September 30, 2006
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Series record: 20-12 (.625)
Alabama and Florida have only met 32 times despite being in the same conference since 1922. Any game against a conference foe is one you want to win, but the Alabama/Florida rivalry began to rapidly escalate in the early 1990s.
The Crimson Tide and the Gators met in the first SEC Championship Game in 1992 (Alabama won 28-21 and went on to beat Miami for the national championship.) They then met in the SEC title game again in '93, '94, '96, and '99. Simply put, these two teams have faced off in 33% of the SEC title games that have ever happened. In the last 15 years, they've only met three times in the regular season, but have met five times for the title. If that doesn't take a rivalry up a notch or two, nothing will.
Florida has been favored in the last few meetings, yet Bama has come out on top. Alabama shocked Florida and the rest of the nation by putting a 31-3 hurtin' on Urban Meyer's highly lauded spread option in 2005. The Tide surprised Florida twice in 1999 by beating them in overtime in The Swamp (40-39) and then blowing them out in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta (34-7).
Florida hasn't beaten Alabama since 1998 and this game surely ranks amongst those Gator fans want to win most in 2006. I also have a feeling Urban Meyer will want to win this one for personal reasons. The loss to Alabama last year was the first major embarrassment of his young head coaching career. He was clearly flustered at half time and the Tide's performance was so dominating that Alabama wound up on the cover of Sports Illustrated the following week.
My wife has a crush on Chris Leak, which honestly has nothing to do with me wanting to see him crushed
Meyer has repeatedly stated that Chris Leak is his starter and that there is no QB controversy despite the presence of wunderkind Tim Tebow. Leak has supposedly gotten a firm grasp on Meyer's system and is once again appearing high on Heisman watch lists. Defensively, Florida is predicted to be quite strong...so much so that some commentators have said Florida's defense will carry the team this year.
I see this one being very even, but I have a hunch that the crowd will give Florida that extra push it needs to win a close one. It's virtually impossible to predict a game like this one this far out, but I think Florida has the edge on paper. If Alabama can lay waste to Arkansas like they did South Carolina last year, I will feel much better about the Tide's chances in Gainesville. Despite my prediction that Alabama will start off 3-2, I believe they will still have a fairly strong season.
Predicted record after this game: (3-2)
Home improvement guru Bob Vila graduated from Florida with a journalism degree...are jean shirts called jirts?