#18 Florida Gators vs. #2 Alabama Crimson Tide
Saturday – December 5 – 3:00 pm CT
Georgia Dome – Atlanta, Georgia
The Crimson Tide find themselves in an all too familiar spot in the Nick Saban era as they roll on into another SEC Championship contest on Saturday with a trip to the College Football Playoff on the line. As for the Gators, they’ll make their return to the title game for the first time since 2009 in which they got crushed by none other than Alabama. Things have changed mightily since then for Florida however. Urban Meyer was coaching that team, then UF had a disastrous experiment with Will Muschamp running the show in recent years, and now they have gotten back on the winning track under first year head coach Jim McElwain who was acquired from Colorado State.
McElwain and Saban know each other quite well considering the Gators coach was once the offensive coordinator for Alabama. That may not matter a whole lot in this one though due to the fact that Florida’s offense has been atrocious and is ranked 102nd in the country. On the flip side, the Tide have the number 2 ranked defense in the nation but anybody who has seen them play know that they are the best there is. The only game in which Alabama really looked vulnerable this year was in an early season loss to Ole Miss 43-37. Since then they have only given up more than twenty points once in a game and that was in a convincing road win at Texas A&M 41-23.
They say defense wins championships. They also say a great ground game does too. Well it certainly helps Bama’s fate that they have running back Derrick Henry who just set the school’s single season rushing record, eclipsing Trent Richardson’s total with 1,797 yards. The latter finished third in the Heisman Trophy in 2011 and the odds are the former will win it this year. Quarterback Jake Coker has progressed nicely as well and has been that type of system guy that you need if you’re Alabama-nothing too fancy, just don’t turn the ball over, complete the sure passes, and give it to Henry over and over.
The x factor here though is that Alabama will be going up against the toughest defense they will have seen all year in Florida who is number 5 overall. The Gators only give up an average of 111 yards and 15 points per game. They were exposed earlier in the season by the once odds on Heisman favorite, LSU running back Leonard Fournette, and chances are they simply won’t be able to stop the rushing attack of the Tide. Subsequently, Florida is also coming off a shellacking at the hands of in state rival Florida State 27-2 so one has to wonder how much fight they have left in them.
Rarely do you see an SEC Championship game in which one team is favored over another by a whopping eighteen points but that’s what Vegas sees here. The over/under is only forty as well which is very low for a college football game these days. If Bama were to lose then the SEC would be all but left out of the playoffs but that ain’t happening. Expect Alabama to look in true postseason form and steamroll the Gators in this one who can still look back on the year with great pride in just getting back to the title game after a six year absence.
Prediction: Alabama 28, Florida 10