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SEC CHAMPIONSHIP

Florida wins again, lobbying continues

December 03, 2006|From the Associated Press

ATLANTA — As silver confetti blew all around them, the Florida Gators celebrated their first Southeastern Conference since the "Fun 'n' Gun" days.

The party didn't last long, though.

It was time to start lobbying for a chance to play for the biggest title of all.

Making their pitch for a trip to the desert, the Gators got an unexpected assist from the West Coast, held on for a topsy-turvy 38-28 win over No. 8 Arkansas on Saturday and quickly deemed themselves the most worthy opponent to face top-ranked Ohio State in the BCS title game.

"We're going to tell a group of young men who just went 12-1 with the most difficult schedule against six ranked opponents that they don't have a chance to go play for a national championship?" Florida Coach Urban Meyer asked incredulously. "I'm going to need help with that one."

His players agreed, of course, feeling the No. 4 Gators are more deserving of a shot at the Buckeyes than third-ranked Michigan, which lost to Ohio State two weeks ago in their regular-season finale.

"Michigan already had its chance," said freshman Percy Harvin. "I think we deserve a chance."

One team Florida doesn't have to worry about: USC. The No. 2 Trojans were knocked out by a 13-9 loss to UCLA, which finished off its stunning upset while the Gators were in the locker room at halftime.

"It was definitely motivation," Harvin said. "We wanted to go out and finish off the game."

That they did. Harvin scored two touchdowns and Florida put up two more scores off a blocked punt and a botched return, winning its first SEC crown since 2000.

The Gators trailed Michigan in last week's BCS standings but hope they did enough to leapfrog the Wolverines in the one that really matters. The media, coaches and computers will answer that question today.

When everything is settled -- and no matter what happens, there will be plenty of griping -- Florida either heads to Arizona for the Jan. 8 BCS championship game or settles for a spot in the Sugar Bowl.

Arkansas Coach Houston Nutt threw his support to the Gators.

"This is the toughest conference in America," Nutt said. "If I were sitting on that other sideline, I would be saying, 'Absolutely.' I wish them all the best and hope they have an opportunity to go."

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