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 ATLANTA (AP) -Florida appears headed back to the national championship game. Alabama picked the worst possible time for its first loss of the season.
Tim Tebow threw three touchdown passes - including the decisive score with just under 3 minutes remaining - to lead the No. 2 Gators to a 31-20 victory over No. 1 Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game on Saturday. That should be enough to give Florida a spot in the BCS title game for the second time in three years.
Showing it could win a close game in a season of routs, Florida (12-1) went into the fourth quarter trailing 20-17. But Jeffery Demps, helping fill in for injured Percy Harvin, scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 2-yard run with 9:21 remaining.
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Instead, mark down a spot for Florida, which won the title during the 2006 season with a rout of Ohio State in the title game. The Gators came into the game ranked fourth in the BCS standings, but the impressive win over an unbeaten team will surely be enough to move them into one of the top spots.
Their opponent? Oklahoma had the inside track heading into Saturday night's Big 12 championship game against Missouri. Texas was waiting in the wings if the Sooners were upset.
Whoever it is will have to stop Tebow, who was 14-of-22 passing 216 yards and led the team in rushing with 57 yards. He tossed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Carl Moore to finish off Florida's opening possession, went 5 yards to David Nelson to give the Gators a 17-10 halftime lead, and came through one more time to clinch the victory.
With Florida facing third-and-goal at the 5 after a strange penalty for sideline interference, Tebow found Cooper breaking toward the middle in front of Marquis Johnson. The perfectly thrown pass - low enough to give no chance of an interception - was cradled by Cooper to make it a two-score game.
Joe Haden's interception ended any hope of an improbable comeback. Tebow was named the game's MVP.
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