Coming into this season, there were generally four top 10 teams from the SEC: Florida, Alabama, Ole Miss, and LSU. Yesterday, 'Bama & Florida went on the road to take on the other two teams. And the cream rose to the top.
Florida or Alabama? Alabama or Florida? They are at the same time a mirror image & a contrast in styles.
Both have defenses that are veteran, unforgiving, supremely talented, and SALTY! (BTW, that's a word that's not used near enough. "That defense is SALTY!") Of the 22 starters from the two defenses on these teams last season, 21 returned for '09. Yesterday, both units walked into hostile SEC environments & held preseason top 10 teams to 3 points a piece and a little over 200 yards total offense.
And it's like an international arms race as far as who can stockpile more talent on that side of the ball. Both defenses are led by punishing middle linebackers (Florida's Brandon Spikes & Alabama's Rolando McClain) who may be the top two linebackers taken in the 2010 NFL Draft, and could very well be the best linebackers who have ever played at their respective schools. And that's high praise for McClain, who plays at a school that produced Lee Roy Jordan, Cornelius Bennett, Derrick Thomas, and DeMeco Ryans. Beyond the defenses, though, both teams are led by QBs who aren't used to losing. Everyone knows the legend of Tebow. And Bama's Greg McElroy has yet to lose a football game he's started. Ever. In his life.
There are differences in these two schools, though. McElroy isn't exactly in Tebow's league yet: that other guy may be the best college football player ever. But Alabama looks more battle-tested overall so far, boasting maybe the best win on any resume (Va. Tech) to this point. And then there are the contrasts. Alabama is the muscle school; Florida is the speed school. Alabama is the defense school; Florida is the offense school. Alabama wants to psychologically beat you down by physically hurting you on every down. Florida wants to psychologically beat you down by hurting you with numbers on the scoreboard. Nick Saban coaches the most exotic, complicated defense in college football. Urban Meyer coaches the most exotic, gimmicky offense in college football.
Saturday set the stage for what most folks saw coming ever since last December: another Alabama/Florida SEC Championship Game. Because one thing is clear after these teams manhandled their talented opponents on Saturday: the only way these teams can lose is if they beat themselves.
It's almost enough to make you feel sorry for the Rose Bowl. Because it looks like the National Championship game will be played in Atlanta again this year. And as a Tide fan, I've gotta say: I can't wait. Every 'Bama fan I know can't wait to get another shot at the anointed one. We want to be the bad guys that wreck the storyline. We want to have the front row seat when midnight strikes for Cinderella.
So stay unbeaten, Gators. And we'll do our best to do the same. It'll be epic!
Here's the 12...
1a.) Florida : okay, Gators. Impressive win. I'll put you back at the top. Sort of. But I'm getting sick of you guys. For one thing, what's up with this new trend of Urban Meyer & Tim Tebow showing public displays of affection?? It's just a little weird. Pre-game hugs. And in the 4th quarter yesterday, Meyer leaning in, face to facemask with #15, almost like he wanted to give him a kiss. It reminds me a lot of another Coach/Quarterback Love Affair. (That one's for you, Jordan. Incidentally, kudos to the OU fan who made that. Best rivalry YouTube video ever.)
And you know what else irks me about the Gators: what's with the receivers getting away with offensive holding? Riley Cooper got away with it yesterday at LSU. Louis Murphy totally got away with it in the Cocktail Party against Georgia last year. And that's just the two instances that the TV cameras caught. I guess it's easy for Tebow to set records when your receivers get to cheat all over the place. Sheesh! I hope this guy gets to call the SEC Championship. "Penalty on Florida... He was giving him the business!"
1b.) Alabama : one thing I am impressed with in every game -- and you have to actually watch the Tide play to appreciate this -- is how much Alabama hurts, grinds, and wears down an opponent. In every game I've seen players limp off the field after being blown up by one of our defenders. There have also been games where players limp off after being run over by a running back. It's become one of my favorite jokes to make with my family every Saturday: "Ooh, ouch! Those 'Bama boys hit too hawwd." When you play 'Bama, you get punished.
4.) Virginia Tech
5.) Boise State
8.) Ohio State : really impressive win against Wisconsin.
12.) Oklahoma State
Dropped Out: Auburn
3 weeks ago