ATLANTA— This is the first time in NCAA history that the #1 and #2 teams are hooking up in a conference championship game. With Florida’s dynamic offense squaring off against Alabama’s consistent and stifling defense, this match-up has all the makings of a historic one. Further, this is only the seventh time in NCAA history that the #1 and #2 teams have been from the same conference and have matched up during the season. In the preceding 6 match-ups, the #1 team won 4 times. Here are the results:
Oct. 12, 1963 No. 2 Texas def. No. 1 Oklahoma 28-7
Dec. 6, 1969 No. 1 Texas def. No. 2 Arkansas 15-14
Nov. 25, 1971 No. 1 Nebraska def. No. 2 Oklahoma 35-31
Oct. 19, 1985 No. 1 Iowa def. No. 2 Michigan 12-10
Nov. 21, 1987 No. 2 Oklahoma def. No. 1 Nebraska 17-7
Nov. 18, 2006 No. 1 Ohio State def. No. 2 Michigan 42-39
For my money, I think Alabama’s got this one in the bag. You have to remember, these Florida Gators are the team that got upset by Ole Miss in the Swamp on September 27th. Granted, since that humiliating defeat, Florida has run roughshod over the remaining teams on their schedule, outscoring their last eight opponents by a whopping 414 – 97. But they nonetheless have shown in at least one game that they are capable of faltering. Alabama on the other hand has been a steady, dominant force.
Here are some of my reasons why I think the Crimson Tide will roll on Saturday:
Florida’s Urban Meyer is an extremely accomplished coach, having a 79 – 17 life-time record and being relatively fresh off of the 2006 NCAA Championship. But Alabama’s Nick Saban is a very shrewd adversary, who boasts a formidable 110-48-1 lifetime record, with 1 title in 2003 (while at LSU), 2 SEC Championships, and 4 SEC West Division Championships. Saban has a wealth of experience in big games and is an outstanding tactician, leader, and inspirer. He has restored a previously humbled Alabama to its former glory. I like Saban in this match-up of two first-rate coaches.
Florida’s Tim Tebow-led offense ranks third in the nation in points per game, averaging 46.3 points. But Alabama’s defense is stifling. They gave up the third fewest points per game in the nation (11.3). They also gave up the second fewest rushing yards this season (883 yards). Strong defense is a hallmark of a Nick Saban team, and this Alabama crew is no exception. I expect them to hold Florida’s offense in check. And Alabama is no slouch on offense – the Glen Coffee-led rushing attack will help them put some points on the board.
Alabama is extremely efficient and makes minimal mistakes. They rank 8thin fewest penalties (48) and fewest yards lost to penalties (488). Conversely, Florida has a tendency to be sloppy, as they rank 17th in total penalties (88) and yards lost to penalties (713). In a game I think will be close, this factor alone may tip the balance in Alabama’s favor.
Alabama brings unbelievable clout to the field. After all, this is a team that has won a record 12 national championships, 25 SEC championships, and has appeared in a record 55 bowl games (amassing a record 31 victories). In comparison, Florida boasts a meager 2 national championships (despite all the hoopla of being a football “dynasty” for the decade of the 1990’s).
I am not an Alabama fan by any means. But I cannot stand the Florida Gators. So therefore I plan to be glued to my television screen, rooting the Crimson Tide to victory in this historic match-up. This game is basically the semi-final for the national championship game and I think it is going to be an absolute blast to watch. For once in my life, I find myself screaming: Roll Tide!