Announcers eager to call game

Published: Friday, December 5, 2008 at 7:17 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 5, 2008 at 7:17 p.m.

ATLANTA When looking ahead to Saturday afternoon's SEC Championship Game between No. 1 Alabama and second-ranked Florida in the Georgia Dome, CBS color commentator Gary Danielson references perhaps the most famous of all sports rivalries.

"This is basically Frazier versus Ali," Danielson said. "This is ugly versus pretty. This is new versus old. This is spread out versus tight."

The "Smokin' Joe" of the game is the Crimson Tide (12-0), who would prefer to pound away behind a massive offensive line that features two projected NFL first-round picks in tackle Andre Smith and center Antoine Caldwell.

Meanwhile, the Gators' slick, high-speed, Tim Tebow-led offense resembles Ali's flashier style, minus the poetic trash talk.

"This is the most intriguing matchup I've ever done," said Danielson, who has called two national championship games.

However, peer beyond the surface and you'll find these two aren't nearly as different as they appear at first glance.

Both teams have dangerous return specialists in Alabama's Javier Arenas, a Tampa native, and Florida's Brandon James. Each of those juniors has returned two punts for touchdowns this season. No one else in the SEC did that more than once.

The Gators (11-1) do lead the SEC in scoring offense, averaging 46.3 points a game. But the Crimson Tide is tied with Georgia for second at 32.1 ppg. The two teams also are 1-2 in rushing offense with UF putting up 237.1 yards a game and UA 201.5.

Alabama sits atop the conference in scoring defense, allowing just 11.5 ppg, but Florida is close behind at 12.2. Additionally, the two teams have given up a near equal amount of passing yards (2,099 for UA, and 2,075 for UF), while the Tide has allowed 4.1 yards per play to Florida's 4.3.

The teams also occupy the SEC's top two spots in pass-defense efficiency, opponents' first downs, third-down conversions, fourth-down conversions and turnover margin.

And most of all, let's not forget they are playing for the same two prizes: the SEC championship and a berth in the BCS title game Jan. 8 in Miami, where one team could become the seventh SEC Championship Game winner and third SEC team in three seasons to be crowned national champion. However, in those previous SEC Championship Games, only one team had a shot to come out of it playing for the BCS title.

So, in essence Alabama-Florida is the first BCS semifinal of its kind.

"This is the biggest college football game I've ever had the privilege to be a part of," said Verne Lundquist, who will call the contest with Danielson. "It could be a great one."

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