TAMPA — The question that has confounded mankind for nearly three decades — could the Tampa Bay Bandits have defeated the winless 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — is a simple one for the definitive authority on the subject to answer.
"Oh, yeah, easily," said Steve Spurrier, who coached the USFL's Bandits and quarterbacked the expansion Bucs for parts of '76.
The Bandits "could've easily beaten that team because of better players. You look at the offensive team especially … we had a bunch of guys that made All-USFL just about every year on offense. And the offensive line we had, it was as good as most of the NFL lines of that day."
The question arose during Sunday morning's Outback Bowl news conference featuring Spurrier and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. Reinforcing Spurrier's claim: dozens of Bandits players also had NFL stints, including RB Gary Anderson, G Fred Dean and QB John Reaves.
"We had (offensive lineman) Nate Newton," Spurrier added. "Kirk, you may not know, but we had Nate when he was 285 or 290 (pounds). … Nate Newton could really play football."
Stoney seeks tickets: South Carolina senior cornerback Stoney Woodson, a former Middleton High standout, said he has procured roughly two dozen tickets from teammates, in addition to the six he received, for family and friends wishing to see him play in his collegiate finale. Woodson has a team-high four interceptions, returning one 68 yards for a touchdown in a win against Tennessee.
not so fast: Both coaches had fun with the perceived stereotypes of their conferences: that the SEC has unmatched speed, while the Big Ten is a physical, grind-it-out league.
"People equate the (SEC) with speed and talent, and I think that's fair. We're a little bit more lethargic, I guess, in a lot of people's minds," Ferentz said.
Spurrier was careful to point out that the Big Ten has its share of elite speed, recalling his Florida Gators' 37-34 loss to Michigan State in the 1999 Citrus Bowl.
"The reputation is that the SEC is a lot faster than the Big Ten, but that's not necessarily so," he said. "In 1999 … we had a sprinter named John Capel that made the Olympic 200 meters, and he got through on a kickoff and they had a guy run him down. Of course, that was (now-Giants receiver) Plaxico Burress."
DOWN YEAR: Spurrier conceded that the SEC hasn't had the same success as in the past few years, despite Florida playing for potentially a third straight national title from the conference. "I really think overall, the SEC wasn't quite what we've been the last few years," Spurrier said. "I think only eight out of 12 qualified for bowl games. We were a little bit down this year, but hopefully we'll be back up there next year and so forth. We had some good bragging rights there the last couple years, but we'll be a little quieter after this year, unless one of our teams wins a national championship."
Spurrier quip of the day: "I am pulling for the (0-15) Detroit Lions to win. Hopefully we can maintain that record from '76." But the Lions lost to finish 0-16.