Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

`A Lot Riding on This One' SEC Title Could Save Florida's Season

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

`A Lot Riding on This One' SEC Title Could Save Florida's Season

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- This was supposed to be the next big step for the

It has evolved into a season-saving step.

Physically and mentally beaten last week by archrival Florida

State, the Gators enter tonight's Southeastern Conference

Championship game against Alabama with more on their minds than

just another ring on an already crowded hand.

It used to be that the SEC Championship was a benchmark for

"To lose this game is unthinkable," said James Bates, Florida's

senior linebacker and team captain. "From where we were two

weeks ago flying high, to losing two in a row . . . You can't

describe how big a letdown that would be. You've got to play

with the hand you've been dealt.

"We took it to the table [against FSU] and didn't get it done.

We're dealt a new hand this week."

With another ace missing.

If things weren't bad enough, the offensive line took a huge

hit Wednesday when starting tackle Mo Collins sustained a

season-ending knee injury. That's just one more problem for

"All you can do is put the best players in there and go play,"

said Florida coach Steve Spurrier, who can become the first

coach since Bear Bryant to win four consecutive league

championships. "This will determine what kind of season we'll

have. There's a lot riding on this one."

albeit remote -- to play for the national title. The Gators need

huge underdog Texas to beat two-time defending national champion

Nebraska this afternoon in the Big 12 Championship game. Then UF

needs to beat No. 15 Alabama (9-2, 6-2) to earn a rematch with

FSU in the Sugar Bowl.

Even then, Florida would have to beat FSU, then hope Ohio State

beats second-ranked Arizona State to even talk national title.

"There's a bunch of what-ifs, but we can't worry about that,"

Spurrier said. …

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