Tim Tebow shares his thoughts with SDS on SEC Playoff outlook, Baker Mayfield, Benny Snell ejection and more
By 8:45 a.m. CT on Sunday morning, Tim Tebow had already eaten one whole avocado.
Let me rephrase that. By 8:45 a.m. CT on Sunday morning, Tebow had already eaten one of the 3-4 avocados he was planning on eating that day.
But I didn’t talk with the Heisman Trophy winner and current ESPN/SEC Network analyst to learn about his millennial habits, nor did I have any interest in asking him questions his minor league baseball career. Tebow, who joined me on The Saturday Down South Podcast on behalf of the the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, had plenty of football-related things to talk about.
How does he feel about Alabama’s title chances? What’s Georgia’s key to victory? How about that Baker Mayfield? And what about the Benny Snell ejection that got him so fired up on ESPN’s airwaves?
On Sunday, I learned how Tebow felt about avocados and those other, more important issues.
Can Alabama win it all?
If you recall, Tebow said earlier in the month that “Alabama would beat the brakes off Wisconsin.” That was his argument for why the Tide deserved the last spot in the College Football Playoff. Now that the dust settled on that argument, I asked Tebow another question.
Can Alabama win it all?
“Well I think they have a chance to be the top team,” Tebow said of Alabama. “I think they’ve gotta execute, but I think they’ve got the talent and the coaching and the ability to win it all. I don’t think there’s really any question about that.”
“But I also think all four of these teams do,” Tebow said. “There’s not a huge discrepancy in talent or ability with these teams’ size, strength or speed. I think in years past, there was a huge difference, right? Last year, when Alabama faced Washington, it wasn’t close. Alabama was bigger, stronger and faster. But this year, it’s a little bit different.
“Clemson is going to be able to match Alabama athlete for athlete. It’s gonna come down to scheme, it’s gonna come down to execution, it’s gonna come down to which teams’ best players are going to be able to affect the game.”
Tebow was more of the impression that the Iron Bowl was “the perfect storm” for an Alabama loss, and that the game didn’t necessarily reveal bigger issues with the Tide. After all, Alabama still has Calvin Ridley, who Tebow said will be the most explosive offensive player on the field in the Sugar Bowl.
Tim Tebow on Alabama QB Jalen Hurts
But Tebow did add that Alabama can’t expect to beat Clemson by running it up the gut at Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence. Getting Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough rushing on the edges makes more sense for Alabama’s offense. Getting Jalen Hurts involved with designed runs and high-percentage throws, Tebow added, would be ideal after he “lost confidence in the second half” against Auburn.
Oh, and for all the people doubting the sophomore signal-caller heading into the Playoff, Tebow provided a little reminder.
“He’s, like, 24-2 as a starter,” Tebow said of Hurts. “The kid knows how to play football.”
What’s the key for Georgia against Oklahoma?
There’s one big question ahead of the Rose Bowl. Well, it’s at least my biggest question.
Can Oklahoma really stop Georgia’s three-headed rushing attack of Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and D’Andre Swift?
At the very least, Tebow isn’t banking on Jake Fromm to lead the attack. Once again, the Georgia backfield will be tasked with doing the heavy lifting.
“I think they’ve gotta take over,” Tebow said of Georgia’s backfield. “I think they’ve gotta control the ball, they’ve gotta control time of possession, they’ve gotta control first downs. They’re one of the biggest keys to the game.”
That’s obviously one key. What’s the other big key to determine the Rose Bowl winner?
“Oof. Well, I think it’s about the number of plays,” Tebow said. “To start out, I think Georgia does if they play 70 or less plays. But if it gets up into the 80s or above, I think that’s where Oklahoma has a huge advantage and it’s a lot like Alabama and Clemson last year in the National Championship … that’s where Georgia’s offense has to do a good job of putting their defense in a good situation to stay off the field.”
Inevitably, the post-Rose Bowl narratives will follow in bunches. One of those narratives could be about Kirby Smart and whether the Alabama East comparison was legitimate or a bit premature.
I asked Tebow if he thought that Smart, who has the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class, was following down Saban’s path of success.
“Boy, I’ll tell you what. It looks like it,” Tebow said. “I mean, it doesn’t look like it’s gonna stop anytime soon. Three years in a row, they get the No. 1 quarterback (recruit), they’ve got the top recruiting class so far this year, got a lot of young players…obviously you’ve got a long ways to go to put (Smart) in Nick Saban’s class.
