When Urban Meyer heard that his former boss and close friend Lou Holtz had picked his Gators as a possible upset special going up against South Carolina on Saturday, Meyer wasn't the least bit insulted. The Gamecocks had the third-best defense in the nation and entered the game having won six of seven. So Meyer clearly understood where Holtz was coming from. Heck, he was worried about the same thing. But with a unit of his own that's ranked No. 4 nationally in scoring
defense and an offense that has become nearly unstoppable, Meyer had no worries at all.
In front of a sold-out Ben Hill Griffin Stadium crowd, No. 3 Florida defeated No. 24 South Carolina 56-6, becoming the first league team in SEC history to win six consecutive games by a margin of 28 or more points. It was the worst loss for South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier in his college tenure.
"I had that same, sick feeling in my stomach," Meyer said, referring to a possible upset. "I watched them on film, I saw the talent level. All you've got to do is give Coach Spurrier a couple of weapons and you've got a problem. He's got a couple of good weapons, but so do we."
Meyer's weapons were potent.
To get a sense of just how well the Gators are playing offensively — and how quickly they are jumping on opponents — consider this: Florida (9-1, 7-1 SEC) has outscored its opponents 125-7 in the first quarter this season. Florida has now earned victories against five of the nation's top 28 defenses. Against the SEC's best defense, Florida amassed 519 total yards, including 346 rushing yards against a unit that was allowing 101.4 per game.
"We prepared so hard throughout the week," said junior wide receiver/running back Percy Harvin, who had touchdown runs of 26 and 80 yards, the latter a career long. "Our offense battles our defense throughout the week, so when it comes to the game, it becomes pretty easy."
The Gators' first possession Saturday ended with a fumble by Jeff Demps, and their second went nine plays and just 32 yards before they were forced to punt.
But when the points started coming, they came fast.
Florida scored three touchdowns in a 2:15 span, taking a 21-0 lead with just more than two minutes to play in the first quarter. By early in the second quarter, South Carolina (7-4, 4-4) had given up more points (28) than it had all season in an entire game.
"It got out of hand early," Spurrier said. "We're not a great team by any means. Today, we played like we're not a good team at all."
And once again, the Gators defense had its hand in the mix. Florida's first two touchdowns were a direct result of the defense.
Facing third and 5, South Carolina quarterback Chris Smelley was intercepted by junior linebacker Brandon Spikes, who returned it 12 yards for a touchdown with 4:37 remaining in the first quarter. On the Gamecocks' next possession, Smelley was intercepted by Ahmad Black, which set up Harvin's 26-yard touchdown run.
Florida quarterback Tim Tebow was 13-of-20 for 173 yards and two touchdowns, a 46-yarder to Deonte Thompson and a 5-yarder to tight end Aaron Hernandez. He also rushed for one touchdown.
"We've got a lot of playmakers on offense and defense, and guys are just going out and trying to win," Tebow said. "That's our goal, just to win."
The Gators held South Carolina to 53 rushing yards, and Spurrier's two-pronged quarterback rotation of Smelley and Tampa's Stephen Garcia was held to a combined 19-of-37 for 120 yards and three interceptions.
"Their defense was playing great," Garcia said. "We really hurt ourselves by committing those turnovers. It's hard to dig out of a 21-0 deficit. They threw a lot of coverages and made things difficult all night."
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.