Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sports Extra

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sports Extra

Article excerpt

2 CENTS

It's a great year to be a Florida Gator.

Believe me, I'm no Gator fan. I grew up rooting for Florida State, but you can't deny that 2006 has been the year of the Gator.

First, Florida put together one of the most improbable runs in the history of March Madness. Remember all the talk about how Billy Donovan couldn't get past the opening weekend? You won't hear that again. Now, Donovan has a four-year pass on NCAA Tournament finishes, minimum.

In October, the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series, and former Gator David Eckstein was named MVP. In fact, it was hard to win at anything this year without a little Gator magic.

The Miami Heat had Udonis Haslem and Jason Williams. The Pittsburgh Steelers had starting right tackle Max Starks.

Emmitt Smith showed that the Gators couldn't even be beaten in reality-show dancing, winning Dancing with the Stars.

Now, the Florida football team inexplicably fought back to make the BCS national championship game. The Gators could be the first team in NCAA history to hold the football and basketball national championships at one time. Ohio State should be worried.

Then again, the championship game is still two weeks away and in 2007.

The Buckeyes can hope that by then, all this Gator magic has worn off.

HOWARD OFF THE MARK

Desmond Howard underscored his 1991 Heisman Trophy season for Michigan with a statute-like photo op after scoring a touchdown that year. Now Howard, an ESPN analyst, has a new pose: deer in the headlights.

Howard was among the talkers giving bowl-game breakdowns at halftime of Tuesday's Poinsettia Bowl and chose to wax poetic about the Holiday Bowl, wrote Los Angeles Times reporter Chris Foster.

"In the spirit of the holiday season, I want to see the Holiday Bowl, Cal versus Texas," Howard began.

He then touched on key matchups in detail, omitting only what Bevo, the Texas mascot, was grazing on for a pregame meal. …

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