The 12-1 Florida team that will play Oklahoma for the BCS title next week is significantly faster than the championship Gators of two years ago, say some of the South Carolina players who faced both teams.
WR Kenny McKinley believes the current Gators would beat the '06 team that routed Ohio State 41-14 for the title.
"This Florida team is a lot better than that team, honestly," McKinley said. "They've got a lot of speed. Their quarterback starter Chris Leak was pretty good then, but Tim Tebow is a monster. Their defense, to me, is a lot better now."
LB Eric Norwood said, "It's kind of crazy, but this Florida team is a lot faster" than the '06 Gators. "I don't how much faster you can get."
C Garrett Anderson agreed and added, "They're a bigger team and they're very knowledgeable about what they do. They don't mess up a lot.
"You watch most teams on film and try to scheme against their defense, and you'll see a play where something went wrong, like two guys ran into each other. You watch Florida, they don't do that."
It's easy to see why the Gamecock players favor the 2008 Gators. They nearly beat the 2006 team, falling 17-16 at The Swamp after having two field goals and an extra point blocked. This year in Gainesville, Florida thrashed Carolina 56-6.
OT Justin Sorensen shakes his head when he considers Florida's speed. "What do they have, eight guys that run the 40 in 4.3?" he said. "They have tons of team speed."
Said McKinley, "This Florida team, they swarm to the ball, they're fast and they have a great offense. With all those keys, I can't see anybody beating them."
There's no question Iowa players feel much better about this season than last season, considering the Hawkeyes were home for the holidays in 2007 instead of playing in a bowl game. But how much better?
Well, according to DL Mitch King, that won't be determined until the final horn sounds in Thursday's Outback Bowl against South Carolina.
"You ask me that after the game and I'll see what it is," King said. "Right now, we're feeling good. But we can't let that overcome us. We can't downplay this game, and we can't overlook South Carolina, especially with the talent that they have.
"If we win this game, it's going to be just the cherry on the pie because we've had a good year, that's no doubt. But if we lose this game, it doesn't matter. That's going to let us leave this stadium and leave this team with a sour patch on our shoulder. We've got to finish strong."
As of Monday morning, Outback Bowl president and CEO Jim McVay said roughly 55,000 tickets had been sold to the New Year's Day game, leaving approximately 8,000 seats remaining at Raymond James Stadium.
Though the Outback Bowl hasn't been sold out yet, the event already can be chalked up as a success from a bowl organizers' standpoint, McVay said.
"It's a little bit of tricky times dealing today with the economy," McVay said. "The most important thing for us is to make budget, and we've done that.