Five Reasons Why the Florida Gators Can Afford a Loss at Alabama
When the No. 7 Florida Gators take the field against the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide Saturday, the eyes of the college football world will be on Tuscaloosa.
While the undefeated Gators, who finally hit their stride offensively in last weekend's 48-14 victory against the Kentucky Wildcats, will face a tough test at Bryant-Denny Stadium, they are coming into a very favorable situation.
Whether they upend Nick Saban and No. 1 Alabama or head back home with their first loss of the 2010 season, here are five reasons why the outlook in Gainesville will be sunny regardless of what happens Saturday.
The Gators Are the Underdogs
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In terms of the Gators' odds against the Crimson Tide, I'll reference the cliche, "They've got nothing to lose."
For a team replacing former All-Americans at quarterback, tight end, linebacker, and cornerback, defeating the defending BCS national champions on the road is a very tall order.
That being said, expect Urban Meyer and Steve Addazio to pull out all of the stops against the nation's top-ranked scoring defense (9.8 points per game).
Look for Florida to use game-changers Jeff Demps and Trey Burton in a variety of packages and formations in an attempt to create mismatches and keep the Alabama defense guessing.
While the Crimson Tide will probably emerge as the victor from this SEC battle, Florida should be able to hang tough with Nick Saban's club throughout the contest, and a successful trick play or a long run could very well make the difference for the Gators.
The Gators Control Their Own Destiny
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With the way that the SEC schedule has played out so far this season, the Florida Gators already have sole possession of first place in the SEC East.
The Georgia Bulldogs have pretty much played themselves out of competition after three straight conference defeats, and the Gators already own head-to-head victories against Kentucky and Tennessee.
Vanderbilt and South Carolina are currently tied for second place in the division, and based on the Commodores' history, the Gamecocks are probably the only team that will challenge the Gators for a trip to Atlanta.
Additionally, if Florida loses to Alabama, a loss to a team in the SEC West won't affect the Gators in any head-to-head tiebreakers in the SEC East race.
So, even if Saturday ends in a defeat for Florida, they will still be in great position to have a successful conference campaign and make their third consecutive appearance in the SEC Championship Game.
Florida Loses at Least Once Each Season
The Florida Gators have never gone through a college football season undefeated; don't expect this young team to break with that tradition in 2010.
However, despite the lack of perfection, Florida has still managed to win three national championships, including two in the last four years.
Another factor working in the Gators' favor is that in the current college football landscape, a one-loss SEC champion is virtually a lock for the BCS Championship Game every season.
Should Florida lose to Alabama this weekend and then run the table from there on out, the Gators would make a return trip to Glendale with a national championship on the line.
Win or Lose, This Will Be a Learning Experience
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Despite a very strong showing from the No. 10 Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville last weekend, the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide were able to pull out a 24-20 victory to remain the nation's top-ranked team.
Even though 'Bama didn't play a very good game, they were able to get the job done and rally from a six-point deficit in the fourth quarter thanks to their experience.
The Crimson Tide is a veteran football team that has faced tough road battles before, and even though the Razorback fans created a hostile environment, Alabama kept its cool and did what they had to do to win.
However, that experience certainly didn't come to them overnight.
'Bama, as well as many other great teams before them, had to begin at ground zero before they became a championship-caliber squad, and Florida's current group of players is no different.
Of the 70 Gators that travelled to the Tennessee game earlier this season, 43 were underclassmen, and the travel arrangements for the Alabama game will probably be similar, if not the same.
Each and every Florida player needs to take in the atmosphere at the game Saturday, gain a feel for adversity, and then do his best to overcome it.
Games like these turn very good teams into great teams, and this is an opportunity for the Gators to begin that transition.
Urban Meyer Will Not Lose the Rematch
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With two BCS national championships, two SEC championships, and a 4-0 career record in BCS bowl games, Urban Meyer is arguably the nation's best postseason coach.
In nine non-regular season games (conference championship games and bowls), Meyer boasts a 7-2 record and has outscored his opponents by an average of 11.3 points per game.
Granted, both coaches have the same number of national championships, but Meyer's postseason .778 winning percentage tops Saban's .533 mark.
If Florida loses to Alabama and they meet again this season, Meyer will identify 'Bama's weaknesses and draw up one of the best game plans of his career.
Additionally, assuming the Crimson Tide are undefeated for this matchup, the wear and tear of going through the season as the nation's No. 1 team will take a toll on Alabama, much like it did on the Gators last season.
If these two meet for a third consecutive season in the SEC Championship Game with the Crimson Tide's perfect season on the line, Florida has a very real shot at winning its third SEC title in five years.