After completely dominating the scoreboard against one of the better offenses in the nation, Alabama's future is a little more clear. Alabama will not be caught off-guard against a prolific passing attack. The Tide is more than capable of standing its ground on the road against a rival that has nothing to lose.
However, Alabama has shown weakness that other teams will try to exploit. (Of course, Nick Saban will be addressing those weaknesses in Crimson Tide practices, too.) Alabama has proved that it can stop a passing attack, but it also proved that it's more vulnerable to the pass than the run by allowing Tennessee to gain more than 200 yards through the air in Week 8.
With the most brutal stretch of the season underway, Alabama has many tests between now and the potential 2012 SEC Championship game looming in December. The LSU Tigers pose the greatest regular-season threat to the Tide's perfect season, but the Tide still has another game that will be even harder to win.
Florida is averaging just over 30 points per game on offense. The Gators' passing attack is far less threatening than the 25th-ranked rushing attack, which is gouging teams for more than 200 yards per game as of Week 9.
While the Florida passing attack is ranked 118th in the nation, LSU's is not much better at 112th. The vaunted LSU rushing attack is actually less productive than the Gators'. LSU's ranks 28th in the nation, three spots lower than Florida's 25th spot.
The scoring offenses are separated by less than one point per game, with Florida's producing 30.1 points per game and LSU's producing 31 points per contest. The offenses are basically a push. LSU and Florida both have trouble passing, and they are both great at running the football.
The major point in Florida's favor is that Jeff Driskel is improving with each and every game. He's improving at a faster rate than Zach Mettenberger. Driskel's eight touchdowns on the season is only one better than Mett's seven, but that's not the major advantage.
The major difference between the two quarterbacks? Mettenberger has thrown four interceptions this year against Driskel's one. When it comes to poise in the pocket and decision-making, Driskel has the clear edge over LSU's signal-caller.
Offensive Advantage: Florida.
LSU has one of the best defenses in the nation. The Tigers are currently ranked 10th in the nation in points allowed, which is not as good as Florida's top-five ranking at No. 4.
Florida has proved itself both at home and on the road, taking teams like South Carolina down by a margin of 33 points. Florida's defense even shut down the Kentucky Wildcats, which no other power in the SEC East has done yet this year. (In fact, Georgia just escaped Kentucky by a mere five points in Week 8.)
Florida and LSU have both been good at forcing turnovers, but Florida showed the brutal ability to capitalize on those turnovers against South Carolina in Week 8. The Gators were so good at capitalizing on turnovers that they had 21 points off 29 yards of total offense following South Carolina's first three fumbles.
Yes, that's both circumstantial and skill-related, but we will elaborate on this a bit in the conclusion.
Defensive Advantage: Florida
Florida's special teams unit has not been getting very much press at all. What makes that interesting is that Florida's punter, Kyle Christy, is averaging 47.94 yards per punt on the season.
LSU's punter, Brad Wing, was one of the greatest punters in the nation last year, and he's only averaging 44.10 yards each punt.
While this may not seem like that big a deal, LSU's return team is averaging 8.23 yards per return on special teams. That's considerably lower than Florida's 10.22 yards per return this season.
Florida allows opponents only 1.85 yards per return, and LSU allows 6.80 yards in the same category.
That's a lot of numbers, but it basically translates to this: Florida's special teams unit is not only one of the best in the nation, it's better than LSU's in every measurable aspect of the game.
Special Teams Advantage: Florida
The coaching advantage is not as straightforward as other aspects of the game, so we will have to "make do with what we've got" here.
Les Miles and Will Muschamp have already met head-to-head this season, and Muschamp came out on top. Muschamp is one of fewer than a dozen coaches whose records are still perfect in 2012, and he's surprised a lot of folks.
The Gators were eventually supposed to be a contender in the SEC, and it's no surprise to see the Gator logo near the top of the polls in October. What is surprising is that it's near the top of the polls in October of 2012.
Muschamp took over a Gators' squad that had seen the fairly abrupt departure of one Urban Meyer and very little success since the departure of Tim Tebow. Nobody knew when the Gators were ever going to be contenders again. This is in stark contrast to LSU's Les Miles.
Miles arrived at an LSU that was on top of the world. Nick Saban had groomed the Tigers into a championship team, and Miles took over that squad and has expertly maintained its relevance with a completely different style of coaching than Saban's.
That's where Muschamp gains an edge. Sure, there was a foundation of success already laid at Florida, but Muschamp wasn't up against teams like the 2004 Crimson Tide. Muschamp was up against teams like the 2011 and 2012 Georgia Bulldogs and South Carolina Gamecocks.
After Alabama handed Florida a 31-6 beatdown in Tuscaloosa in 2010, the Gators were expected to have a long way to go before their names were menacing once again.
Muschamp saw things differently, discarded the "you're not there yet" memo and proceeded to win games in 2012 that he had "no business" winning. After defeating LSU, he absolutely stomped the Gamecocks.
The only beatdown LSU has handed out all year was to the Pac-12 Washington Huskies. That's a team who is vastly inferior to South Carolina.
Coaching Advantage: Florida
Alabama's prowess was not the question here. Alabama has the tools to defeat everyone on its schedule. The question is which team, LSU or Florida, has a better chance at knocking the Tide off the pedestal.
The answer is clearly Florida. While the Tide will still have a major battle on the road in Death Valley at night to earn the spot in the SEC showdown, Florida will pose a greater threat to the Tide should they get there.
Florida's biggest advantage over the Tide is the ability to capitalize on turnovers, something that Alabama has struggled with for the majority of the fist half of the season. Add in the huge special teams advantage, and Florida starts to look like a scary game.
If Nick Saban can use the Tennessee game film to get his ship in order, the Tide have a great shot at repeating as national champions, but six teams stand between now and then.
The timing of games like Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Auburn will certainly affect the scoreboard, as will the energy brought by the opposition. Alabama hasn't faced an undefeated Mississippi State this late in the season in forever.
Texas A&M is a potential letdown following the LSU game, regardless of whether the Tide win or lose. Auburn is Auburn. No Iron Bowl is a guaranteed win, and everyone knows that.
Assuming the Tide makes it to Atlanta, don't expect the battle to be won in the first half. Expect some nail-biting action from start to finish. Florida will be prepared. The Gators will not go down without a fight.
In fact, the Gators have yet to go down in 2012. They have fought valiantly in every game of the season, and the only guarantee you can get from Florida is that fight.