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With an almost certain berth in the BCS National Championship Game there for the taking, No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Florida have more on their minds than winning the Southeastern Conference. When the Crimson Tide and the Gators play Saturday at the Georgia Dome, the league championship is the silver medal -- at most.If you like your thrillers rife with intrigue, if you like your subplots filled with subplots, then settle into your comfiest chair. There's more at stake in this game than even the crystal football. The SEC championship game is a renewed clash of generational powers. It is a soap opera. And it will serve as a referendum on the most dominant style of play in a league that has provided three of the past five BCS national champions.
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Nick Saban's 12-0 Tide depend on old-school SEC virtues.
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Bobby Bowden picked up 308 of his 381 wins during his 33 seasons at Florida State.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Ivan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Phew, that was close. With the addition of two bowls this season raising the number of postseason games to 34, college football needed until last weekend to get the 68 teams qualified for the postseason. The total stands at 71, with four teams having a chance to qualify this week. That said, how would you like to play for one of the three teams that qualified and still will be left home? That's like being the first guy out in the world's biggest game of musical chairs.
2. One good thing about the end of the season: Florida State won't have to cover any more tight ends. The Seminoles allowed 14 touchdown passes this season, seven of them to tight ends. The most recent two went to Florida sophomore Aaron Hernandez, who had caught three touchdown passes in the previous 11 games. On one seven-yard scoring catch, Hernandez lined up on the left side, released to the right, and had no Seminoles within five yards of him.
3. You have to commend Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh for withstanding the urge to take the redshirt off freshman quarterback Andrew Luck. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Luck has impressed the Cardinal staff all season, and might have made the difference between a team that went 5-7 with two last-second losses and a team that would have gone to its first bowl since 2001. Luck is going to push two-year starter Tavita Pritchard hard to keep his starting job next season.
USC coach Pete Carroll and UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel want to return to the tradition of their teams wearing home jerseys when they play each other. The tradition ended in 1982, Neuheisel's junior year as a Bruin quarterback. NCAA rules demand that the visiting team wear white.Carroll said the Trojans will wear cardinal at the Rose Bowl on Saturday (ABC, 4:30 ET), which, by NCAA rule, will cost a timeout. Neuheisel said he will burn a timeout, the way that tennis players dump a point when they benefit from a bad call. LSU got an amendment allowing the home team to wear white if the visitors agree. The Pacific-10 Conference has asked the NCAA to allow both teams to wear their home duds. Let's hope the NCAA chooses common sense over its rules.
Did you hear the tribute to his predecessor new Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin gave at his press conference Monday? "In my opinion, the University of Tennessee football program," Kiffin said, "wouldn't be anywhere near where it is today without Coach Fulmer." Talk about kicking a guy while he's down.Seriously, Kiffin proved at USC that he can recruit and, for two seasons, that he can coordinate an offense. But athletic director Mike Hamilton just entrusted a 33-year-old with no college head coaching experience to compete against Florida, Georgia and Alabama, all of which have proven head coaches and all of which have natural recruiting bases. Hamilton thinks he has hired a Mark Richt. But when Georgia hired Richt, it got a 40-year-old with 16 years' experience as a coordinator on top-five teams. Tennessee just made a 10-year wager. If Kiffin doesn't measure up, it will be that long before the Volunteers are nationally relevant again.