A trip down memory lane, folks. Spurrier looks like a baby he's so much younger. Wearing a baseball cap. And, surprise of all surprises, a bad interception cost him this game. At least they're not Miami.
Later today, Alabama will take on Florida in what is perhaps the most anticipated SEC Championship Game ever. Most years this game features a clear cut favorite against a team that's managed to get in by the skin of their teeth. For instance, last year future national champion LSU took on a Tennessee team that had been blown out by Florida and Alabama and escaped with close victories against South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky. This year, though, things are different. With a spot in the BCS Title Game a near certainty for whichever team wins, the winner takes all today. If the rest of the SEC teams have been down this year, these two haven't, and this game will be SEC football at its best.
Although Alabama is the top-ranked team, Vegas favors Florida by a wide margin. The Gators have been on a tear lately, blowing out several solid teams like LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida State. Although subsequent events have proven that the SEC opponents may not really be all that great, the manner in which Florida has won--complete and utter domination--has been nothing short of stunning. The Gators have done it on both sides of the ball. Tim Tebow and his crew run an offense that is even more productive than 2007's vaunted group. The defense, which cost the Gators a couple of games in 07, has improved dramatically this year, playing fundamental ball and forcing turnovers that lead to easy scores for the high-powered offense.
Bama, on the other hand, has also been very impressive even if a little less flashy. The Tide have played in three close games this year--Kentucky, Ole Miss, and LSU--but have dominated all other opponents, including Clemson, UGA, and rival Auburn. The Tide feature the conference's best defense, a group that sports a powerful defensive front that stuffs the run and pressures the QB. While the Alabama offense isn't as prolific as Florida's, John Parker Wilson, Glen Coffee, and others move the ball efficiently and are capable of putting lots of points on the board. Perhaps just as importantly, they make few mistakes.
Despite what Vegas and some Gators partisans say, I expect a close game from start to finish tomorrow. The Gators have typically been able to pull away early against opponents by forcing debilitating turnovers, but nothing I've seen from Alabama this year would lead me to believe the Tide will let that happen. If they get it, Florida will have to earn this win. Moreover, while the Gators are capable of scoring against anyone, we've seen that the teams that have the most defensive success against Florida are teams like Ole Miss that can get in the backfield and keep Tebow from being able to get the ball to his runners in space. On the flip side, Florida's defense should be able to do well against Alabama. With a front headed by Brandon Spikes, the Gators are prepared to stop Bama's high-powered running attack.
To be honest, I'm really on the fence about this game and could see it going either way. These are evenly matched teams that stack up against each other well. If Florida has a little more speed and athleticism, Bama has more beef. If Alabama has more discipline, Florida has play makers that can kill you at any moment. If Florida has Tim Tebow, a Heisman winner with unreal stats, Alabama has John Parker Wilson, a disciplined QB who plays well with the game on the line. I'm going to say that this last point will determine the game. Late in the fourth, the Gators will have a small lead, and Wilson will lead the Tide down the field to take the lead. The Gators will get the ball back with time to set up a game-winning FG, but Tebow will throw a rare interception to lose the game. And the notion that Florida either wins big or loses will live on.