GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- They talk in hushed tones here about things like tailbacks not getting enough carries and the quarterback getting too many carries.
They wonder if the defense is stout enough or if the offensive linemen are able enough. It's a down week in Gator Nation, which is wringing its collective claws over what do after losing to Auburn, a 19-point underdog, at home.
|The Auburn loss has brought questions about Tim Tebow's constant running. (Getty Images)|
That is, if you consider descending to the depths of hell at Death Valley on Saturday night a "chance."
"Absolutely, our guys know that," coach Urban Meyer said.
Of the five top 10 teams in the coaches' poll to lose on Saturday, Florida fell the shortest distance -- from No. 3 to No. 7. Oklahoma was the only other victim to remain in the top 10 (going from No. 4 to No. 10).
Florida can erase the depression of this week and get back in the national championship race by winning at LSU. A win would probably vault the Gators ahead of the Tigers in the polls and get Florida back in the top five.
That's a conversation piece on Wednesday. On Saturday night, it could be a near impossibility. No. 1 LSU (No. 2 in coaches and Harris polls) has the revenge motive and perhaps the nation's best team.
"Last year we had what I call 'The state of the union,' Meyer said."I realized the nature of the beast that people were going to start talking about the BCS. Every Monday I would talk to the team about the country, what's going ... This year there's none whatsoever just because we're not at that point yet.
"We've got to tighten up coverage. We've got to get the punter to line up right."
Yes, Florida has issues. Meyer and Co. keep hammering home the youth factor. There are only 10 scholarship seniors. Thirty-three true or redshirt freshmen saw action for the first time.
Then on Wednesday it was revealed that captain Tony Joiner had been arrested on felony burglary charges.
That hardly cushions the blow of losing to Auburn for the second consecutive season. The depression was probably deeper last season when Chris Leak became a four-letter word on campus. In the Oct. 15, 2006 coaches' poll, the Gators dropped from No. 3 to No. 10.
Everything had to fall right, including a last-day loss by USC, to get to the championship game. This year the Gators have lost earlier and stayed higher.
So what's worse, blowing a lead at Auburn last year or having your guts ripped out with a last-second field goal this season?
"It was similar to last year in that guys were very upset, disappointed, agonizing over it," quarterback Tim Tebow said. "We're going to do what made coach Meyer's programs great in the past. Outwork people. Out-practice them."
This season the expectations were lower. Winning the SEC East was a realistic expectation coming off a national championship. But when a season starts 4-0 and Tebow fulfills his Superman role, expectations get out of control.
"We weren't talking national championship, we were just trying to get back to Atlanta," Tebow said.
After Saturday, there is the usual scrutiny. Both lines were pushed around. There are still questions why tailback Kestahn Moore (5.1-yard average) doesn't get more carries. Tebow remains the leading passer and rusher.
"As far as taking the hits, I feel fine. Body's good," said Tebow who has 45 percent of the carries and 41 percent of the rushing yards.
LSU knows that. It also knows it has just about every set of indicators going its way. Death Valley, at night, with a championship on the line. If Tebow wins at LSU, he would be the first underclassman quarterback to beat a top-five Tiger team in Baton Rouge.
But all it takes is one victory and the depression of last Saturday turns into the optimism of this Saturday night.
Championship prospects for the other members of the Faulty Five who were upset last week (rankings are from the coaches' poll):
|The Longhorns took quite the tumble after losing to Kansas State. (Getty Images)|
Rutgers: (Dropped from No. 10 to No. 21 after losing to Maryland) Say goodbye to New Orleans, but the Knights still control their destiny for a BCS bowl. They still have Big East rivals Cincinnati, South Florida and West Virginia at home.
Texas: (Dropped from No. 7 to No. 16 after losing to Kansas State) Endured the worst loss of the five. Unranked Kansas State won by 20, marking Texas' worst home loss since the infamous Route 66 (66-3 loss to UCLA) that cost John Mackovic his job.
Flaws were showing long before Saturday. If Texas wins in Dallas, the Big 12 is officially out of the championship hunt.
West Virgnia: (Dropped from No. 5 to No. 12 after losing to South Florida) Still in the BCS hunt. More troubling is the Mountaineers' performance in big games. Louisville last season and now two consecutive losses to South Florida. There are defensive issues that need to be corrected for West Virginia to challenge for a national championship.
For the rest of the national notes read Dennis Dodd's blog Dodds and Ends.