By SEAN DOYLE
CFRT SEC Contributor
Game of the Week
No.7 Florida at No.1 Alabama
A wise old man paraphrasing a wise old football coach once told me, “Football in the South is not life or death, it’s more important than that.”
This Alabama-Florida game is not a season ending/defining game in and of itself because the season is not a lost cause for whoever loses.
Of course, the winner isn't automatically scheduled to play in the BCS championship game, but it will put them on the short list of invitees.
There is a very good chance that both teams will be facing off again in Atlanta at the SEC Championship game in December.
Now, that is the game with potential of being life or death in terms of national title hopes.
All it takes is for both teams to go undefeated – AFTER this Saturday.
Doesn't sound easy, right?
Thus is life in the SEC folks.
You likely won’t find these two teams in the history books recognized as a “traditional rivals," due to the absence of a long and uninterrupted history.
However, this is a rivalry built on grandeur and tenacity, not tenure and longevity.
Truthfully, this “rivalry” was born in 1992 on Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama (where the first two editions of the SEC title game before the game moved to Atlanta), and solidified by the seven total SEC Championship game matchups between the two since then.
In each of the last two years, these teams entered the SEC title game as the No.1 and No.2 teams in the country, and the winners have gone on to become National Champions.
This Saturday’s ‘Bama vs. Florida game is being played more for pride than any trophy, shiny ring or confetti shower.
Who is going to flinch first?
Who will be able to survive adversity to claw out of bad field position?
Which team will own the fourth quarter?
When Alabama has the ball, look for the Gators to counter the Tide’s power running attack of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson with their “Heavy Package,” specifically designed to stop the offense that gutted the Gators for 251 rushing yards in Atlanta last December.
Florida will try to load up and stop the run but still limit the efficient passing of senior QB Greg McElroy and NFL-ready receiver Julio Jones.
The Gators will need to execute near perfection on both sides of the ball to match Alabama’s intensity on offense and find a crack in a very disciplined defense.
Florida junior QB John Brantley will need to strike quick and distribute the ball to multiple weapons, including the X-factor true freshman Trey Burton.
Expect Gators coach Urban Meyer to open up the playbook and add a few more wrinkles, involving freshman Andre Debose in the passing game and stretching the field vertically with seniors Deonte Thompson and Carl Moore.
Florida hopes to have their best breakaway threat back in junior Jeff Demps after a foot injury, while sophomore Mike Gillislee and senior Emanuel Moody will be called upon to provide production in the running game if Demps isn’t full speed.
The distinct advantage for the Gators may be on special teams.
Meyer stresses grabbing momentum in big games and his special teams historically finds a way to do just that.
Look for an aggressive rush when ‘Bama lines up to punt the ball (note: Florida has never lost a game in which they have blocked a punt).
And with UF punter Chas Henry’s ability to flip the field for the Gators, it should prove frustrating for the Tide, who is used to starting with good field position.
Based on raw talent alone, you won’t find many teams with as much as these two possess from top to bottom.
The key in this battle will boil down to experience.
The Gators may catch lightning in a bottle and play beyond their years, but Alabama is just too well seasoned for a UF team that hasn’t had enough time fully ripen. Alabama 21, Florida 17.
Who’s Hot ?
The Auburn QB was the leading rusher (176yds) in a win over No.12 South Carolina. He rushed for three TDs, including a highlight-reel TD run of 54 yards.
The true freshman QB/WR/RB/TE/FB had a Tim Tebow-like performance for the Gators. Burton has been molded by the coaching staff to run Tebow’s old plays in the Gator offense. He scored six TDs (five rushing and one receiving), breaking the school scoring record for touchdowns in a single game of five set by Tebow in 2007.
After missing the first two games of the season following knee surgery, the Alabama running back and 2009 Heisman Trophy winner already has 308 yard rushing and four TDs and a 9.3 yard per carry average. He is fresh off racking up 157 yards and two scores in the Tide’s come-from-behind victory over Arkansas.
The Arkansas QB started his Saturday against No. 1 Alabama in the Heisman conversation, but by Saturday night his part in that conversation was over. Mallett was leading his team to an upset of the Tide when he tossed his second of three interceptions for the day with 6:01 remaining. ‘Bama scored the go-ahead TD three plays later for the win.
The only thing hot right now for the Georgia head coach would be his seat. UGA is 0-3 in the SEC to start the year. After high hopes leading into the season and his best player (A.J. Green) getting suspended four games, Richt is feeling the heat. He may very well need to run the table the rest of this season, or he may be the guy trimming the famed hedges this time next year.
The Tennessee Volunteers
Celebrations should not be so exuberant after needing a second OT to beat the UAB Blazers, 32-39. The once-vaunted Vols giving up a 23-7 halftime lead and 544 yards to UAB is anything but hot.
Around the rest of the SEC
Vanderbilt at UConn
Vandy should be riding high after halting their SEC losing skid by beating a bad Ole Miss, but they will have had too much time to study it. UConn will not be as mistake-prone on the way to a home victory. UConn 27, Vandy 21.
Alcorn State at Mississippi State
Mississippi State should not have a problem with the leader of the SWAC. Don’t be surprised if this is a tougher game than the Bulldogs' win over Georgia last week for a while. MSU 27, ASU 10.
Louisiana-Monroe at No.10 Auburn
Auburn would win this one with Fig Newton in the shotgun. Auburn by 38, and a glass of milk. Auburn 48, Louisiana-Monroe 10.
Kentucky at Ole Miss
How will UK respond after loss to UF? Who will Houston Nutt blame after a 0-2 conference start? Houston we have a problem! UK 17, Miss 14.
Tennessee at No.12 LSU
From Mountaineers to Volunteers, looks like the Tigers will be feasting on the second feller in a row sporting a coon skinned cap and shooting blanks from a musket. LSU 27, UT 10.
Georgia at Colorado
Good news in ‘Dawg country: After serving a four-game suspension, the grass will be A.J. Green(er) in Athens from here on out. Georgia and Coach Mark Richt are primed and ready for a Rocky Mountain High-watch out Colorado! If not, somebody may get a hob nailed boot right between the hedges. It may not be Richt, but Offensive Coordinator Mike Bobo may just be the one to go-go. ‘Dawgs 21, Buffs 17.