Saturday, December 5, 2009

There's a semi-important game today in Atlanta

This year's Game of the Century is upon us. It's No. 1 Florida vs. No. 2 Alabama, with the winner taking home the SEC title and clinching a spot in the BCS title game. Oh, and the offensive star for the winning team has a good shot to win the Heisman. Not much on the line, right?

I intended to do an in-depth statistical breakdown of each team's offense and defense to try to figure out who has the edge, but I came to the conclusion at some point this week that I just can't pick against Tim Tebow. It's not gonna happen. Tebow is the edge. I said the same thing before last year's title game, even as I acknowledged that Oklahoma had been the better team throughout the Heisman:
* I think that Tim Tebow has a competitive streak like no other and Urban Meyer is a scary-good big-game coach, and that combination is making me extremely leery of picking the Sooners.

* I think that Florida will win 35-27.
I was a little high on the score, but the premise was correct. Florida isn't the same team this year, of course. The offense hasn't been anywhere near as explosive (mostly due to the loss of Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy), but it hasn't really needed to be, because the defense has been absolutely dominant.

And if you read that sentence and thought, "That sounds a lot like Alabama," you're right. These two teams are pretty much mirror images of each other in terms of identity: power running game + suffocating defense = lots of wins. It's funny that everyone things the SEC is the awesomest conference ever because of its speed and the Big Ten is the boringest conference ever because of its prehistoric offenses, because the two teams everyone cites as examples of SEC dominance are actually the quintessential examples of old-school Big Ten style (Drew Sharp's mind just exploded).

I'm assuming that each team's defense will be able to mitigate the other's rushing attack -- Alabama is second nationally in rushing defense and Florida is eighth -- and if that's the case, the quarterbacks will be the deciding factor, as they usually are in these games. That's not to say that the running games will be completely shut down, but if you think Mark Ingram will be powering through Florida's defense for 150 yards and three touchdowns, I would like to wager heavily against you.

So ... the quarterbacks. There are two of them. One is a first-year starter who has been solid when needed but has been a complementary piece for most of the season. The other is Tim Tebow. I know his numbers haven't been quite at their usual level this year, but the fact of the matter is that he's the heart, soul and everything else of the Florida offense, and whenever they need a play, he makes it. You can't say the same about McElroy; Ingram has been options A, B and C all season (Julio Jones on a 5-yard crossing route is options D and E).

Considering the enormity of the game, I feel like there's surprisingly little to say. Both teams are what they are. The defenses should control the game -- the first team to get to 20 points probably wins -- and unless McElroy pulls a Jake Delhomme and throws three picks or something, it ought to be a hell of a game.

If you want to call the "can't pick against Tebow" argument a cop-out, go for it. But I'm sticking with what works. Prediction: Florida 24, Alabama 16.

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