It was Tebow’s fault.
Tim Tebow stood there on the Florida sideline at the Sugar Bowl, dressed as if waiting for the other members of his boy band, and you could see the losing vibes of the New York Jets just waft off of him. Not even a New Orleans voodoo queen can remove the bad mojo Rex Ryan puts on a man.
Maybe Florida fans can take that theory and run with it, because otherwise it’s too painful to explain how Louisville so thoroughly beat down Florida in a game that finished 33-23 but felt like 52-7.
If you missed the game, here’s a snapshot that sums it up: To start the second half, down 24-10, Florida tried an onside kick. Not only did Louisville recover, Florida started a scuffle after the play and was flagged for two personal fouls. So instead of Florida ball around midfield, it was Louisville ball at the Florida 19. Teddy Bridgewater threw a TD pass to Damian Copeland on the first play. Goodnight, Gators.
Those were two of Florida’s nine penalties, to go with three turnovers and 3-of-10 third-down conversions. Florida coach Will Muschamp should get full and proper credit for not exploding.
Speaking of credit, full marks to Louisville. Coach Charlie Strong -- former defensive coordinator at Florida -- had his players motivated and sharp. Teddy Bridgewater, the QB with the smoothest name and smoothest passing stroke in college football, was healed up from the broken wrist and sprained ankle he played with at the end of the regular season. His receivers got open on third down and made a series of gymnastic catches, especially DeVante Parker’s twisting over-the-shoulder TD grab in the second quarter.
Louisville lost just twice all year, once when Bridgewater was hurt. They’re not bad. But that game was such a curbstomping that the Theme of the Day becomes: Did everybody overrate the SEC this year?
After all, look at the bowls! Northwestern beat Mississippi State! Clemson beat LSU! South Carolina barely beat Michigan, and Jadeveon Clowney nearly decapitated only one Wolverine! Georgia failed to score 100 on Nebraska! Derek Dooley’s orange pants: Fashion Fail! And so on.
These thoughts come from two reasonable impulses: Everybody outside Alabama is hoping Notre Dame can stay close in the national title game, and everybody outside the old Confederacy is tired of the SEC winning the championship every year.
I happen to think Notre Dame is really good, and although they might not win, they’re going to make Alabama sweat to the last set of zeroes. But that still doesn’t mean the SEC is overrated.
Bowl games are always weird -- the long layoff, the strange setting, players deciding if they’re going pro, coaches thinking about moving on (if they didn’t already leave). And the Sugar Bowl is the weirdest of all, especially for the SEC team. That team has often just missed playing for a national title (Florida was maybe one fumble away from being Notre Dame’s opponent). So you’re steamed at not playing for the title, you take a month off, and then you have to play a fired-up opponent in a city where they will sell you a cocktail the size of a Big Gulp.
That’s how you get games like West Virginia 38, Georgia 35 (2006) and Utah 31, Alabama 17 (2009). That Georgia loss was the last year the SEC didn’t win the national title. So it didn’t exactly signal a downturn.
Maybe Notre Dame wins the title this year, breaks the SEC spell, throws the ring into the lava of Mount Doom. So next year: Texas A&M brings back the Heisman Trophy winner. South Carolina brings back Clowney. Alabama brings back all its skill players. Georgia, if Aaron Murray stays, brings back a powerful offense. LSU’s almost always good. And Florida, despite Wednesday night, seems to be back. I’m not sure what down looks like -- OK, that’s not true, I saw the Big Ten this year -- but the SEC ain’t it.
As far as the Sugar Bowl … I’m blaming Tebow. Or maybe the Louisville fans with the horseheads. They’re equally terrifying.
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Questions? Comments? Challenges? Taunts? You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tommytomlinson. Emmitt Smith was on the Florida sideline, too, but I’m not blaming him for anything. He helped me win a fantasy league one year.