Arkansas at UF Preview
Gainesville, FL - While Tim Tebow was hardly his vintage self and didn't do anything flashy to become the undisputed favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, his gutsy performance in his return to the field two weeks after a concussion against a top-five opponent helped Florida stay in contention for the national title.
Tebow looks to improve on last week's effort and the top-ranked Gators will try to avoid a letdown Saturday when they host an Arkansas team coming off an upset win.
Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made Florida –24.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 79% of bets for this game have been placed on Arkansas +24.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
After suffering a concussion in Florida's 41-7 win at Kentucky on Sept. 26, Tebow's status was in question during the week leading up to last Saturday's highly anticipated game against then-No. 4 LSU.
He missed a week of practice and was medically cleared to play just hours before the Gators (5-0, 3-0 SEC) took the field at Tiger Stadium, where LSU had won 32 consecutive Saturday night games.
Tebow wasn't his best, but played well enough to help Florida win 13-3, extending the nation's longest unbeaten streak to 15 games.
The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner completed 11 of 16 passes for 134 yards with an interception and threw a 24-yard TD pass to Riley Cooper with 50 seconds left in the second quarter to break a 3-all tie. Tebow also ran 17 times for 38 yards, often avoiding the kind of contact he seemingly sought out most of his entire career.
Team doctors examined Tebow before, during and after the win, and the post-concussion evaluations have continued this week.
"I tried to play smart,'' Tebow said. "I told him, I said, when we were talking to Coach (Urban) Meyer, I said, 'I'm not going to go out there and play tentative or scared. That's not me I did try to play smart but I wasn't scared or timid at all.''
Although Tebow might not have been scared, Meyer definitely tried to keep Tebow out of harm's way.
Tebow, the Gators' go-to back in short-yardage situations, didn't carry the ball on any of the team's first six opportunities when they needed 3 yards or less to get a first down.
With Tebow not taking as many risks, Florida, which averaged 526.3 yards in its first four games, gained 327 yards while scoring its fewest points since a 31-3 loss at Alabama in 2005.
After having to get reacquainted to physical play last week, Tebow should be better prepared for the rest of the season.
He had little trouble in last season's 38-7 win over Arkansas, completing 17 of 26 passes for 217 yards with two touchdowns and an interception as Florida racked up 514 yards.
The Gators have won seven straight over the Razorbacks (3-2, 1-2) since losing the first meeting in the Bluebonnet Bowl following the 1982 season.
While Florida's offense wasn't firing on all cylinders against the Tigers, the defense was its usual imposing self.
The Gators, who lead all Football Bowl Subdivision schools in total defense (202.6 yards per game) and scoring defense (6.4 points per game), limited the Tigers to 162 yards and stopped them on eight of nine third-down attempts.
"They have done a good job all year creating negative plays and putting opposing offenses in second and longs and third and longs," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said of Florida's defense. "That's why they're tough, it allows them to tee-off on third downs.
"It will be a challenge. We believe we can go and win the game. We need to play with good technique and fundamentals and try and match their speed."
Petrino's offense has been tough to slow down, scoring at least 41 points in four of five games, and is coming off an impressive 44-23 win over then-No. 17 Auburn.
Led by quarterback Ryan Mallett's 274 passing yards with two touchdowns and running back Michael Smith's 145 rushing yards with a score, the Razorbacks jumped out to a 27-3 halftime lead en route to their second straight win.
"The two wins going into this game really helped us," said Mallet, who has passed for 1,422 yards with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions on the season. "We are on top of the mountain right now because we haven't had a loss the past two weeks.
"We have to prepare for one of the best teams in the country. Your mental focus has to be there throughout the week."
The Razorbacks won their last game against the nation's top-ranked team, knocking off LSU 50-48 in three overtimes in 2007.
Posted: 10/13/09 10:51PM ET