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Tag:alabama crimson tide
Posted on: December 5, 2009 1:00 pm
 

FINISH THE MISSION: 2009 SEC Championship Preview

This article was originially posted HERE

Epic. You can’t begin a preview of today’s SEC Championship Game with any other word. I’ve been calling it the National Championship all week. Alabama used last season’s 4th-quarter no-show to fuel their motivation for this entire season. Florida has maintained it’s focus to FINISH THE MISSION.

It’s the nation’s two best defenses and two best head coaches, and the two best teams.

Let’s do this.

I want to get a bunch of “expert’s” picks and previews out on the table first. Accuscore (account needed) says Florida wins 61.1% of the time, by an average score of 24.6 – 20.9. Here’s a preview by CBS, and their columnists are split: Dennis Dodd says Alabama , Mike Freeman says Florida . In fact, 3 of 4 CBS experts have picked Alabama here. SI’s Stewart Mandel picked Florida 16-13 . Solid Verbal’s Ty Hildenbrandt and Dan Rubenstein each picked Florida on their podcast this week. ESPN’s SEC blogger Chris Low picks Alabama 24-17 . Not surprisingly, 6 of 9 staff members at Tuscaloosa News picked Alabama . More surprisingly, one guy predicts we score 8 points- setting an SEC record with 4 safeties. The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley picked Florida 24-23 . Scouts, Inc. picks the Gators 27-24 . Pat Forde picks Florida 20-14 .

Additionally, much has been written about the matchups in this game. ESPN’s Ivan Maisel polled 4 coaches who have lost tot both teams, and came up with the startling revelation that Tim Tebow is the difference in this game. The coaching rivalry was covered in a historical context by our friend Sam Negus at the Prolate Spheroid blog, and we ran the piece on our site here . ESPN’s Chris Low took a numbers-based approach to the coaching rivalry. And has a “Did You Know” for the game. And points out his 5 key matchups . Here are the five keys to the game, from Football Outsiders . Mel Kiper, Jr. (and his beautiful hair) points out five one-on-one matchups with NFL Draft implications (ESPN Insider, subscription required). ESPN’s Chad Millman takes a look from a gambler’s perspective at the SEC Championship Game.   So what do I think? The above survey pointed out lots of key matchups. I’ll attack these one at a time.  

How will our offensive line hold up against Mount Cody?

Lane Kiffin, aka Diarrhea of the Mouth, has made much of the difference in number of sacks given up by each team. Lately, this problem has improved, and I think it has to do with the shake-up of the interior offensive line. Note that the “shake-up” means we are once again playing the Pounceys and Carl Johnson, which is the same interior offensive line that played well against The Rotund One in the 2008 SEC Championship Game. I don’t think this matchup goes catastrophically bad for us.  

How will the loss of Carlos Dunlap change our defense?

Not much. We have always substituted a lot of guys on the defensive line. For one game, we can replace his stats with plenty of other five–star guys, and Dan McCarney works wonders as a DL coach. Just look at the drop-off in production in USF’s George Selvie once McCarney drove North on I-75. Selvie’s sack totals: 2006 5.5, 07 14.5, 08 5.5, and 09 3.0. The year McCarney was at USF? 2007. This is all a convoluted way of saying we have lots of bodies at DE, and can make up for Dunlap’s absence with plenty of guys who are used to being on the field and making plays.  

Julio Jones is a beast. How can you expect to contain him?

Against Auburn, Jones’ biggest plays came by making the first guy miss. Our corners, Janoris Jenkins and Joe Haden, are very good tacklers. Big wide receivers are a problem for every team, as most corners aren’t taller than 6 feet. Our corners are in that range, and so give up a few inches to Jones. In 3 games the last two seasons against Jones and AJ Green, Florida has emerged unscathed. While I’ll always be frightened of Jones breaking the big one, I am confident saying that I think we know how to deal with it.  

The defenses are both good. Who has the better offense?

We do. And we’re not as bad as you think (covered here yesterday). And lately, Riley Cooper and Aaron Hernandez have emerged as playmakers in the passing game. The Shake and Bake duo of Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey are just waiting for a mistake to turn into a 70-yard TD.  

What if this game comes down to a kick?

Both kickers have struggled this year. Alabama memorably blocked a couple kicks to beat the Vols. I can’t say much about Alabama’s kicker, but Caleb Sturgis is inconsistent. He’s got the leg (can you believe we witnessed a 56-yard field goal by a Gator?), but no one would feel great about him dropping back with the game on the line. He seems to be very talented, but I don’t know how to predict when he’s going to pull through and when he’s going to come up short.  

Is Urban Meyer still our coach?

Sure is. And he seems to know what he’s doing in big games. He has an experienced, talented team. We will come to play.  

Is Tim Tebow still on our team?

Yes, yes he is. And he remains the #1 reason I’m confident heading into this matchup. It’s by far the toughest challenge we will have faced this season- and I think a tougher challenge than any other matchup we could possibly face this season- but Tebow’s got the track record to make me a believer.



 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com