UT-Florida meet in No. 1 matchup in Big 12-SEC Challenge

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Texas (Big 12 No. 1) vs. Florida (SEC No. 1)

Texas' record against the SEC: 3-3
Florida's record against the Big 12: 1-0
Previous games: Texas leads the series, 2-0-1

Most recent game: Texas won, 26-0, at Gainesville, Fla., in 1940.

Distance between them (as the crow flies according to How Far Is It): 925 miles.
Where they should play: New Orleans, La. (457 miles to Gainesville, 468 miles to Austin)

Who wins: Florida.

Why: The consensus battle between the preseason No. 1 and No. 2 teams would have everything.

And while some Texas fans have tried to state their case of beating the Gators by pointing out how they defeated defending national champion USC for the 2005 national title in similar circumstances, these Gators are a little different than those Trojans.

I'm not thinking the Gators will be nearly as complacent. If anything, their defense should be better next season with the return of all of their defensive starters and all but one of the top 22 players from last season's two-deep. And as disruptive as the Gators played late last season (12.9 points per game over their final eight games) under Charlie Strong, it's not a big stretch to say that they will be improved this year.

Tim Tebow worked on his mechanics since the end of last season and will be driven to claim his third national championship. Louis Murphy and Percy Harvin will be missed as receiving threats and the returning players might have trouble against Texas' deep and talented secondary -- arguably the strength of its team.

Speedy running backs like Chris Rainey and Jeffery Demps would give the Gators an element of athleticism that would be difficult for Texas to match.

The Longhorns will have some offensive weapons, but I don't like their chances of beating top teams like the Gators without some kind of running threat besides Colt McCoy. Maybe freshman Chris Whaley will develop into that player as the season progresses. But I don't like Texas' chances against a swarming defense like Florida's if McCoy has to run the ball too often.

And also don't discount the edge that Florida might have because of defensive line coach Dan McCarney, who knows a thing or two about the Longhorns from his time coaching Iowa State.

It would be a great game. But in the end, Tebow and Florida's speed would boost the Gators to the mythical victory.

The count: SEC, 7-5.

Note: Matchups are determined by the most recent rankings of Big 12 blogger Tim Griffin and SEC blogger Chris Low. All cumulative records go back to the 1996 season -- the first of competition in the Big 12.