National college football

Tebow: Time will tell

Availability vs. LSU game-time decision

Associated Press / October 10, 2009

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Alligator will be served at tailgating parties across LSU’s campus and the noise in Death Valley will be deafening.

That much can be predicted with near certainty when No. 1 Florida visits the fourth-ranked Tigers tonight in a highly anticipated matchup of unbeaten teams.

As for what may happen inside the lines, there’s a lot more suspense.

It begins with whether former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow will have recovered well enough from his concussion at Kentucky two weeks ago to suit up. Florida coach Urban Meyer has said he doesn’t expect a decision on that until sometime shortly before kickoff.

The intrigue has built throughout the week. Tebow returned to practice Tuesday. He shared first-team snaps all week with John Brantley, who may have to make his first college start in what is arguably the most challenging game on the Gators’ schedule.

Two teams ranked this high haven’t met in Tiger Stadium since 1959, when No. 1 LSU hosted No. 3 Mississippi. Florida (4-0, 2-0), the leader in the SEC East, and LSU (5-0, 3-0), one of three undefeated teams in the West, will remain contenders to win their respective divisions regardless of tonight’s outcome.

“I think this is a preview of what you might see in the SEC [championship] game,’’ LSU running back Charles Scott said.

Meyer assured that Brantley will be ready if he gets the call.

“I have a lot of confidence in him, and it’s not false confidence,’’ Meyer said. “It’s confidence from what you see him do in practice . . . Johnny’s not going to go in there by himself. He’s got 10 other guys on offense.’’

LSU has won 32 straight Saturday night games at home, a streak that includes a 2007 triumph over Florida.

“We definitely want Tebow to play,’’ LSU tight end Richard Dickson said. “He’s a great player. He does great things for the sport. He’s an unbelievable competitor. It wouldn’t be Florida without him.’’

Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford will return from a sprained right shoulder and start for No. 19 Oklahoma today against Baylor. Bradford missed the Sooners’ last three games after spraining the AC joint in his throwing shoulder in a loss to Brigham Young. “Sam has had a great week of practice and is ready to play,’’ coach Bob Stoops said in a statement. “We’re obviously excited to have him back.’’ . . . No. 20 Mississippi hosts No. 3 Alabama today in the first meeting between the teams with both ranked in the top 20. A loss likely knocks the Rebels out of the SEC West race, the top 25, and contention for a BCS bowl. “If you have that competing spirit there is nothing like getting ready for a ballgame like this,’’ said Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt. “You try to approach each one like this, but we all know Alabama is a great football team.’’ Nutt is 5-8 against top-five teams, with wins in two of the last three games and three of the last five. Three of the losses have come by 4 points or fewer, including last year’s 24-20 defeat to then-No. 2 Alabama . . . No. 12 Iowa won ugly last week, beating an Arkansas State team it was favored to thump by three touchdowns by just 3 points. But the Hawkeyes, who play host to 4-1 Michigan tonight, are 5-0 under coach Kirk Ferentz for the first time. “I’m not too disappointed about what’s happened so far, and in fact I’m happy. Happy as you can be,’’ Ferentz said. “Probably the only people upset are people dumb enough to bet on games.’’