1. The irresistible forces
Former Auburn coach Pat Dye says this may be Nick Saban’s best Alabama team of them all. It isn’t because of 21st century football wizardry but because of a commitment to doing the basic things very, very well. In tailback Derrick Henry, Alabama has the now-overwhelming Heisman Trophy frontrunner who is able to tote the ball great distances (46 carries for 271 yards last week at Auburn). Bama has a front seven that is one of the deepest and most talented in football. “I’m not excited about playing those ‘creatures,’ ” Florida coach Jim McElwain said.
2. ‘G’ is for Gators ... and glacial
Florida has a defense to rival Alabama’s, ranking No. 2 in the SEC behind the Crimson Tide in total, scoring and rushing defense. Offense is another story. The Gators rank 12th in total offense and 10th in scoring and appear to regress offensively in November. In its past four games, Florida has averaged just under 14 points per contest and only 4.3 yards per play, which is lower than the worst season average in the SEC (Missouri at 4.4). Last week against Florida State, the Gators managed just 262 yards of offense and only scored on a safety.
3. Finding a way
Saban said the difference between 10-2 and 6-6 is very thin. He was talking about the Gators. Florida could have been a .500 team this season but clawed and scratched and found ways to pull out victories, five of them by a touchdown or less. Despite their lack of scoring punch against Florida State, the Gators still managed to run 79 plays and are right there with Alabama averaging about 33 minutes in time of possession. Every play Florida runs that Alabama doesn’t is a play that Henry isn’t wearing down the opposition. That’s the Gators’ goal.
4. And the winner is ....
At least on paper, this sets up as one of the biggest mismatches in SEC Championship Game history. How can Florida’s struggling offense be counted on to mount any sustained drives against Alabama’s rugged defense? The Gators probably need an early turnover to lead to a touchdown like in the LSU game or to hit a long bomb to Antonio Callaway to create some momentum. Maybe. Otherwise, expect Bama to grind Florida into the turf with Henry and a modest mix of low-risk passes from Jake Coker. Alabama 27, Florida 3