Ten fun facts that you may or may not know about Saturday’s SEC championship game:
1. This will be the 41st time that the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the Associated Press poll have met. Of the previous 40 meetings, 23 have come in the regular season and 17 have been in bowl games. Of those games, the No. 1 team has a record of 24-14-2.
2. Since Florida quarterback Tim Tebow made “The Promise” after last season’s loss to Ole Miss, Florida has won 22 straight games. In those 22 games Florida has outscored its opponents 907-259.
3. Alabama doesn’t appear to have many weaknesses but here is one. Or at least it is a concern. The Crimson Tide is ranked 116th nationally in defending kickoff returns. Teams are averaging 25.56 yards per kickoff return against Alabama. Alabama, interestingly enough, has kicked off 82 times (68 have been returned) this season. Only four teams in the country have kicked off more: Boise State (99), Houston (95), TCU (90), and Florida (86).
4. Alabama’s Javier Arenas is one of the best punt returners in the country, averaging 16.64 yards per attempt. But chances are Arenas will not return the ball much against Florida. The Gators only have allowed only four punts to be returned against them all season for a grand total of 13 yards. No other team in the country has allowed five or less punts to be returned against them this season.
5. This will be the 18th SEC championship game. Seven times in the past 17 years the winner of this game has gone on to win the national championship: 1992, 1996, 1998, 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2008. Two other times (1995, 1997) the winner has played in a game for at least a share of the national championship.
6. Alabama running back Mark Ingram suffered a hip-pointer last Friday against Auburn and was held to a season-low 30 yards rushing. Ingram, however, needs just 43 yards against Florida to set the school record for rushing yards in a season. Bobby Humphrey ran for 1,471 yards on 236 attempts in 1986. Ingram, a sophomore, has 1,429 yards on 221 attempts.
7. Only one running back this season—Dennis Johnson of Arkansas—has rushed for over 100 yards against the Florida defense. Florida is No. 8 nationally in rushing defense, giving up only 89.2 yards per game and 2.9 yards per rush. Florida has held four straight opponents to under 100 yards rushing. Alabama is No. 2 nationally in rushing defense, allowing only 77.08 yards per game and 2.62 yards per attempt. No running back has gone over 100 yards against Alabama’s defense this season. LSU’s Charles Scott (83) and Mississippi State’s Anthony Dixon (81) were the only two backs to run for more than 80 yards against Alabama.
8. Think it will be a low scoring game? Of course. Florida leads the nation in scoring defense, giving up 9.83 points per game. Alabama is No. 2 scoring defense, allowing 10.83 points per game. Florida has allowed only 11 touchdowns this season, four fewer than any other team in the nation. Alabama, Nebraska, and Penn State are tied for second place, allowing only 15 touchdowns.
9. Both of these teams are very good when it comes to stopping third down conversions. Florida is No. 2 nationally in third down defense. Opponents have converted only 43 of 164 third downs (26.22 percent). Opponents have converted only 48 of 166 third downs against Alabama (28.92 percent), which is No. 5 in the nation. In case you’re wondering, TCU leads the nation in third down defense. Opponents have completed only 46 of 176 third downs (26.14 percent) against the Horned Frogs.
10. Florida has nine appearances in the SEC championship game, more than any other school. Alabama has six appearances in the SEC championship game, all of them against Florida. Alabama is 2-4 in those games, winning in 1992 and 1999. The other schools who have appearances in this game are Tennessee (5), LSU (4), Georgia (3), Arkansas (3), Auburn (3) and Mississippi State (1). Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and Kentucky have never appeared in the SEC championship game.
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