The SEC Championship Game: No. 1 Florida Gators vs. No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide

Jay Holgate@@CollegeScoutATLContributor IIIDecember 2, 2009

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 06:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide congratulates head coach Urban Meyer of the Florida Gators after the Gators 31-20 win in the SEC Championship on December 6, 2008 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

ATLANTA, GA —Last week, I predicted an upset weekend for Thanksgiving.  South Carolina and Georgia knocked off the two best teams in the ACC, Miss. State stuck it to the Ole Miss Rebels, and Kentucky and Arkansas were a field goal away from celebrating upsets.

This past week was clearly full of upsets.

Now we are down to the rematch that everyone wanted: No. 1 Florida vs. No.  2 Alabama, Meyer vs. Saban, and Tebow vs. Ingram.  Two undefeated SEC teams playing for what could be the national championship on a neutral field with a 50/50 ticket split for the fans.  One play could determine the outcome of this game; it doesn’t get any better than this. 

Last week, Florida handed their in-state rival Florida State a huge defeat and may have tipped the scales on the decision for moving Bobby Bowden closer to retirement. 

Either way, the Gators ran over the Seminoles and definitely looked like the championship team we came to know last year.  Perfect timing for a peak performance against the SEC West champion Alabama Crimson Tide.

Alabama became focused after Auburn put up two big scores.  The Tide finally closed the deal, but it went deep in the fourth quarter before any fan could breath.  Regardless, Bama won, stayed undefeated, and lived another day to play one of the greatest Florida football teams in history.

Everything points to another Florida victory on Saturday.  Tim Tebow is playing his last SEC game, and he doesn’t lose when he sets his mind on winning; i.e. “The Promise.”

The Gators have momentum that carried over from last season’s BCS championship and they are healthy and playing at a top level again.  Coach Meyer has been preparing for this game since last spring and the man is a football genius.

But not so fast.  Coach Saban has replayed the second half of last year’s SEC championship 1,000 times in his head.  After the 10th time, he figured out how to win it by a field goal.  Alabama is tough, battle tested, and undefeated.  They are also feeling disrespected, which always plays in Saban’s favor. 

How This SEC Championship Game Will Play Out

Alabama Offense vs. Florida Defense

Alabama will try to control the clock with a dominant ground game, short passes, and a clock that continues running.  The more the clock runs, the more Meyer feels constricted. 

Saban wants to grind it out. Bama will try to keep Tim Tebow and company off the field as long as they can, because they know he is the heartbeat of this team.  A low scoring game favors Alabama.

The Florida defense will stack the box and challenge McElroy to throw the ball because they believe their corners can play man to man all day long with Bama.  Florida is looking for some interceptions to capture the momentum and swing the game their direction.

Florida Offense vs. Alabama Defense

Florida will spread the ball out and give Bama another taste of the 2008 Sugar Bowl.  Look for some trick plays, misdirections, and opportunities for Tim Tebow to shine. 

Meyer always goes for the biggest playmakers in the big games. Tebow, Cooper, Hernandez, James, Demps, and Rainey will see all the action on Saturday.  Meyer lives off adrenaline rushes with his team making the big plays. An early score by Florida would tip the scales to the Gators.

Saban will be committed to stopping Tebow first and foremost.  The only way to kill a snake is to cut his head off. Everything starts with Tebow in this offense, and Alabama will blitz someone on Tebow on every play. 

Coach Saban will not let Florida win this game on Tebow’s back.  He will force someone else to win it.  I believe the Alabama defense will figure out a way to give Tebow plenty of trouble, which would this game wide open. 

Who Wins?  

Florida is the obvious choice.  The Gators are defending their turf, but Alabama feels disrespected and is hungrier. This game could come down to two plays, and only God knows when they will happen.  This game is truly a coin toss.  I believe Alabama pulls the upset 24-21.

What Tipped the Scales?

The arrest of defensive end Carlos Dunlap was shocking.  One of the leaders of the Florida Gators was out late drinking the week of the SEC Championship game? 

Dunlap was the MVP of the 2008 SEC Championship game; I’ve never seen a winner celebrate until after the fight.  A leader’s actions are always clues to the bigger picture.  What is the mindset of this Florida team the week of the big game?  Distractions kill focus and I guarantee you Alabama is getting ready for a ferocious battle.

Until next time, I will see you on the ball field.

Original Article Published on SEC Sports Report.

Jay Holgate is a sports analyst, freelance writer, and life coach based in Atlanta, Georgia.  Jay can be heard on sports radio around the South.


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