No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Alabama to battle for SEC title

By Staff
Scot Beard
ATLANTA – Both Alabama and Florida have rich football traditions with multiple Southeastern Conference titles and national championships.
One of these two teams will build on that today as they meet in the SEC Championship Game for the second straight year and the seventh time since the game began in 1992.
The winner will earn a berth in the Bowl Championship Series title game.
These teams met under similar circumstances last year, with Florida prevailing 31-20 thanks to a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns by the Gators. Alabama coach Nick Saban said his players remember that now infamous fourth quarter.
"Being able to finish in the fourth quarter, I think, is an important part of being a great football team," Saban said. "That's why Florida had the success and won the championship, because they were able to do it, and it's going to be important for us to be able to do it if we're going to have a chance to do that."
Unlike last year, both teams enter today's game undefeated. Both teams have won their respective divisions thanks to good offense performances, strong special-teams play and great defenses.
Florida is first in the nation in scoring defense (9.83 points allowed), total defense (233.08 yards) and passing defense (143.17 yards). The Gators are also eighth in rushing defense (89.92 yards).
Alabama's defense has some impressive numbers as well. The Crimson Tide is second in the nation in scoring defense (10.83) and rushing defense (77.08), third in total defense (233.92) and fifth in passing defense (156.83) and turnover margin (+15).
The Crimson Tide defense will have to play strong as Tim Tebow, who many consider one of the greatest college football players ever, leads the Gator offense.
Tebow has thrown 17 touchdown passes and rushed for another 13 scores. He leads the SEC in passing efficiency with a rating of 160.7, thanks to only four interceptions thrown this season.
Saban said it is difficult to get his defense ready to face a player like Tebow.
"It's a very difficult preparation because of the style of player he is and the great physical attributes that he has as a runner and as a passer." Saban said. "He's a vert instinctive guy, so he doesn't make a lot of bad choices as a quarterback."
Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain will lead the effort to stop Tebow. McClain has a team-high 96 tackles with 12 for a loss. Mark Barron, with seven interceptions and 17 passes defended, along with Javier Arenas, 64 tackles, including 12 for a loss, will try to keep Tebow's passing attack in check.
While Florida has a dangerous weapon at quarterback, Alabama has some good offensive threats as well.
Running back Mark Ingram will try to get his Heisman Trophy hopes going again after an off week against Auburn last week. He has 1,429 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.
Quarterback Greg McElroy has completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 2,211 yards and 16 touchdowns with only four interceptions.
Florida's defense is lead by linebackers Ryan Stamper and Brandon Spikes, who have combined for 124 tackles, are capable of covering a lot of ground.
The only week spot in the Florida defense will be at defense end. Starter Carlos Dunlap, who has 8.5 tackles for a loss and seven sacks, will miss the game following an arrest for DUI earlier this week.
With both offenses and defenses evenly matched, the game could come down to special teams, which could play in Alabama's favor.
Arenas is the SEC's career leader in punt returns and Florida coach Urban Meyer has seen the damage Arenas can cause first hand during last year's game.
"Arenas is one of the best we've faced," Meyer said. "I just got done watching the Auburn special teams with our guys and he nailed a 50-yarder, came right through and has great speed."
Should the game come down to a field goal, both teams can feel confident in their kickers.
Alabama's Leigh Tiffin leads the SEC in scoring with 117 points and field goals with 27 while Florida's Caleb Sturgis is tied for third in scoring (94) and second in field goals (19).

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