Florida-Florida State rivalry still has implications

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida quarterback Tim Tebow ran down
a list of things the No. 12 Gators had to play for against Florida

-- Improve the team's bowl berth.

-- Move back into the top 10.

-- Create a recruiting advantage.

-- Enjoy bragging rights.

"That's a lot of motivation," Tebow said. "But I don't even
think we'll need that this week."

Although the storied rivalry may have slipped from the national
spotlight, the Gators (8-3) and Seminoles (7-4) don't need any
incentive to get up for their annual matchup.

Florida has an outside chance at a Bowl Championship Series
berth. Even if that doesn't happen, the Gators know a win
essentially would guarantee a New Year's Day bowl game.

Then there's Tebow's Heisman Trophy campaign. The sophomore has
20 rushing touchdowns, 26 passing touchdowns and has accounted for
more than 72 percent of the Florida's offense this season.

"There's not a guy in the locker room that feels he's not the
most dominant player in the country," teammate and defensive
tackle Clint McMillan said. "I can't think of another person who
can do the things he does, especially in the SEC. ... If I had a
vote, I would vote for him, and I know this whole team would do the
same thing."

FSU coach Bobby Bowden might join them, too.

"I'm just amazed at what he's done this early in his career,"
Bowden said. "He throws better than I thought and he runs better
than I thought, and he sure is mature for a sophomore."

Florida State must stop him Saturday if the Seminoles are to end
a three-game slide in the series.

Florida State hasn't lost four in a row to Florida since 1986.

"It would be a really big win," FSU quarterback Drew
Weatherford said. "It's something that nobody in my class has done
since they've been here, and it's definitely a goal we have.

"It would be big just for our confidence as a team and as a
program. And winning three out of our last four games would be huge
for us and would definitely send us into our bowl game and next
season with a lot of momentum."

The series used to have bigger implications.

It affected the national championship picture nearly every year
between 1990 and 2001. Although the Gators needed a win in 2006 to
stay in the title hunt, one of the two teams has been unranked
three of the last four years.

That's a significant slide considering both schools were ranked
in the top 10 for 11 consecutive meetings beginning in 1990.

"If we want it to gain or keep or retain the image it's had the
last 20 years, we both better start getting up to the top, and
that's mainly us," Bowden said. "We need to get back up there."

The climb would be a whole lot easier with a win Saturday.

"It would be a mighty big win if you could get this one,"
Bowden said. "There's no doubt about it. ... It's the last game of
the year, and if you could beat the University of Florida, you'd
nearly think you were back."