WHEN HE arrived in Gainesville in early 2005, Florida coach Urban Meyer vowed to assemble "the fastest team in America." Four years later his offense—which led the SEC in scoring (45.2 points a game) and total offense (442.4 yards)—is, in fact, built on world-class speed. A dozen Gators (seven on offense) have clocked 4.4 seconds or less in the 40, and of Florida's school-record 79 TDs this season 47 were scored by one of those speedsters. When the Gators are on the move, players fly down the field like cars on the autobahn. "When I watched video of them, at first I thought it was in fast-forward," Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran said before Florida ran circles around the Bulldogs in a 49--10 victory on Nov. 1.
"I was blown away by their speed and athleticism," says Mississippi defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix, whose team handed the Gators their lone defeat of the year, a 31--30 setback on Sept. 27. "You can't stop them. You can only slow them down."
Here are the keys to putting the brakes on the Florida attack:
TAKE AWAY THE RUNNING GAME
The biggest misconception about the Gators is that their offense is modeled after the pass-happy teams of the Steve Spurrier era. "Everything they do is based on their running game," says Nix, whose unit blitzed on nearly every down and held quarterback Tim Tebow to a season-low seven yards on 15 carries. Meyer, however, uses the speed to create mismatches on the ground. Since the loss to the Rebels, Florida, led by the freshman tandem of Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, has rushed for 263.6 yards a game (fifth in the nation over that span) and 6.6 yards per carry (first). The Flash 'n' Dash, with its steady diet of end arounds and jet sweeps, thrives on misdirection. "You can't afford to overpursue," says Vanderbilt defensive coordinator Bruce Fowler, "because if one guy isn't somewhere he's supposed to be, it's going to take about two seconds for them to find the end zone. You have to minimize the explosive plays." Easier said than done. This season the Gators had 16 runs of 30 yards or longer.
DON'T BE FOOLED BY THE WINDOW DRESSING
In Demps, Rainey and wideout Percy Harvin, Meyer has speedsters who catch the ball as well as they run with it, and he aligns them in a multitude of formations. The goal: to isolate his playmakers and get them to open space in the middle of the field. The Sooners can't become mesmerized by all the Gators' configurations ( CBS analyst Gary Danielson calls it "window dressing"), and they must be physical. Oklahoma middle linebacker Austin Box and All-America defensive tackle Gerald McCoy will have to play big inside.
KEEP TEBOW GUESSING
What makes the Gators so tough to defend is that even in an empty backfield set, they can run the ball with Tebow—a fullback playing quarterback—taking a shotgun snap. He runs the zone-read option masterfully, so the Sooners' challenge is to create presnap confusion by disguising how many players they plan to keep in the box. Oklahoma must recognize quarterback draws and force Tebow to throw. "You do everything you can to make Tebow uncomfortable, because the offense runs through him," says Nix. "Make them earn every yard. After that, all you can do is hope for the best."