Old School vs … Old School?

SEC Championship Game
Alabama vs. Florida

December 6th at 4:00 ET on CBS
(originally published in Game Day Weekly 12.1.08)


Call it the throwback bowl.

Instead of the Georgia Dome, they should move this one up north somewhere and play it in the wind, sleet, and snow.

Forget about those new-fangled plastic things … helmets I believe they call them … just strap on the leather headgear and let’s (drop) kick this thing off.

Alabama and Florida meet in the Southeastern Conference title game this week and they say the survivor will move on to the BCS National Championship Game in Miami. The loser might get out of the intensive care unit in time for a trip to the Sugar Bowl.

These two teams are tougher than the calluses on your granddaddy’s hands.

Meaner than a bill collector at the end of the month.

As subtle as a hammer to the thumb.

When you settle down to watch this one, keep the smelling salts and aspirin next to the chips and dip because you may feel the pain.

Start with Alabama, the ultimate old school team.

Talk about a throwback, Tuscaloosa on game day is circa 1964 complete with fans decked out in black and white houndstooth hats, holding rolls of toilet paper attached to empty boxes of Tide detergent. Not sure what men wear to the games.

Nick Saban’s Red Elephants will pass if they have to, but prefer to pave over defenses behind an offensive line that moves more people than U-Haul. Coming from a state that only votes Republican, the Tide offense sure reminds me of a bunch of liberal Democrats … run left, run left, and run left.

On defense, nose tackle Terrence Cody gathers up offensive lineman and ball carriers like a homeless man going through the trash. He simply picks through the muck until he finds what he’s looking for. Any leftovers tend to go to Rolando McClain, a sprinter posing as an NFL linebacker in waiting.

Old school?

Every time I watch Alabama in those plain crimson helmets with the white number on the side, I expect to blink and see Johnny Musso taking an option pitch with half his jersey tearing away, or the Bear leaning on a goal post, smoking a Chesterfield, and looking like he’s posing for a carving on Mt. Rushmore.

How about the Sunshine State squad?

Some might think Florida is new age, but to me the Gators may be even more of a throwback.

When Urban Meyer took over the program, Florida decided to go all retro on offense … all the way to the 1940s.

Call it the spread, the spread option, or whatever you like, but Florida runs the single wing. If the Gators would only add a couple of spin moves and fakes, they could be running the Notre Dame box vintage 1924.

Like a bunch of boys with the best player in the backyard, the Gators don’t need a lot of fancy formations and trick plays (even though they have them). They got a guy who is just bigger, faster, stronger, and tougher than your guys.

Here comes Tebow.

Timmy Touchdown. Mr. Heisman. Let him play in the mud and his face gets caked more than a 1-year old celebrating a birthday. Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said Tebow “brings a Bronko Nagurski quality to the quarterback position.” And I believe Bobby coached Bronko so he should know.

Florida doesn’t run an offensive system so much as the Gators field a commando unit.

Would you rather be bludgeoned repeatedly with a blunt instrument or slit apart with a stiletto? Either way, you know it’s gonna hurt. If Tebow is not pounding away, a fleet group of Gator receivers is slicing and dicing through defenses like a knife set on an infomercial. To quote another throwback – old Darrell Royal of Texas – the Gators run faster than small-town gossip.

What should each team fear?

Florida has not faced a team with power on offense like Alabama will bring to the dome.

Center Antoine Caldwell is the nation’s best, and he anchors a stalwart group that includes future NFL top ten pick LT Andre Smith. The Gators are thin at defensive tackle, and smallish to boot. If the Tide is able to grind out first downs by ramming the ball with a tailback trio that features Glen Coffee … it might be see ya later Alligator.

A major concern for Alabama? Defensive personnel adjustments will have to be made.

The Tide prefers to sit in a base 3-4 with big Terrence Cody controlling the middle, and the four linebackers patrolling the field. That alignment will not work against the Florida offense. The Tide will have to work an extra defensive back into the game plan to avoid mismatches with Gator speedsters running past those linebackers.

Just a hunch, but I think Urban Meyer and Nick Saban can figure out those Xs and Os better than I can.

For my money, this figures to be the best SEC championship since the game was instituted in 1992.

Never have the stakes been higher.

The Crimson Tide and the Gators met in the first three conference championship games, and have played each other a total of five times in the title game (1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, and 1999). The Tide won the first and last meetings, the Gators the three in-between.

In 1992 and 1996, the game propelled the SEC winner all the way to the national championship.

Expect this throwback game to do the same.

Game Ball: Florida

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