MORE THAN a few folks projected that Florida would get to this point. Not nearly as many felt the same way about Alabama, which went 7-6 last season and began this one ranked 24th.

Yet, here they both are. On Saturday, the top-ranked Crimson Tide (12-0), the only remaining unbeaten team from a BCS conference, will play No. 2 Florida (11-1) in the SEC championship game. The winner will then take on someone from the Big 12 in the national-title game (Jan. 8, in Miami). The loser would still go to a BCS bowl. It won’t be nearly the same.

“I think we kind of provided a road map, a plan, a direction that we wanted the program to go into,” said second-year Alabama coach Nick Saban, who won an SEC and national title at Louisiana State in 2003. “A lot . . . has gone into that. You just have to establish your philosophy, stick to your guns and be committed to it. If it’s worked for you before, it’s a little easier for everybody to buy into.”

Philadelphia Daily News