College Football: Six Things To Watch for in the Florida-Alabama Game
On Saturday, the Florida Gators will enter Tuscaloosa as eight-point underdogs to the No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.
The matchup will not only have major implications on the SEC, but also on how the teams will fare in their bid for a BCS championship game spot, particularly because in the past two contests between the teams, the winner has gone on to win the national title.
The matchup is one for the ages. Between a 24-game streak for Florida and a 28-game streak for Alabama, the two teams combine for 52 consecutive regular season wins. One of these streaks must come to an end.
For the Florida Gators, this game is an opportunity for revenge. Alabama destroyed Florida in the SEC Championship game last season, robbing Tim Tebow of the opportunity of winning a third BCS Championship.
For the Crimson Tide, this game is an opportunity to strengthen their argument for a BCS Championship game title berth in case they lose another game later on.
Here are the six things to watch for when the Florida Gators take on the Crimson Tide.
The Coaching Matchup
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The coaches who will step on the field on Saturday own three out of the last four BCS Championships. Urban Meyer and Nick Saban are undeniably two of the top five coaches in college football.
Both Meyer and Saban are known for their ruthless preparation and excellent motivational skills.
Saban isn't treating the game any differently than any other game. Saban told the media this week that "It's a standard that we want to play to here. It doesn't really matter; the numbers on the back of the jerseys change and the numbers change, but the standard never does."
Still, it is difficult to believe there hasn't been a heightened feeling of anticipation this week.
One thing is for sure: both of these coaches have been anticipating this matchup from the beginning of the season.
There is no doubt that each of them will have a well-thought out game plan to try to exploit the weaknesses of the other team, however few there may be.
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After beginning the year injured, Ingram has compiled a whopping 308 rushing yards and four touchdowns in just two games.
With a perfect combination of bruising power and rapid acceleration to burst through holes, last year's Heisman Trophy winner is a factor that must be planned against.
Last week against Arkansas, Ingram showed no signs of being slowed by injury; however, in case Ingram gets hurt, the Crimson Tide have super-backup Trent Richardson.
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The Gators hope freshman Trey Burton can eventually turn into an offensive dynamo similar to Tim Tebow. For now, Urban Meyer can only realistically hope he can turn into an X-factor.
Last week against Kentucky, Burton was all over the field, completing his only pass for 42 yards, running for 40 yards and five touchdowns, and catching five passes for 37 yards and a touchdown.
Specifically, the Gators will call on Burton in the red zone where he has the opportunity to use his athleticism and multiple talents to find the end zone, as a quarterback, wide receiver, or running back.
With Chris Rainey kicked off of the team, the Gators must have other players step on a make plays against a staunch Alabama defense.
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In Atlanta last year, the Crimson Tide halted the Gators' endeavor to win a third national championship in four years. Florida would like nothing more to return the favor by putting in jeopardy the Tide's hope of repeating as National Champs.
Florida linebacker Brandon Hicks expressed his disappointment in last year's performance earlier this week:
"Ever since that game, it's unexplainable. I wanted it back so bad. That game hurt so bad because we felt we were good enough, we had the team to win. But we didn't execute everything that we were supposed to and we took it on ourselves that our preparation wasn't right."
Hicks and the rest of the Gators want this game badly. The question is whether the incentive of revenge is enough motivation to will the Gators to victory.
A Week-Long Hangover
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After a furious rally from thirteen down in the second half, Alabama expended a lot of energy against Arkansas last week.
With a tough matchup for the Tide against the Razorbacks, Alabama will have to overcome the emotional highs and lows from playing a difficult game the week before the showdown with the Gators.
Florida, on the other hand, comes off of a victory against Kentucky where the offense really began to show the promise of its explosive potential.
The Gators have had the luxury of possibly looking ahead and preparing a little bit in advance since Kentucky was not considered a difficult opponent.
Will Alabama come out of the gate slowly again this week? Will they be able to shift their focus to the Gators after the emotionally charged victory in Arkansas?
The Big Play
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Both the Gators and the Crimson Tide have players capable of getting out into the open field for big gains.
Jeffrey Demps is a track star in a football uniform. With explosiveness, excellent agility, and rapid acceleration, Demps can break out a huge run on any given play.
Demps already has a 72 yard run this season. The Gators will need at least five big runs from Demps in order to open up the passing game and have a chance of beating the Tide.
For Alabama, Julio Jones will continue to be a matchup nightmare for opposing corners. A 6-foot-4, 220 pound frame allows Jones to body up smaller cornerbacks and create big plays down the field.
It will be interesting to see how the strong Florida secondary matches up against Jones.
Justin Eisenband is a student at Georgetown University and a writing intern for the Bleacher Report. To read more become a fan at http://bleacherreport.com/users/352849-justin-eisenband