Gators finding other ways to win

September, 21, 2008
9/21/08
3:18
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Four weeks into the season, we've been reminded several times now that special teams can win you games and can also lose you games. At Florida, special teams might as well be a science, particularly in the punt block and return games. At Tennessee, special teams might as well be a touchdown waiting to happen for the other team. Here's a look at what else we learned about the SEC in Week 4:

Florida not a two-man show: Who says the Gators can't win a key SEC game without Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin having big games? Tebow, in fact, has really yet to go off all season and is still looking for his first rushing touchdown. He had just 122 yards of total offense in the 30-6 win over Tennessee, and Harvin was limited to 80 total yards. Still, the Gators cruised to an easy win thanks to their defense and special teams. It's a telltale sign that this is a more complete football team. And let's be honest, Tebow's going to be there when the Gators need him. Even though it wasn't his best day against the Vols, he was 6-of-8 for 95 yards and two touchdowns on third down.

Playing to win: Yes, he wears his hat right on top of his head and says some goofy things sometimes. But LSU coach Les Miles coaches the way we all should live -- in his hopes and not in his fears. The guy is absolutely fearless, whether it's going for it on fourth down or throwing into the end zone with just seconds left. Talk about coaching and playing to win. Miles coaches as if losing's not even an option. Of course, after last season, should we be surprised? In LSU's 26-21 win over Auburn on Saturday, the Tigers kicked onside, threw a halfback pass for a touchdown and went for the touchdown late even though they only needed a field goal.

Vanderbilt catching up: One of the best stories in college football this season is Vanderbilt and the Commodores' 4-0 start. They went to 2-0 in the conference Saturday with a 23-17 win on the road at Ole Miss. This is a team that gains more confidence by the week, and a big part of that is how well prepared and how disciplined the Commodores are. Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson has received his well-deserved props, but his staff also deserves credit. Athletically, the Commodores don't look as far off as they once did in this conference. John Sisk, Vanderbilt's speed, strength and conditioning director, has done a terrific job. The relationship between Sisk and Johnson dates to 1994 when Sisk was a Furman strength assistant in Johnson's first year as coach.

Tennessee misses David Cutcliffe: The numbers say it and so does Tennessee's performance. Phillip Fulmer with David Cutcliffe as his offensive coordinator is 81-19 with two SEC championships. Fulmer without Cutcliffe is 63-28 with no SEC championships. You expected some growing pains offensively for the Vols this season with the combination of a new coordinator (Dave Clawson) and a new quarterback (Jonathan Crompton). And to be fair, it's ludicrous to evaluate Clawson after only three games. Still, the Vols miss Cutcliffe's practice field discipline, as evidenced by all the mistakes and penalties that have plagued them in their 1-2 start

Alabama is stout up front: We're only four weeks into the season, but no team in the league has been as consistently physical on both lines of scrimmage than Alabama, which flattened Arkansas, 49-14, on Saturday. The offensive line was supposed to be a strength with the likes of senior center Antoine Caldwell and junior left tackle Andre Smith. But the defensive line has been equally imposing thanks to junior nose tackle Terrence Cody. The 360-pound junior college transfer has been the SEC's impact newcomer of the year to this point. You simply can't run at him, and he's a one-man wrecker of the pocket when opposing teams are trying to throw. Alabama heads to Georgia next Saturday having rushed for 947 yards this season while holding its opponents to 220 yards on the ground. That's what you call playing winning football.

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