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Top five Alabama/Florida rivalry moments in college football

Mac Jones and Najee Harris celebrate a touchdown in SEC Championship Game
Dale Zanine - USA Today Sports

One of the most entertaining rivalries in college football comes this week at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

The University of Alabama has not played Florida in “The Swamp” since 2011. After giving the Crimson Tide a close game in last year’s Southeastern Conference title matchup, the Gators are looking for an upset. Nick Saban is 7-1 all-time against Florida as Alabama’s head coach since 2007. His only defeat happened in 2008 at the hands of Urban Meyer in the 2008 SEC title game.

RELATED: Gators’ LB Brenton Cox Jr. has one message for Alabama: “Are they ready?”

Both schools were in some epic battles during the 1990s and early 2000s. Another chapter will be added after Saturday’s contest, but yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine dives into the top five greatest moments from Alabama/Florida.

5. Tim Tebow propels Gators to 2008 SEC Championship victory

Nick Saban and Urban Meyer coached in two classic SEC Championship Games.

During the 2008 meeting, Alabama had players that challenged Florida. Glenn Coffee rushed for 112 yards with one touchdown on 21 carries, and Mark Ingram totaled a rushing score too. Julio Jones gave the Gators’ defensive secondary problems, as he totaled 124 yards receiving on five catches. Despite trailing 17-10 at halftime, the Crimson Tide took a 20-17 lead into the fourth quarter. Tim Tebow would then put on his Superman cape and rescued the Gators. He guided the offense to a pair of touchdown drives, scoring 14 unanswered points. Tebow completed 14 of 22 passes for 216 yards with three touchdowns to no turnovers.

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John Parker Wilson gave a valiant effort, but the Tide fell short.

Florida earned a 31-20 victory, and it went on to capture its second national title in three years.

4. Shaun Alexander powers Tide to stunning upset victory in 1999

Alabama defeated Florida twice in the 1999 season, but the matchup at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium two weeks after losing to Louisiana Tech was special. Steve Spurrier had a dynamic offense that included Doug Johnson, Robert Gillespie, and Darrell Jackson; however, the Crimson Tide won the matchup in overtime. Andrew Zow guided Alabama with one of his finest performances at quarterback. He completed 28 of 40 passes for 336 yards with two touchdowns to one interception.

Defensively, the Gators had no answers for Shaun Alexander. He powered through Florida’s defensive front and totaled 106 rushing yards with three scores on 28 carries. The duo of Antonio Carter and Freddie Milons at wide receiver was prolific.

Milons led the Tide with 10 catches for 119 yards. Regardless of a back-and-forth game, Alabama had the ball last in overtime.

After a touchdown pass from Johnson to Reche Caldwell, Florida missed the extra point. Alexander took Alabama’s opening hand-off of overtime and ran 25 yards for a touchdown. His efforts tied the game at 39, and Chris Kemp (backup kicker) won the contest with a made extra point. The Crimson Tide punched a 40-39 stunning victory and went on to capture an SEC title.

3. Alabama wins inaugural SEC Championship Game in 1992

Alabama saved its perfect season and Roy Kramer’s job as commissioner of the SEC in 1992.

Kramer had the idea of starting a conference championship game, and the SEC was the test subject. The matchup put Alabama and Florida against each other at Legion Field. Eugene “Gene” Stallings and the Crimson Tide had a perfect season and national championship berth on the line. Alabama established a 21-7 lead over the Gators with touchdowns from Derrick Lassic, Curtis Brown, and David Palmer. Jay Barker tossed two scores at quarterback, and the Tide felt as though it had the game in the bag.

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Florida stormed back two touchdown drives of 68 and 51 yards, tying the game at 21. With its season hanging in the balance, Antonio Langham decided to gamble and it worked. He jumped a route and intercepted Gators’ quarterback Shane Matthews with 3:16 left in regulation. Langham returned the pick for a touchdown, and Tide fans went nuts at Legion Field.

Another interception off Matthews sealed the game. Alabama won, 28-21, and would secure its first national title since 1979.

2. DeVonta Smith wins Heisman Trophy with performance in 2020 SEC title game

Alabama had to endure an SEC-only schedule and COVID-19 in 2020, but its offense turned in a masterful performance at Mercedes-Benz Stadium versus Florida. Four Heisman finalists competed in the SEC Championship, including three from the Crimson Tide. Mac Jones was incredible, completing 33 of 43 passes for 418 yards with five touchdowns to one interception.

The Gators could not defend Najee Harris. He recorded 178 yards rushing, 67 yards receiving, and five touchdowns.

DeVonta Smith locked up the Heisman Memorial Trophy with a virtuoso outing. He set an SEC Championship record for receptions (15) and tallied 184 yards with two scores. Florida had a high-powered offense with Kyle Trask, Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney, and Trevon Grimes, but Alabama’s defense made plays in critical moments. The Tide recovered two fumbles and created five sacks, including two each from Will Anderson and Christian Harris. Harris had the game-clinching sack of Trask as time expired in regulation, and Alabama won, 52-46. The Tide punched its ticket to the CFP and won a national championship.

1. Alabama captures first SEC Championship with Nick Saban in 2009

Alabama did not believe it could beat Florida in 2008; however, 2009 was different.

The Tide prepared for the Gators from spring practice to fall camp. It endured some close calls that year, but it returned to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. Alabama had a bounce in its step, and Greg McElroy started it.

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He outplayed Tim Tebow in all facets. McElroy completed 12 of 18 passes for 239 yards with one touchdown. Mark Ingram secured Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy with his performance of 113 rushing yards with three scores on 28 carries.

Defensively, the Tide made Tebow feel uncomfortable. Florida could not establish a rhythm on offense, and Javier Arenas sealed the game with an interception. Alabama earned a 32-13 victory and took the national power away from the Gators.

Coach Saban went on to win his first national title as Alabama’s head coach.

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “watch” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

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