Gators, Tide finally set for SEC showdown

One year later, not much has changed.

For the second consecutive season, Alabama and Florida will meet in the SEC championship game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. And once again, the winner will play for the national title.

All season long, this rematch has seemed inevitable.

“College football wants this game,” Florida coach Urban Meyer said. “I’ve been hearing it for a long time and trying to ignore it and push it back. And I know our players have been.”

The weight of expectations hovered over these teams throughout the season and occasionally threatened to overwhelm them. Florida needed a late field goal to squeeze out a 23-20 victory over Arkansas. Alabama beat Tennessee 12-10 only after 365-pound nose tackle Terrence Cody blocked a field-goal attempt as time expired. But each team survived every test and made it through unscathed.

Florida has its shot at a repeat. Alabama has its chance at revenge.

“It was always in the back of my mind,” Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain said. “I know it was in the back of the other guys’ minds. But we did a good job, with the help of Coach [Nick] Saban forcing us to stay focused. We stayed focused and we just had to stay focused because if we didn’t beat those guys, those other 12 teams, we wouldn’t be even in this circumstance right now. … But now it’s back. We want that rematch.”

The teams will have a tough time matching the drama of their 2008 showdown, which Florida won 31-20 by scoring two touchdowns in the final 10 minutes. There isn’t much difference between the teams that played that game and the squads that will take the field Saturday.