SCOTT: Florida, Bama have a lot in common

Florida and Alabama share a lot in common right now.

In particular, the expectations surrounding both teams may be unrealistic at this point and both teams still have a lot to prove after opening the season with two relatively easy wins.

 

Florida opened the season against Division I-A newcomer Western Kentucky with a 49-3 final score that didn't reflect some of the Gators' defensive concerns. Then the Gators took a 49-7 halftime lead over Troy on Saturday, only to let the Trojans off the hook in the second half before winning 51-39.

 

It was another sign of just how young the Gators are after losing a strong core of experienced players from last year's national championship game.

 

"I was just asked in an interview if I was surprised by the second half. No, I wasn't at all," Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "I saw it in the locker room (at the half). I tried to be a cheerleader. We're such a young team. That's a great learning experience.

 

"I'm not disappointed at all. We're 2-0 and there are a lot of teams out there that aren't. I'm good. There's no bad. Now, tomorrow we'll scream and throw coffee cups against the wall, but tonight's all good."

 

Sophomore quarterback Tim Tebow took some responsibility for the letdown, even though he completed 18 of 25 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for 93 yards and two more touchdowns.

 

"We know we can play better," Tebow said. "We're looking to go out there and play to the best of our ability. When we came out in the second half and didn't do that; it was upsetting.

 

"We're going to come out next week and try to do better. We just had problems. I don't think anyone was letting up or worrying about what they were going to do after the game. It was mostly my fault because I'm the quarterback and I've got to manage the offense. I've got to play better in the second half."

 

That's especially true with Tennessee coming to town for the annual September game that usually goes a long way toward determining the fate of the East Division championship. That's when we'll know a whole more about where the Gators really are.

 

"Reality sets in next week," Meyer said. "We hit the SEC."

 

The same is true for Alabama after a 52-6 win over Division I-AA Western Carolina and a 24-10 victory at Vanderbilt.

 

"I was very pleased and proud of the way our guys played today," first-year Alabama coach Nick Saban said after the Vandy game. "I thought we played with a lot of conviction in the game, a lot of toughness, physical, and we tried to do for 60 minutes.

 

"We came up here to try and dominate this football team. That's something that's very important to us. That's the identity we want to create. We want to play winning football for 60 minutes, even though we probably made more mental errors today."

 

Saban went on to run off a checklist of concerns, including the passing game, a temporary loss of composure on defense, allowing a punt return for a touchdown (that was negated by a penalty) and two fourth-quarter offensive penalties when the Tide was attempting to control the ball and run the clock out.

 

"That could be very costly in the future," Saban said.

 

The immediate future is a home game against an Arkansas team that has beaten Alabama two of the past three seasons. Neither team has proven anything yet, and the Razorbacks spent last week aggravating coach Houston Nutt with poor practices during an open week.

 

Just like with Florida and Tennessee, we'll know a lot more about the Crimson Tide and Razorbacks on Saturday.

 

"Arkansas is a great football team," Saban said. "Those two running backs they have are just fantastic players. They run the ball as well as anyone in the country. They make plays in a lot of ways.

 

"They're well coached. I always thought Houston did the best job of anyone in the league with the players he had relative to the production he gets. Now he's got some better players. ... It's going to be a challenge for us."

 

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Richard Scott is a Birmingham-based sports writer, author and featured columnist in Tiger Rag. Reach him at rscottsec@yahoo.com.


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