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SEC Championship Game can wait for Tide, Gators

11/25/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

While the college football world waits breathlessly for the Dec. 6 SEC Championship Game, a matchup that's been set for nearly three weeks, Alabama and Florida have done their best to act like each other doesn't exist.

The closer we get to the game, though, the harder that becomes.

It's especially tricky this week.

Both teams face rivalry games, the kind of bitter intrastate rivalries that endure and torment you for an entire year if you don't come out on the winning side.

Both teams are big favorites, more than two touchdowns.

Losing this season would be even worse, much worse -- the equivalent to football Armageddon for both Alabama and Florida if they don't take care of business this Saturday -- especially when you consider what's at stake.

A shot at the BCS national championship.

Auburn, which has won six in a row in the series, would like nothing better than to ruin No. 1-ranked Alabama's dream season.

The same goes for Florida State, which has lost four in a row in the series and has never beaten Urban Meyer since he arrived in Gainesville in 2005.

Meyer has said repeatedly that the professionalism and maturity of this team has been remarkable. The No. 4-ranked Gators (10-1, 7-1 SEC) have won seven straight games, and the average margin of victory in those games has been 41 points.

"They made a decision seven weeks ago to get busy about what's happening this year," Meyer said of the Gators' ability to play one game at a time. "The Citadel became a huge game for Florida. (South Carolina) became a huge game for us. For coaches, every game is a huge game. It's our job and how we feed our families. But this group of players made a decision to make every week a big week, to the point that it's almost overwhelming.

"Was there an extra jump in their step (Sunday)? Absolutely. They have a very clear vision of what the task at hand is, and I'm proud of their approach right now."

For the Alabama players, beating Auburn runs much deeper than just keeping alive their national title hopes. Nobody on the Alabama team has ever beaten Auburn.

"We've come a long way this season. We've just got to finish it," Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson said.

Alabama coach Nick Saban likens it to a one-game season.

"It doesn't matter what you've done before this or what's coming up next," Saban said. "It's all about this game. It's all about Alabama and Auburn. It's not about where you're ranked or what your record is or any of the BCS or any of that stuff."

In other words, a certain showdown on Dec. 6 in Atlanta can wait ... for now.