It must be Florida State-Florida week because the war of words has already begun.
When the Seminoles and Gators hook up it is usually one of the most heated rivalries in college football but much of the chatter hasn't been on the matchup. Instead, with FSU's recent struggles and with Florida being a two-touchdown favorite, much of the talk has centered on quarterback Tim Tebow, who many believe is the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
It became obvious in post-game interviews on Saturday that several Seminole players are already growing tired of the hype surrounding the Gators' sophomore signal-caller. For the most part, the Seminole players have been politically correct when asked about Tebow but that changed during a Monday interview with linebacker Geno Hayes.
"Tim Tebow is going down this week. Ya'll put that down," Hayes said. "That is our attitude."
Last year in Tallahassee, when Tebow came off the bench for Urban Meyer, the Seminole defense did handle him. In that game, the then freshman quarterback managed just three yards rushing on four carries. He was also 0-for-1 on pass attempts. But the strong-armed quarterback has come a long way since then.
Last Saturday, he became the first quarterback in NCAA history to have 20 or more rushing touchdowns and 20 or more passing touchdowns in the same season. As a result, he is probably the odds on favorite to take home a Heisman Trophy next month. Despite his gaudy numbers, Hayes believes it is possible for a defense to keep him in check.
"It's not difficult, really it's not," Hayes said. "Auburn showed that when they played on a couple of goal line stops. There's an old saying, the bigger they are the harder they fall. He's a great quarterback, take nothing away from him but it's not like we're going to go in there and give up because he's bigger and more agile at his size. It's nothing we can't handle. We're going to go in with the attitude that if he runs the ball we have to take it on, no matter how hard it gets."
Florida State has already knocked one Heisman front-runner down a notch this season. Earlier this month the Seminoles upset then No. 2 ranked Boston College and intercepted Matt Ryan three times en route to a 27-17 victory. Some of the players admitted after the game that being able to derail Ryan's Heisman hopes provided extra motivation. That same motivation will exist this weekend but there's always plenty of motivation to go around when the 'Noles and Gators square off against each other.
"This game by itself, Florida-Florida State will get us juiced up," Hayes said. "He (Tebow) adds another dimension with the Heisman so everyone will get pumped up for that. Hopefully we can go out there and shatter his dreams. That's our plan go shatter his dreams for the Heisman."
For Hayes, there is an extra motivation to leave Gainesville with a victory. The junior from Madison County High School is 0-3 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in his lifetime. Not only was he part of FSU's humiliating 34-7 lost to UF two years ago, he lost twice in Gainesville as a high school player. In 2003, Madison County lost the state championship game to Chaminade by a 27-0 score. The next year in Gainesville, the Cowboys fell 17-15 to Immokalee.
"I've never won in the swamp from high school to here," Hayes said. "It will be a real big thing for me if we go in there and win in the Swamp."
Gene Williams is the founder and administrator of Warchant.com and writes stories and features covering all of FSU's sports with an emphasis on football and football recruiting. During past football seasons, he hosted a weekly sports radio show in Tallahassee, and appears as a weekly guest on 1010 XL Radio in Jacksonville (4:40 pm on Tuesdays) and 1270 The Team in Tallahassee (4:05 pm on Thursdays). Williams is also a former ACC correspondent for College Football News (weekly national newspaper), and contributes to The Osceola. Story about Gene Williams & Warchant.com.