This Saturday, the two best teams the SEC has to offer will face off in a battle not only for pride, but for a trip to the BCS National Championship game. The stories behind the two teams couldn't be more different.
On one hand, you have a rising tide that is Alabama, rising from the ashes like a phoenix with a perfect record.They are ready to reclaim their spot as the rulers of the SEC Western division and restore themselves to national prominence, a spot that once was thought to be a birth right for the Crimson Nation.
On the other hand you have the Florida Gators. They are fierce, lightning fast, and appear to be unstoppable. Since their loss earlier this season to Ole Miss they have beat every opponent by at least 30 points, and punished Georgia, LSU and South Carolina, beating them by a combined total of 119 points. Florida looks to remind people that while they didn't win the SEC East last year they are still the reigning power.
The stories couldn't be more different, and no surprise neither could the philosophies of the two teams.
Alabama is has been through the Nick Saban school of discipline. They Tide has an air of seriousness to them that hasn't been felt since the Bear. They take each game one at a time, and break their opponents will.
Bama uses the old SEC stand bye for success a smash-mouth running game combined with a stout, opportunistic defense. Their offensive game-plan is simple enough, we are going to match our big guys with yours, and impose our will upon you by running the ball down your throat.Their defensive philosophy, is even simpler if they can't score on you then they can't beat you. The Tide has allowed just 138 points in 12 games, or about 11.5 points per game.
While the Tide is a blue collar team, who relies on pounding the ball, Florida is flashy. The Gators steam roll their opponents with blazing speed and impenetrable defense. The Gators are in the top ten in both scoring offense and defense. The Gators thrive off emotion, a big sack, long return, or partially blocked punt is all the Gators need to get the momentum rolling, and once they are started the Gators can't be stopped. The slightest change in moment will open the flood gates. The Gators seem to score at will, ripping big gains both in the air or on the ground from their spread offense.
Both Bama and Florida have tremendous play makers. The Tide is lead defensively by tackling machine Rolando McClain, and the one man wrecking crew of Rashad Johnson. Johnson has picked off 5 passes this season and returned two for touchdowns. Johnson doesn't just pick off passes, he terrorizes opposing receivers and even running backs as he patrols the entire field. McClain is a force in the middle of the field for Alabama, and leads the team in tackles.
Offensively Bama's o-line is anchored by gargantuan left tackle Andre Smith and Senior Center Antoine Caldwell. The big guys up front for the Tide provide immense holes, allowing for Bama's dynamic duo of Coffee and Ingram to runn all over and around opposing defenses.
The Gator's are lead by the defending Heisman trophy winner, and dual threat quarterback Tim Tebow. Tebow's massive physique makes him difficult to bring down, not to mention he can throw the ball a country mile. Tebow's favorite target is Percy Harvin or the Flash. Harvin can line up at wide out or running back and cause headaches for the opposing team.
Defensively the Gators are lead by Junior Brandon Spikes. Spikes has taken Gator nation by storm, and has left lasting impressions not only on fans and team-mates but opposing players as well. In the game against Georgia it didn't take Spikes too long to become "acquainted" with Georgia's star running back Knowshon Moreno, as Spikes decleated him on the second play from scrimmage for the Dogs.
So how can this blue collar Bama team beat the flashy Florida Gators?
The Tide need not change from the formula they have used all season, pound the ball on the ground, control the clock and make stops on defense.
On top of everything I have said in order to be successful in the SEC you have to be lucky. I don't mean you need big plays o last second heroics, but you need to be injury free,and Bama has accomplished that. On top of minimizing injuries you need to have the little breaks go your way, and that's another thing Bama has had, the 3rd and shorts, or the 4th down conversion attempts, and here to Alabama is solid as well. So maybe the Tide is destiny's team.
You might say that this match up between the Tide and the Gators pits the SEC's traditional game plan and power house against the new age high powered team of the future. The Tide is winning by an out dated formula, a long forgotten recipe for victory throughout much of the nation, one that still lives in the SEC, but is rapidly fading. The game is a chance rebirth for hard nosed football, or at least a last hurrah.
The No. 1 Tide will enter this game as the underdogs, and that is what gives them the edge. The media has put so much hype into this game, I believe Florida will take the field in Atlanta looking for a coronation, but what they will get is a fist fight, one Bama is ready for.