They Know Who's Next

He came to Alabama to play for championships, but senior quarterback Brodie Croyle doesn't remember playing in a game as big as the Tide's upcoming contest with Florida will be on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

Rivalry games aside, a win for Alabama against the Gators Saturday would be the Tide's biggest since at least 1999, when Bama beat Florida at the swamp to rebound from a loss against Louisiana Tech and jump start an SEC Championship run.

Alabama had a chance to nip top-ranked Oklahoma in 2003, but the Tide was in NCAA prison, crippled by their draconian penalties and unable to play in the post season regarless of finish.

"It's the biggest game we've had in a couple of years," Croyle said. "We really haven't had a big win at Bryant-Denny. I was trying to think about it last night. We really haven't had one since I've been here."

The Gators are ranked fifth in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches' poll, and will bring national championship expectations to Tuscaloosa under the untarnished Urban Meyer.

"It can really kind of put us in the driver's seat in the SEC if we can get this win," Croyle said. "We know they're going to come up here and play the best football we've seen all year by far, so it is THE game."

Meyer and Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula are a study in contrasts in many ways, but Florida and Alabama are both teams that once expected to be at the top of their division every at the very least; the winner on Saturday will have a huge head start over their division opponents.

"Whoever loses this game could still find a way to-we're in the west, they're in the east, we can still win our respective divisions and make it to the SEC championship," Croyle said, "but for the shear competitive nature, the importance for our football team to stay undefeated to try and get done what we want to get done, I don't think you can blow it out of proportion. It's a big game. We need to win it and we fully expect to win it."

The SEC standings tote board is one of several reasons the eyes of the college football nation will be on Tuscaloosa Saturday. There's also the contrast of Meyer's gimmick offense against Shula's pro style attack.

"They run a lot of the stuff Coach Fran ran with the running game and reading the end," Croyle said. "I don't think it's that similar. A couple of the runs are kind of similar to what we did (under Franchione). In the passing game it's night and day from Coach Fran's offense and Florida's offense."

And there's a national media lovefest for Meyer, a mutually beneficial relationship that will either cool or soar to new heights.

"We're worried about putting points on the board and winning games. We can't get into all that. He's been winning games the past couple of years and we haven't," Croyle said. "But it's amazing if you win a couple of games how everybody all of a sudden wants to jump on your bandwagon. I think everybody's definitely on his (Meyer's) right now and we're trying to get some more on ours. This game's going to be a big deciding factor in that."

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