SEC Championship Game 2009: Can Tim Tebow and the Gators Win the Rematch?
Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators have completed the second undefeated regular season in the Gators history. The defending national champions are riding a 22 game winning streak into the SEC Title game.
The SEC Title game will be a repeat of last year’s epic battle versus Alabama. The roles are reversed this year though, as Florida comes into this game as the No. 1 team in the nation.
Unlike last year, however, Alabama is ranked No. 2, so we will get to see the top two teams play before the National Title game!
Alabama is going into this game coming off a tough win over rival Auburn. It was a game that was won on the final possession, but the impressive part was how methodical Alabama was at closing the game out. There was never any indication of panic, and they looked like they knew the game was theirs to take.
Florida, on the other hand, has not had a margin of victory less than ten points since the Arkansas game. The rivalry game against Florida State was not even close.
In FSU’s defense, starting quarterback Christian Ponder was out, but how much that would have mattered is debatable as the Seminoles could not stop Tim Tebow from contributing five touchdowns.
Surviving their state rivals was the last step before both teams to set up this epic matchup.
Florida is coming in a little banged up. In the month of November, key contributors linebacker A.J. Jones and running back Emmanual Moody are both listed as day to day. They are both officially listed as questionable for the SEC Title game.
Alabama on the other hand has a centerpiece of their offense listed as day to day in Mark Ingram. Ingram left the game against Auburn in what is believed to be a bruised hip. While listed as questionable, he is expected to play. The only other day to day injury situation for the Tide is back-up running back Terry Grant.
Overall, Florida has ten players listed in their injury report, and Alabama has five. Most have been out since earlier in the season and are out indefinitely.
Going with the assumption that Ingram does indeed play, this game is going to feature two of the top rushing offenses in the nation.
After 12 games Florida boasts the number six rushing offense in the nation in terms of yards per game. At 5.6 yards per carry clip, the Gators are putting up an impressive 236 yards a game on the ground. Florida put up 26 touchdowns on the ground this season.
Countering that rush offense is Alabama’s No. 2 ranked rushing defense. During the regular season, the Tide has only given up 77 yards a game on 2.6 yards a carry. The run defense only yielded five touchdowns all season.
Looking at Alabama’s rush offense you see a unit that is also very productive. With 212 yards a game on the ground, Alabama is ranked 13th in the nation. They run at a 5.1 yards per carry clip and have scored 24 touchdowns on the ground.
Going up against that Alabama rush offense is Florida’s eighth ranked rush defense. The Gators are only giving up only 89.9 yards a game—a 2.9 yards-a-carry pace. In total Florida has given up only three touchdowns on the ground.
Clearly the rush offense versus rush defense is going to be a huge part of this game. It is the strength of both teams' offense and will determine who is going to play for the national title. Both rush defenses rank in the top ten, so this is a key matchup to watch.
The Tide will run right at you with Ingram and Trent Richardson. The Gators front seven will need to contain those two to be successful, something that Auburn was able to do fairly well. Ingram was banged up and did not play most of the game, however.
For Florida, you will get more players thrown at you in the running game. The leading rusher in both attempts and yards for the Gators is quarterback Tim Tebow.
Everyone is well versed on Tebows running at this point, but even though you know it is coming, he is near impossible to stop on third and short.
Florida will run at you with two incredibly speedy back Jeffery Demps and Chris Rainey, both averaging over six yards a carry. If he is able to play, Moody will supply a nice change of pace back, as he is more of a power runner than a sprinter and has been productive when he plays with a seven yards per carry average.
The other match up to look at is the passing offenses versus the secondaries of the respective teams.
Florida comes into this game with the 64th ranked passing offense in the nation at 214 yards a game. The leading receivers for the Gators are Riley Cooper and Aaron Hernandez, who have combined for 12 of the 24 TD’s through the air for the Gators.
Other Gators to make an impact in the passing attack are Deonte Thompson, Brandon James, David Nelson, and Omarius Hines.
The Gators like to spread you out and try to create mismatches taking advantage of their speed, and you will see both of the running backs looking to make some catches as well.
While they like to throw the ball too—they run about 1.7 times more of than they throw. Tebow is an efficient thrower at 66 percent completion and a 17-4 touchdown-interception ratio.
Facing off against the Florida air attack is Alabama’s fifth ranked passing defense. On the year they are giving up 156.8 yards a game and have only yielded an impressive eight touchdowns through the air.
This is another reason I believe both teams will focus on the run. While both teams have a strong run defense, statistically their passing defenses are even more dominate.
The Alabama throwing attack comes in at 89th in the nation averaging only 194.5 yards a game through the air. They did manage to put the ball in the end-zone 16 times. They do feature a slightly more balanced offense than Florida, running the ball 1.5 more times than they have thrown it.
The passing attack for Alabama consists of star wide receiver Julio Jones, who has caught 40 passes for 545 yards this year and four touchdowns. Along with him Maruis Maze, Colin Peek, and Ingram have all had large contributions, with seven different Tide players catching a touchdown pass.
At quarterback, Alabama has Greg McElroy. Elrow is fairly accurate at 60 percent completion and has thrown 16 touchdowns to four interceptions.
Florida matches up against that passing attack with the number one pass defense in the nation. Giving up only 143.1 yards a game through the air, they have twenty interceptions resulting in six touchdowns. The Tide looks to struggle throwing the ball against this stout run defense.
Overall both teams come in with incredibly strong defenses. At one and three, respectively, Florida and Alabama have been dominating opponents more so with defense than offense.
This is especially the case for Alabama, who’s offense ranks 40th overall in the nation. Florida also relies on their strong defense, but has been more productive with the 12th total offense in the nation.
This is as big of a game as you can imagine. Last year’s title game was an epic battle, and this year’s looks like it could even surpass the hype for last year’s game. With the number one and two teams in the nation squaring off, the SEC Title game is going to have the feel of the National Title game.
Alabama has an incredible football team and will certainly not go down without a fight. They are going to play solid defense and run the ball right at Florida. On defense, they look to stop the running game and avoid big plays through the air but will try to make Tebow and the Gators beat them through the air.
Florida is looking to do the same thing—continue to effectively run the spread offense with option runs and shovel passes, mixing it up and getting all their playmakers touches with the ball. On defense the Gators will, like the Tide, try to make their opponent beat them through the air.
Beating either team through the air has been quite a challenge for anyone this year, so it will be an exciting game to see who’s powerful defense can stand up strong enough to send their team to the National Title game. Watching these two powerful run games go at two of the top rushing defenses will be a treat for fans of defensive football.
Florida and Tim Tebow look to take home three national titles in four years, and Alabama gets a shot to gain a measure of revenge on the defending National Champs. Alabama is also looking to take the SEC back from Florida, as they feel the SEC traditionally belongs to them.
It is always hard for a game to live up to the hype, especially in a huge game like this, but I think this game can more than live up to the hype. Start your countdown clock; these two SEC heavy weights are due for battle.
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