It is the morning of Dec. 5, 2009. Here’s what we know about the Southeastern Conference:
- Florida is 12-0 and No. 1 in the country.
- Gators quarterback Tim Tebow is trying to become the first player in 34 years to win a second Heisman Trophy.
- Coach Urban Meyer is attempting to win his third national title in four seasons.
In a few hours, Meyer and Tebow will walk into the Georgia Dome to face Nick Saban and the undefeated No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC championship game. Here’s what we know about the West reps:
- Alabama has not won a national title in 17 years.
- Nick Saban has one championship — 2003 with LSU — to his name.
- Running back Mark Ingram is trying to become the school’s first Heisman Trophy winner.
Earlier this week, AL.com columnist Paul Finebaum recounted last year’s SEC championship: a Tebow massacre that left Saban with “pained hurt on his face” in the bowels of the Georgia Dome.
“It’s on to Atlanta once again,” Finebaum wrote. “Will Saban be able to exorcise the demons of last December at the Dome? Or will the nightmare continue? The answers to those vexing questions remain.”
Meanwhile, the Heisman race is white-hot between Tebow, Ingram and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy.
“I think there’s a lot of people who would like a reason to vote for Mark Ingram,” CBS analyst Gary Danielson told TampaBay.com‘s Antonya English. “He’s not a quarterback, and he plays for Alabama, a team that’s never had a Heisman Trophy winner. I think there are a lot of voters that would like to vote for someone other than a quarterback.”
The following must happen for Ingram to win: He needs a big game (let’s say at least 100 yards and a couple of touchdowns) in an Alabama win, while McCoy sputters in the Big 12 championship late Saturday night.
That would knock the two biggest threats (Tebow and McCoy) out of the race, and Ingram’s clutch performance would give him a serious leg up on Stanford’s Toby Gerhart, whose regular season is already finished.
Beating Tebow is easier said than done, though.
“When games are on the line,” AL.com‘s Charles Hollis wrote this week, “Tebow has no equal.”
Florida has won 22 straight contests. This is Meyer’s third team in the past six years to start 12-0. Win today, and it’s clear: No school has a better football program than the University of Florida.
There will likely be a small drop-off when Tebow leaves for the NFL draft this spring. But not much.
Florida had this year’s No. 7 recruiting class and is projected to have the No. 1 class in February. There’s plenty of in-state talent in the Class of 2011, too: Safety Haha Clinton-Dix, running back Devonta Freeman, wide receiver Sammy Watkins, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, running back Tre Mason, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, linebacker Ryan Shazier, safety Karlos Williams, tight end Nick O’Leary, wideout Rashad Greene, defensive lineman D.J. Pettway, wideout Phillip Dorsett and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater are all available for the taking.
The future aside … Who will win today’s championship?
Let’s ask Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin.
“It’s kind of hard to call,” he told WNML-AM (via AL.com). “There’s a bunch of great players on both teams. Florida has so much speed. I think you’ll see Alabama will outscheme Florida, and Florida has given up 28 sacks this year when a bunch of guys come free. But the problem is Superman (Tebow) is back there. It comes down to can you tackle him.
“It will be a real interesting matchup. Florida has better players, and Alabama has better coaches, so we’ll see.”