for the SEC Championship. Again. It doesn’t get much better than this. The top two teams in the nation playing for the conference title. Why can’t we just have them play best of three for the national title? There are those that obviously feel strongly either way about who will come out on top in this one and play Texas
for the big trophy in about a month. I know how I’d like it to turn out, but I’m not a psychic. All I can offer are my 10 things:
1. Predicting the winner.
Anyone that says “the Gators don’t stand a chance!”
or “Bama will lose by at least three scores!”
is an idiot. Good-natured trash talk is always fun. Sounding like an ignorant asshat while pounding your chest is another. You don’t know how this one will turn out any better than the next guy. All you know is that at this exact moment Florida is favored. But that really doesn’t mean a damn thing. Two undefeated teams are facing off and it really could go either way. For my prediction, I’m throwing my hands in the air and saying “who the hell knows!”
Or, as One Eyed Willy
suggested to me, I’ll let my XBOX play it out on its own tonight and see who comes out victorious and go with them. Last year, the Gators were 10-point favorites. They won by 11. So maybe there’s something there, but this is a new game and you can’t take the 5.5 points Florida is giving to the bank. Well you can, but that bank’s name is Las Vegas and in most cases they keep your money.
2. Senior day, redux. So it’s not senior day on Saturday, but it might as well be. For the seniors, this is SEC Championship Game appearance number three in four years. Most of us Gator fans choose to forget everything about the 2007 season with the exception of Tim Tebow’s Heisman Trophy, so we don’t like to take that one into account anyway. These seniors have experienced something special. Yes there was the four-year conference title streak in the 90s, but there was only one national championship with those four. These three appearances have already produced two national titles and the jury is still out on the third. Basically, it’s great to be a Florida senior.
3. Random Omarius Hines fact. There’s probably a pretty good chance we won’t see Hines lined up on offense in this game. There’s probably a pretty good chance we won’t see Hines lined up on offense again until the 2010 season. If that’s the case Hinesy, know that you’ve impressed us and we’re thrilled to be able to be witness to your future as a Gator.
4. 49-3. That’s the combined record of these two schools since the start of the 2008 season. 25-1 for Florida. 24-2 for Alabama. Those are video game numbers. Ones it doesn’t look like either team will stray too far from in 2010 either. It equates to a win percentage of 0.942 over that time. Texas rivals that with a 24-1 record, but adding in Nebraska puts the Big 12 Championship Game participant’s combined record at 42-8. That’s only 0.840. The Gators and Tide are two very big reasons why many think the SEC is the nation’s premier conference. And why they may be right.
5. Alabama has only ever faced Florida in the SEC Championship Game. This is probably not important at all because of that whole “this is a new game” thing I mentioned earlier. But it’s interesting to note this will be the seventh time the Crimson Tide have played for the conference title and the seventh time they have done so against the Gators. Florida is 7-2 in the SEC Championship Game and 4-2 when playing Alabama. This will mark the 10-year anniversary since the Tide won their last conference championship. I’m sure they’ll want to end that drought and there’s probably no other team they’d rather take down in the process. The Tide also have a chance to become only the third program with at least three titles since the championship game format was introduced. The Gators will try to add to their comfortable lead when it comes to title game victories.
6. 0 rushes, 0 yards, 0 catches, 0 yards, 0 touchdowns. For all that’s been said about the effect of Percy Harvin’s absence on the offense, that’s the stat line he put up in the last year’s SEC Championship Game. Harvin didn’t play a single down against Alabama in 2008 and Florida still came away with a 31-20 win. That’s not to say we all wouldn’t love to have him on the field this time around, it’s just to put everything into perspective. The offense may not be as flashy. There might not be as much excitement. But the Gators still know how to win. So much so that they’re one game better than they were heading into last season’s conference title game. There’s no denying the impact Harvin could have on the 2009 offense, but there’s no better position Florida could be in right now then where they are. Number one and 12-0. Here are the Gators that scored touchdowns in last season’s game: Carl Moore, David Nelson, Jeff Demps, Riley Cooper. You won’t find Harvin or Louis Murphy on that list.
7. Keeping Mark Ingram out of the end zone. The Alabama running back and Heisman hopeful has only been kept from scoring in three games this season. It just so happens those three are also the only three the Crimson Tide won by less than 10 points. Keeping him out of the end zone is of the utmost importance. Ingram may still gets his yards (and if he doesn’t, Trent Richardson could pile up a few), but the Gators need to stop him from gaining that final yard on the way to pay dirt. It’s no coincidence those three games were also three of quarterback Greg McElroy’s five highest passing attempts outings of the season. Force the Tide to throw and the Gators stand a better chance. Of course the other side of that coin could be said as well. Eliminate Florida’s run game, and Alabama could gain the advantage.
Tony LaRussa Carlos Dunlap. Let’s try to put a positive spin on this, shall we? First of all, damn you Carlos Dunlap!!! Okay, that’s out of our system. Dunlap is talent. There’s no denying that. We’re looking at a kid that will be taken in the first half of the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft. He could even push himself into the top five. But like any athlete, he does have some parts of his game that are stronger than others. Although I wouldn’t necessarily call it a weakness, defending the run isn’t Dunlap’s best quality. A few of the other defensive linemen may actually be better suited to matchup against a team like Alabama. Then again, this is one of the most feared defensive ends in the nation we’re talking about. Of course, last season Dunlap totaled one solo tackle and two assists against Alabama. That’s it. Not to say he didn’t do his part occupying offensive linemen, but he was far from the defensive MVP of that game. You’d like every player available for every game, but go back and read point number six. You do what you need to do to get by when one of your stars is unavailable.
9. Play up to the excitement. A lot of people will say “treat this like any other game.” I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that. It’s not any other game so why pretend it is? The fact of the matter is Florida is going up against an undefeated Alabama team. Why act like that’s not true? The Gators shouldn’t be scared. After all, they’re undefeated too. But they should recognize what this game means. It’s an SEC title. It’s a shot at the national championship. It’s not just the next game on the schedule. The stakes have been raised. Act accordingly. Get excited and up your game. 12-1 with a loss to one of the top teams in the nation is nothing to throw out, but how much better is 13-0 and another conference championship? That’s what you’re playing for.
10. Stay undefeated. I’ve been alive for six one-loss Florida seasons. I’ve watched two 12-win teams and two 13-win teams. This team has a chance to be the first 14-win team in school history and the first undefeated, untied squad as well (if the records I found are correct, the 1911 team went 5-0-1). And don’t bring up that crap about not losing a single game in 1943. If you have no team, of course you can’t lose. Getting to 14-0 won’t be easy. Getting to 13-0 is a hard enough battle. But both are within reach. This team can make school history.