Sports

Buying flu talk is ill-advised

Perhaps all the normally fleet-footed Gators are in the infirmary, stricken with the H1N1, forcing head coach Urban "Purell" Meyer to bring the Florida B-team to Commonwealth Stadium for Saturday's matchup with Kentucky.

I wouldn't bet my public option on it.

Here's a cautionary tale: The week before Georgia played at UK, Bulldogs Coach Vince Dooley insisted that a knee injury would keep his All-America kicker Kevin Butler — the Kevin Butler who had kicked a 60-yard field goal to beat Clemson earlier in the year — from playing against the Wildcats.

The way Dooley told it, you would have thought that Butler could barely walk, much less kick a football, and sure enough, when the Bulldogs arrived at Commonwealth Stadium for their Friday practice, Butler exited the bus using a cane.

The next day, it was a miracle, I tell you, a miracle. Butler kicked three field goals and four extra points in Georgia's 37-7 victory over Jerry Claiborne's Cats.

Now, the way medical matters have been portrayed in Gainesville, you half-expect to see the Gators line up Saturday sporting protective flu masks beneath their white face masks.

The brash Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin wasn't buying the disease dispatches, implying that his arch nemesis, i.e. Meyer, was overstating the outbreak to explain away the Gators' unimpressive performance in last Saturday's 23-13 win over Kiffin's Vols.

"I guess we'll wait and, after we're not excited about a performance, we'll tell you everybody was sick," cracked Kiffin, before Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive threatened again to put his bad-boy coaches in the timeout chair.

But who's to say? Flu reports flew out of Oxford, where Mississippi was preparing for Thursday night's game at South Carolina. Sure enough, the Rebels produced a rather sickly performance, converting just one of 13 third-down situations in a 16-10 loss to the Gamecocks.

Still, the guess here is nothing short of a swine flu plague will keep the Gators from extending their consecutive win streak over Kentucky to 23.

Not that this Florida team is as good as the 2008 team that won the BCS title. And those Gators lost a home game to Ole Miss.

So far, anyway, Florida hasn't found a ready replacement for do-it-all Percy Harvin, nor have the Gators developed a deep receiving threat to take some pressure off "Superman," i.e. Tim Tebow.

Example: Tebow carried the football 24 times against Tennessee, his heaviest workload since the 2007 season. And the Gators have at least 10 more games to go. But, as Rich Brooks said Thursday, the "Mack truck" that is Tebow "is surrounded by Maseratis."

Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey are almost Usain Bolt-fast. Kick-return specialist Brandon James is a constant end-zone threat. And, most of all, Charlie Strong's ridiculously deep defense has allowed one touchdown in three games.

On the one hand, you might think Florida would have trouble getting up for a Kentucky team it crushed 63-5 last year. On the other hand, Meyer's men are no doubt sick over the fact they didn't do more to shut up the bratty Kiffin last week.

And that's the sickness that might mean the most come 6 p.m.

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