Tide Vs. Gators In SEC Title Game

It has been known for several weeks. Now it is time. Alabama and Florida, both 12-0 overall, both 8-0 in Southeastern Conference games, will move to the third of four challenges in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Saturday.

It will be the most anticipated SEC Championship Game since...well, last year.

Roles are reversed a tad. Last year, Alabama was ranked number one in the nation, Florida number two. This year the Gators are number one and the Crimson Tide second (maybe third; polls will be announced Sunday).

Kickoff Saturday will be at 4 p.m. EST (3 p.m. central time) with national television coverage by CBS.

Alabama and Florida clinched their SEC division championships weeks ago. This weekend the Tide and Gators won their state championships with wins over their home-state rivals. The stakes go up this week with the SEC championship and a shot at the national title on the line.

Last year Alabama had the lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Gators came from behind to win 31-20. From there, Florida went on to the national crown with a win over Oklahoma in the Bowl Championship Series title game. The winner of this year's game is expected to meet Texas for the national championship in the BCS Championship Game in Pasadena on January 7. (The Longhorns still have the formality of defeating Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship Game.)

Alabama and Florida rank among the nation's very best defensive teams, but this year's game will have as a game-within-a-game the battle for the Heisman Trophy with Florida senior quarterback Tim Tebow and Bama sophomore tailback Mark Ingram top contenders (along with Texas senior quarrterback Colt McCoy).

In their new uniforms, the Gators may look like the boys' chorus in a romantic comedy, but Florida can play. Florida has excellent athletes who are well-coached. Tebow is unique in SEC football, perhaps college football. He's a big, dangerous wildcat-type quarterback -- capable of clutch runs and a deadly accurate passer.

He's surrounded by fine receivers like split man Riley Cooper and tight end Aaron Hernandez, a lightning-quick tailback in Jeff Demps, and a veteran offensive line.

The defense is more than Brandon Spikes, although the senior linebacker has gotten most of the publicity, particularly since his despicable attempt to poke out the eyes of a Georgia player. The Gators returned all 11 defensive starters from last year's outstanding team.

This will be the seventh SEC Championship Game meeting between Alabama and Florida since the game was created beginning in the 1992 season. The Gators have won four of the previous six games. Alabama has never played another East Division team in the title game. Florida has played in nine previous games.

This is the first time both teams have come into the SEC Championship Game undefeated in conference games, much less both with 12-0 records.

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