Florida-Alabama: SEC Championship Rivalry Renewed?

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Florida-Alabama: SEC Championship Rivalry Renewed?

I can remember it like it was yesterday.

I was sitting in my parents' game room, screaming at the TV as Shane Matthews and Errict Rhett were handling the No. 2 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.

The shovel pass from Matthews to Rhett was igniting the offense from the Steve Spurrier led Florida Gators in the inaugural SEC Championship game, then played at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama.

Then it happened. Like all good things, the thought that the Gators could knock off the Tide came to an end. Shane Matthews threw an interception to Antonio Langham, of which he returned for a touchdown.

Game Over. Alabama won 28-21.

I instantly hated anything to do with Alabama.

Little did I know that my Gators would see them again in 1993, this time ranked ninth in the country against a well coached No. 16 Gene Stallings led Tide. It didn't work so well for Big Al this time as the Gators cruised to a 28-13 victory; the thought started to emerge that you can't fool Spurrier twice.

Probably one of my favorite games occurred in the 1994 SEC Championship game. The game was moved to Atlanta and played in the Georgia Dome. Florida, No. 6 in the nation, played a very tough third ranked Alabama team. 

Many people thought that this was going to be a revenge game; That Stallings was going to show Spurrier that this was Bama's SEC. The Gators won 24-23 and a true rivalry had begun.

The two teams didn't meet again until 1996. Florida, coming off of a tough loss the week before to Florida State, needed to get some momentum back. 

They took out No. 11 Alabama 45-30, and went on to rout Florida State 52-20 in the Sugar Bowl, winning their first National Title. 

In 1999, No. 5 Florida rolled into Atlanta looking to take care of No. 7 Alabama. This time, it didn't work out so well for Spurrier and the Gators. Alabama beat down Florida 34-7 in the championship game, and for the second time that year.

Since 1999, Florida has been to the SEC Championship game twice, while Alabama has not been at all.

The two teams have met up a couple of times in the past few years. In 2005, Urban Meyer took his spread offense into Tuscaloosa and got handed a 31-3 loss at the hands of a Mike Shula led Crimson Tide. 

One year later, Bama got to come to the Swamp on a day that the Gators enshrined Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerrfel, among others, into the University of Florida Football Ring of Honor. Florida won convincingly.

Will the hiring of Nick Saban and the revitalization of the Alabama program renew a rivalry that birthed the SEC Championship game?

The game on December 6th will surely let us know. Here's a game that features a hell of an offense against a hell of a defense. Each side also has strong special teams and both head coaches have won National Titles while coaching in the SEC.

No matter who wins, the SEC is all but assured of a presence in the BCS National Title Game for a third straight year. Meyer and Saban know that the road to Miami runs though Atlanta.  

Two great, proven coaches, two huge egos, and two great football teams: This might be enough to rekindle this storied SEC Championship Rivalry.

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