Talk about a game that has it all.
It might be easier to click off a list of what you don’t have under the big tent that is the Georgia Dome this afternoon when Florida and Alabama meet for the Southeastern Conference title.
You got the defending national champion Gators, 12-0 this year and looking to repeat.
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You have Alabama, which lost to Florida in this game a year ago.
So, there’s your rematch in what is certain to be a circus-like atmosphere.
Throw in two of the best college coaches in the game and the stew gets thicker. Between Florida’s Urban Meyer and Alabama’s Nick Saban, you have three national championships this decade.
And one of them has a good chance of getting the fourth before this season is over.
Saban downplayed any idea that Alabama has been looking to this day since the 30-21 loss to the Gators a year ago. And he bristled when asked whether he had “brooded” over the defeat.
“I usually don’t respond to media speculation,” he said. “So, maybe I shouldn’t respond now.”
Then, with a steely gaze, he responded.
“We didn’t brood over this game because we had a lot of other challenges between then and now that our team was able to overcome,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been focused on. We focused on those things with the idea and goal in mind that we wanted to get back to the championship game and have another opportunity to win an SEC championship.”
They’re back. And so are the Gators.
The two teams bring stellar defenses. So, it should be a low-scoring affair.
Not so, said Saban.
“I think both teams are capable of scoring points,” he said. “And I think both defenses will get challenged in the game.”
But this game is also about great players.
The obvious ones are Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and Alabama running back Mark Ingram. Tebow, the man who has redefined the wildcat offense, has his Heisman Trophy and could be in line for another. Ingram is mentioned as a Heisman hopeful.
But there are so many more lining up in this one. You have Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones, linebacker Rolando McClain and noseguard Terrence Cody.
You have freshman running back Trent Richardson from Pensacola, who Florida recruited heavily. Alabama’s Javier Arenas is one of the best return specialists in the country.
And the Gators have no shortage of talent. They have massive twins — Mike and Maurkice Pouncey — on the offensive line. How massive? Each one is 6-foot-5, 312 pounds. They have linebacker Brandon Spikes.
But Florida will be without its All-America defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who was suspended this week following a DUI arrest.
It’s all there for a classic game.
So everybody will be watching this one, right?
Not exactly. Tennessee Coach Lane Kiffin scheduled the Vols — who lost to both of these teams — to practice at 4 p.m., the time Alabama and Florida kick off.
But that didn’t keep Kiffin, who has been vocal in his lack of respect for the Gators and Meyer, from weighing in earlier this week. He gave the coaching advantage to Alabama.
Meyer was asked about it Friday afternoon. The big Gator didn’t bite.
“No comment,” Meyer said.
There is one burning question left:
Who wins this one?
Call it a hunch. Call it a wild guess, but there is something about this Alabama team that seems special.
You could feel it in this building Labor Day weekend, when Alabama came from behind to beat Virginia Tech. You could feel it in October, when Tennessee couldn’t get a winning field-goal attempt past Mount Cody.
You could feel it in Auburn last week, when Alabama, playing far from its best, snatched an upset away from the Tigers.
Crimson Tide 28, Gators 24.