GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Urban Meyer’s final game as Florida’s head coach will be the Outback Bowl in Tampa on New Year’s Day.
Meyer will face legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno – major college football’s all-time winningest coach – for the first time.
A victory in his 80th and final game at UF – and against Paterno – would likely rank high on Meyer’s personal list of his biggest wins with the Gators.
In the wake of Wednesday’s announcement that Meyer is resigning effective immediately following the Outback Bowl, let’s take a look at Meyer’s most important wins at Florida:
1. FLORIDA 41, OHIO STATE 14 (Jan. 8, 2007)
In only Meyer’s second season in Gainesville, the Gators moved up to No. 2 in the polls after a 6-0 start. A midseason loss at Auburn appeared to derail Florida’s national title hopes, but the Gators responded by winning their final seven games, including a thumping of the Buckeyes and Heisman-winning quarterback Troy Smith in the BCS Championship Game in Glendale, Ariz. The win gave Florida its first national title since 1996.
2. FLORIDA 24, OKLAHOMA 14 (Jan. 8, 2009)
The Gators rebounded from a late-September loss at home to Ole Miss – the game that prompted Tim Tebow’s now-famous postgame pledge -- to win nine consecutive games heading into the title game against Oklahoma’s high-powered offense. Consecutive win No. 10 was no problem as Tebow and Co. provided Meyer with his second national title in four years, crowning him in some eyes as the college football’s finest coach.
3. FLORIDA 31, ALABAMA 20 (Dec. 6, 2008)
In a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in the SEC Championship Game, the second-ranked Gators knocked off the top-ranked Tide to earn a berth in the BCS title game against Oklahoma. Trailing 20-17 entering the final quarter, the Gators scored twice in the fourth quarter thanks to a 1-yard run by Jeff Demps and Tebow’s 5-yard pass to Riley Cooper. The win was Florida’s seventh SEC Championship Game victory since the game’s inception in 1992.
4. FLORIDA 38, ARKANSAS 28 (Dec. 2, 2006)
The Gators claimed their first SEC Championship in six years and earned a spot in the BCS Championship against Ohio State. Gators freshman Percy Harvin was electric, rushing for 105 yards and catching five passes for 62 yards to win MVP honors as Meyer quickly re-established Florida at the top of the SEC.
5. FLORIDA 17, SOUTH CAROLINA 16 (Nov. 11, 2006)
Needing a win to keep their SEC East title hopes, Florida edged the Gamecocks and former Gators coach Steve Spurrier in his return to The Swamp. South Carolina defeated the Gators the previous season in the first meeting between Meyer and Spurrier, but Jarvis Moss jumped as high as he could to block a 48-yard field goal as time expired to save Florida’s championship season.
6. FLORIDA 16, TENNESSEE 7 (Sept. 17, 2005)
This game between two teams ranked in the top 10 wasn’t particularly exciting, but it set a tone that became a dominant theme during Meyer’s six seasons. Tennessee had beaten Florida in back-to-back seasons before Meyer’s arrival, and he knew that to build a strong program, you have to beat your traditional rivals. Florida’s win over the fifth-ranked Vols was the first of six in a row over Tennessee for Meyer. He finished 5-1 against Georgia and 5-1 against Florida State to dominate the Gators’ three rivals during his tenure.
7. FLORIDA 34, FLORIDA STATE 7 (Nov. 26, 2005)
In his first game against the Seminoles, Meyer won the first of five consecutive games against FSU coach Bobby Bowden. In five career meetings with Bowden, the closest game was UF’s 21-14 win in 2006 in Tallahassee. Meyer’s 2005 win against FSU capped the Gators’ first undefeated season at home in nine years and marked the first time UF defeated Tennessee, Georgia and FSU in the same season since 1996. The Gators forced four turnovers to send FSU to its third consecutive loss.
8. FLORIDA 23, LSU 10 (Oct. 7, 2006)
This game featured the first jump-pass from Tebow, a touchdown throw to tight end Tate Casey that became a trademark of the Gators’ offense over the next three seasons. The Gators’ win over No. 5 LSU was their sixth consecutive to start the season, marking Florida’s first 6-0 start since 1996. Florida’s defense played huge, intercepting LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell three times. Russell went on to become the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft a few months later.
9. FLORIDA 34, GEORGIA 31 (Oct. 30, 2010)
The Gators entered the game with a three-game losing streak, the first of Meyer’s career. They needed a win in the worse way, and kicker Chas Henry delivered in overtime, booting a 37-yard field goal. The starting punter, Henry was filling in for regular kicker Caleb Sturgis, who missed the second half of the season to a back injury. The win gave Meyer a 5-1 record against Georgia and afterward, an emotional Meyer called the victory arguably the biggest win of his career.
10. FLORIDA 51, CINCINNATI 24 (Jan. 1, 2010)
Coming off a loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game that cost Meyer a shot at his third national title in four years, the Gators stormed back in convincing fashion with one of the finest offensive performances of Meyer’s tenure. In his final game at Florida, 2007 Heisman-winner Tebow completed 31 of 35 passes for a Sugar Bowl-record 482 yards and three touchdowns. The Gators racked up 659 yards of total offense in a dominating performance against a Bearcats team that entered the game 12-0 and ranked fourth in the country.
What was your favorite Gators win under Meyer?