Florida focuses on task at hand

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- Florida receiver David Nelson pulled out his 2006 Southeastern Conference championship ring the other night, slipped it on his finger and wore it for hours -- a tangible reminder of what the Gators are playing for now.

Nelson kept his national title one stashed away, at least for a week.

Believe it or not, there has been little talk among players and coaches about the Bowl Championship Series implications that come with Saturday's SEC title game.

They surely know the winner is all but guaranteed a spot in the national title game in Miami. But they won't dare mention it, and not because they fear jinxing anything either.

For top-ranked Alabama and No. 2 Florida, getting to Atlanta has been the main goal all year. It was what motivated them in the off-season, what they talked about in the preseason and what they played for during the season. It also will have a huge impact on their postseason.

"There's stuff going around that we can go to some big-time bowl I guess, a big-time game," Nelson said with a smile. "But this is our goal. During the offseason, there's no talk of Miami, there's no talk of Louisiana, it's all talk of Atlanta. Everything we did was to get here. We're here now and we're not just satisfied being here."

Few gave Alabama (12-0) much of a shot at winning the West, especially not after finishing 6-6 last season and then beating Colorado in the Independence Bowl.

The Tide was picked to finish third in the division, behind Auburn and defending national champion Louisiana State University.

Second-year coach Nick Saban, meanwhile, was telling his players something different. He was convinced they could get to Atlanta, and it wasn't just talk, either.

He knew the talent was there, and given that each of the Tide's six losses in 2007 was by seven points or less, Saban figured hard work, perseverance and a little more confidence would help them pull out close games.

The Tide are 3-0 in games decided by less than a touchdown and on their way to the Georgia Dome.

"It's probably better to aim high and miss than to aim low and hit," Saban said. "I think it's important to have high goals and aspirations for what you want to accomplish."

Alabama is making its first trip to the SEC title game since 1999, when the Tide beat Florida 34-7, and sixth overall.

Only the Gators have more appearances, with nine.


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