Florida, Tennessee clash in big SEC showdown
Saturday, December 1, 2001
One win for Miami, two for Florida -- that's the formula for a national championship game in the Rose Bowl featuring two fierce rivals.
Sounds great, but games still have to be played, conference titles must be decided and the Bowl Championship Series computer has to calculate the final numbers.
"We don't have the Rose Bowl until we win one more football game, that's what it has boiled down to," coach Larry Coker said as his top-ranked Hurricanes (10-0) prepared to visit No. 14 Virginia Tech (8-2) today. "The fans can enjoy it and talk about it, but in reality, we're the ones that have to travel and play and get the job done."
Florida's task is more formidable. The second-ranked Gators (9-1, 6-1) play host to No. 5 Tennessee (9-1, 6-1), with the winner advancing to the Southeastern Conference title game on Dec. 8. The opponent will be the winner of today's game between No. 25 Auburn (7-3, 5-2) and No. 22 LSU (7-3, 4-3) at Baton Rouge.
Miami and Florida are first and second in the BCS standings that determine the teams for the Rose Bowl.
The Vols-Gators game was rescheduled from Sept. 15 following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. The game usually determines the SEC East winner a lot earlier in the season, and now there's a national title involved.
"It's for everything," Gators wide receiver Jabar Gaffney said.
Florida and Miami have met 50 times, with the Hurricanes pulling even at 25 wins each with last year's 37-20 Sugar Bowl victory. It was the first matchup of these rivals since 1987.
The series starts up again next year -- it's Miami at Florida on Sept. 7.
In other games involving Top 25 teams today, it's No. 3 Texas vs. No. 9 Colorado in the Big 12 title game in Irving, Texas; Oregon State at No. 4 Oregon; No. 10 BYU at Mississippi State; No. 12 Stanford at San Jose State; and Houston at No. 16 Georgia.
Other games of note on the final big weekend of the season include Army vs. Navy in Philadelphia, Notre Dame at Purdue and Georgia Tech at Florida State.
Tennessee is trying to win at The Swamp for the first time since 1971, when coach Phillip Fulmer played guard for the Vols. Florida has won seven of the last eight meetings.
Led by quarterback Casey Clausen (2,469 yards, 19 TDs), the Vols are coming off a 38-0 win over Vanderbilt last week. Rex Grossman, Florida's Heisman hopeful, is the nation's top passer with 3,534 yards and 32 TDs. Gaffney has 60 catches for 1,090 yards and 12 TDs. On defense, the Gators allow just 12.1 points per game.
Should Tennessee win, the Vols would have a strong chance to reach the Rose Bowl with a win in the SEC title game on Dec. 8.
Texas and Oregon aren't out of the title picture, either, but both need help, even with victories.