“But he’s got a great start.”
Tebow won’t be alone in that opinion if Georgia’s defense can contain Mayfield en route to a Rose Bowl victory.
Speaking of Mayfield …
Is Baker Mayfield misunderstood? And how great is he?
I was interested in getting Tebow’s take on one of the more polarizing players in recent memory. Tebow spent a little more time around the Oklahoma quarterback recently since he joined the Heisman Trophy fraternity.
Tebow said that Mayfield came across extremely humble with the past Heisman Trophy winners and that he was a very likable guy.
“I think personally, he’s way more low-key than he comes across on TV and a lot more humble than he comes across on TV,” Tebow said. “I just think that’s his way of trying to play to the best of his ability. It’s almost his personality when he steps on the field that he tries to step into.
“It’s his Superman, I guess. When he’s just hanging out, he’s more of his Clark Kent.”
Tim Tebow on Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield
Tebow gave Mayfield the ultimate superhero praise (except Batman, of course), but what about the ultimate college football praise? Does Tebow think that Mayfield is among the greatest players in college football history?
“Probably, yeah,” Tebow said. “I mean, you look at what he’s done … 3 years in the top 4 of the Heisman, obviously won it this year, he’s been able to take his team to two College Football Playoffs, he’s a competitor. I know a lot of people will make a lot about the antics, and obviously I didn’t like a lot of them, but this kid makes people around him better and that’s something that’s so special.”
Tebow’s got a point. And despite all the headlines from the crotch-grabbing/DUI/flag-planting incidents, Mayfield has a chance to move into the upper echelon of college football greats. A lot of Mayfield’s legacy, Tebow said, has yet to be determined.
It could take another week for that to happen.
Benny Snell’s ejection compared to Mark Richt’s non-ejection was ________ ?
When the Kentucky running back was ejected in the first half of the Music City Bowl for “making contact with an official,” the Twitterverse was buzzing. Fans of both teams blasted the officials for ejecting the first-team All-SEC tailback for simply refusing help up from a ref.
Tim Tebow on why Kentucky RB Benny Snell was ejected but Miami (FL) coach Mark Richt wasn't
Tebow didn’t take to Twitter to share his strong opinions on that matter. Instead, he had the ESPN halftime show to voice his disagreement with the call on the field. He didn’t back down from that stance.
“I just can’t stand it when refs put the game in their hands when they want to be the judge and the jury,” Tebow said. “Yes, you’re there to officiate the game and you’ve got to play within the rules, but something that totally changes the outcome, something that changes the outcome for these young kids’ lives for their universities, there’s so much stuff that’s at stake with all of these kids.”
Tebow was far from finished.
“Yeah, (Snell) didn’t need to put his hands on the ref, but the ref put his hands on the player first. I get that he was helping him up and it was a nice gesture, but you’ve gotta understand the emotions of football,” Tebow said. “Benny Snell just broke 5 tackles and then he got fell on by 4 other people and he probably wasn’t happy because he probably thought it was a late hit.
“The ref’s gotta understand a little bit at that moment that he’s extremely emotional. From my vantage point, it didn’t look like he was trying to harm the ref at all or push him or grab him or anything. He just didn’t want him to touch him. The way that Mark Richt touched the ref was a lot worse.”
Tebow was of course referencing the former Georgia and current Miami coach, who wasn’t ejected after he grabbed an official and pushed an assistant during the Orange Bowl.
— Trey Wallace (@TreyW_Radio) December 31, 2017
Needless to say, Tebow didn’t agree with that ruling, either.
“There’s no question that was a different standard,” Tebow said. “A coach can lose his cool completely and because he’s a coach, he’s got a different standard than a player. I just don’t think it’s right.”
RELATED: 10 worst ejections in sports history
Tebow is right about that. While the Richt and Snell debacles got him fired up, Tebow is different kind of fired up for the Playoff matchups. He said that this year’s matchups have him more excited than he’s ever been for the Playoff. It’s hard to argue with that.
As for a prediction, Tebow wasn’t willing to offer up any final scores just yet. He was saving those for SEC Network on Monday morning (he made sure to call it a #plug when I asked him that).
Tebow admitted he’s still not sure exactly how it’ll play out, but he offered one request for Monday’s Playoff action.
“Let’s hope that the players get to decide it on the field,” Tebow said. “That would be good.”