TUSCALOOSA, ALA. – You or I look at Saturday’s SEC Championship Game and see Alabama rolling over poor Florida with the subtly of a road grader.
The Gators are a grease spot in the making.
Las Vegas sees the Crimson Tide as a 17-point favorite, establishing a line most unbecoming of the championship game of college football’s haughtiest conference.
In one corner is mighty Alabama, a team in full possession of all the mojo it misplaced during a mysterious September loss to Ole Miss.
In the other is the offensively challenged Gators, fresh from a 27-2 loss to Florida State in which they would have required military assistance to breach the endzone.
IT’S A TRAP!
Excuse the outburst.
That was Nick Saban, doing what all coaches must. Which is to build up an over-matched opponent. Got to keep his guys interested and the other guys sedated.
Perhaps you wondered how even a coach as practiced at the art of deception as Saban would manage to inject life into an uncommonly lackluster SEC title game.
This is how:
“This is an outstanding team we are playing, they wouldn’t be in the SEC Championship if they weren’t,” Saban said Monday. “I think anybody out there that thinks this is not going to be a real challenge, a real test for our team – I don’t know what you’re thinking. I don’t get it.”
The coach whose team both shut down Louisiana State’s Leonard Fournette and nicely survived the 146 rushing yards of Georgia's Nick Chubb called Florida runner Kelvin Taylor, “probably as good as we played against all year.”
The coach preparing to meet the 12th-ranked offense in a 14-team league said without triggering his gag reflex even once that the Gators “are probably the best overall team that we have played against all year long.”
And when Saban got really warmed up, when he took a detour by talking about the media and the negative energy fostered over its many platforms, he spoke to the hidden dangers of a game like Saturday’s.
“I think y’all set us up for (a flogging in the press) a little bit,” he said. “Like when I hear everybody talking about this game and how we’re supposed to win this game. As if Florida does not have a good team that won 10 games and is one of the nationally ranked teams and beat Ole Miss really bad (38-10), a team that beat us. How did they do that?
“So if we fail in this game, you can put the hammer on me. It’s a set up. I get it. I hope our players get it.”
It was one of the best coaching performances of Saban’s long, decorated career.