The Florida Gators have managed to win ugly for much of this season, and although it isn’t what fans want or expect, it is the kind of approach that is perfectly suited to a matchup with Alabama.
The outcome of tenacious battles like this always comes down to defense and the running game, and in this case, the battle lines lie on whether Florida’s front seven can keep Heisman winner Mark Ingram and his bruising sidekick Trent Richardson in check.
These guys have seen what happens once the Alabama train gets rolling—nothing can knock their wheels off the tracks.
The question is if Florida has what it takes to stop this attack. Since Ingram entered the station, no one has been able to find that formula.
Florida has been concocting a formation geared solely to preventing this train from reaching locomotive speed, unveiling what has been dubbed the Heavy Package against Tennessee earlier this season. The package features five defensive linemen, with tackle Jaye Howard, who comes in around 300 pounds, moving out to end.
The Gators held then-leading rusher Tauren Poole to just 29 yards, but it won’t be that easy against Alabama’s punishing duo.
The Gators will need every hand on deck in the rotation, as it appears they will give the Tide everything they have at the point of attack. Against perhaps the most physical team in the country, Florida will need every pound on the line to try to break through, and Urban Meyer has stated his plan to try to get someone free through the line at every opportunity.
If Florida is to win this one, the Gators will have to tackle a lot better than they did in last year’s meeting once they do get the opportunity. So far, the linebackers have showed they are capable of stopping plays before they get going.
The key may be taking a few chances to try to make a big hit in the backfield, get a sack, or force a turnover to steal the momentum on the road. A team with as much talent as Florida surely thinks it can beat anybody, but early momentum from the defense will make them surely believe they can do just that.
Teryl Austin has garnered a reputation of having a ball-hawking defense, and four games into the season, you can see why. Against the Tide, Austin may have to push those buttons a little more to manufacture a big play. It may not be necessary, but momentum goes a long way toward determining the victor.
Overloading the front will most likely leave Janoris Jenkins out on an island often against Julio Jones. If the front line can hold, then Jenkins will see plenty of action this game. He has shown the capability to fill that role seamlessly, but it won’t matter if the big guys don’t hold up their end of the bargain and slow down the running game.
So far, the Gators’ defense has taken care of business, but this is a completely different animal they will be facing. When the Tide train enters the station, will the Gators knock it off the tracks or get run over?