easy to think the Gators would have played this way the final month if there were non-stop speculation about the coach's future. It's too easy to assume 33 games of inconsistency had miraculously disappeared coincidental to the decision to make a change. It's too easy to assume Florida's finish was a harbinger of a great season to come.

Utah Claims Its Spot In The BCS

Urban Meyer's Utes had another impressive performance Saturday, finishing off a perfect season with a 52-21 destruction of arch rival Brigham Young. With BCS # 7 Michigan losing to Ohio State, it's all but certain Utah has guaranteed itself one of the two at-large slots in the top four bowl games. While most are focused on Utah in the Fiesta Bowl, It may not turn out that way. The Fiesta is certain to take Utah if they lose Oklahoma to the National title Game. But if Oklahoma falls behind Auburn, the Sugar Bowl would have first shot at the Utes.

Auburn made its case for moving up with a solid, 21-13 win on the road against a pretty good Alabama team. The win would have appeared more impressive if not for a 'Bama TD in the last 90 seconds.

Oklahoma destroyed a weaker Baylor team on the road, 35-zip. Phenomenal freshman Adrian Peterson ran for 240 yards and three touchdowns. Southern Cal did not play, so look for the Sooners and Tigers to narrow the gap on the Trojans who for some reason enjoy overwhelming support in the polls. Wouldn't it be funny if after three weeks of Oklahoma/Auburn debate that Notre Dame shocked USC and knocked them out of the title game?

Bowl Picture Taking Shape

The SEC needs Arkansas to beat LSU on Friday to fill all of its bowl slots. Seven SEC teams are already eligible and if Arkansas wins it likely will end up like this, barring a Tennessee upset of Auburn in the SEC Title game:

Auburn		Sugar
Georgia		Citrus
Tennessee	Outback
Florida		Peach
LSU		Cotton
Alabama		Music City
S. Carolina	Independence
Arkansas     	EV1.net (Houston) 

If LSU beats Arkansas, the Tigers could get the trip to O-town with Tennessee and Georgia likely to split the Cotton and Outback invites.

Utah Tid Bits

In case you are curious, Utah is averaging 46 points a game with 503 yards of total offense, 245 rushing, 258 passing. The top two running backs have gained 1,402 yards with 15 touchdowns. The top two receivers have caught 125 receptions for 1,769 yards and 21 touchdowns. Quarterback Alex Smith has passed for 2,624 yards with 28 touchdowns and only four interceptions.

Something else, their special teams are sensational. Utah has blocked six kicks this year without having one blocked. They allow just 19 yards on kick returns and 5 on punt returns. Utah averages 26.5 on kickoff returns and just under eleven on punt returns. They have not missed a field goal.

Just thought you'd like to know!

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Don't forget to email me your questions and comments, but please do not include attachments! My email address is: vettel@gatorcountry.com .

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Have a great week.

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