Amidst the Bowl Championship Series crisis, the chaos that is the Big XII South and the Heisman race, a great game has yet to be played that has significant title game influences.
That game is in the Southeastern Conference, it's the Western Division's Alabama Crimson Tide versus the Eastern Division's Florida Gators next Saturday at the Georgia Dome.
The contest pits offense against defense, speed against strength, blemished against perfect. This is the type of game that the Southeastern Conference has been awaiting, especially in the shadow of all the prime time, shoot-out games that the Big XII has offered up this season.
It's not secret that the SEC is having a down year this season, with embarassing non-conference losses to Wyoming and Louisiana Tech, something the conference and it's teams would not like on it's resume.
However, the SEC does boast No. 1 vs No. 2 in Alabama vs Florida in this season's SEC Championship Game, which is shaping up to have the excitement and competitiveness that has been seen all throughout the stretch in the Big XII South.
There's a lot of points to consider, but one that really strikes me is Florida's continuous success all season against defenses that are nationally ranked, most recently 501 total yards and 45 points against Florida State's seventh ranked total defense on the road on terrible field conditions.
Lest we forget the thrashing by 50 points against the South Carolina Gamecocks...or the 58 point atrocity that was the Kentucky game (UK has the 38th best total defense currently). Nor should we forget the pounding from the two teams from the state of Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Tennessee (Vanderbilt is the 29th best total defense, Florida won by 28, Tennessee is the fourth best defense, Florida won by 24).
The results tell a tale of Gator success, and possibly what is to come in the SEC Championship Game.
Upon further review, Alabama has played only three teams in the top 50 overall in total offense. (Those being Georgia, Arkansas State and Ole Miss)
Against Georgia, Alabama surrendered 324 total yards. In the Arkansas State contest, Alabama surrendered 158 total yards, and in the Ole Miss game, Alabama allowed 359 total yards of offense.
A closer examination also provides an interesting fact: 5 of Alabama's opponents are 79th or worst statistically in total offense (Tulane is 79th, Clemson is 82nd, Auburn is 102nd, Mississippi State is 113th and Tennessee is 116th).
Does that dignify that the Crimson Tide and their defense are a bit overrated?
Indeed it does. Alabama gave up only 188 total yards against Clemson, and shut down the ground game of the Tigers. However, against Tulane they allowed 318 yards of total offense (Tulane is 96th in rushing offense currently, and 51st in passing defense).
In that Tulane game, Alabama surrendered 232 yards through the air. Without question the ground defense of the Crimson Tide is rock solid, but looking at their pass defense reveals something many people have yet to take note of.
Alabama allowed 188 passing yards to Tennessee, who's 107th in the NCAA in passing offense this season. They gave up 132 passing yards to Mississippi State's 93rd ranked aerial attack.
This is only the gist of my findings. Against higher acclaimed passing offenses, Alabama gave up even more. They surrendered 274 yards of passing offense to Georgia, who's 16th in the nation in passing offense (Hhwever, Matthew Stafford, Georgia QB, did throw the ball 42 times).
Against Arkansas, who's the 23rd best passing offense in football, Alabama allowed 217 passing yards (Casey Dick, Arkansas QB, went 20-39, with one TD and three INT).
In the Ole Miss game, Alabama contained the 58th best Rebel passing attack to 201 passing yards.
If there's any indication of things to come, it might just be that Florida will be passing the ball alot, right? Wrong. Florida's fifth in the nation in passing efficiency, against Alabama's 5th passing efficiency defense.
But why is Alabama's passing efficiency defense so high? It's simple, they're playing opponents that are choosing to throw the ball alot against them. Like I pointed out, Matt Stafford threw the ball 42 times, and Casey Dick threw the ball 39 times against Alabama.
With Alabama having such a solid rushing defense, one would presume that Tebow would be airing it out alot. Tebow has only thrown over 25 attempts three times this season, and hasn't gone under 60 percent in terms of completion percentage in any of those games.
Tebow also has some success against nationally ranked passing defenses. Against South Carolina (fourth best in the nation), Tebow threw for 173 yards and two touchdowns. Facing Tennessee, the fifth best passing defense, Tebow threw for only 96 yards, but did throw two touchdowns.
Yesterday's game against Florida State's ninth ranked passing defense was another big game for Tebow, as he threw for 185 yards and three touchdowns. Against Miami's 14th ranked passing defense, Tebow found success, throwing for 256 yards and two touchdowns. For the final game against a top 20 team in pass defense, Tebow went for 171 passing yards and three touchdowns on 19th ranked Vanderbilt.
Tebow has had a lot of success against top-tier passing defenses, and I expect him to do well against Alabama's as well (the Crimson Tide have the 20th best pass defense) .Looking at more numbers, the rushing offense can expect to do well against Alabama, too.
Against Ole Miss' fifth ranked rush defense, the Gators managed 124 rushing yards. At the time, they had to find a true identity rushing the football, as Rainey and Demps had yet to establish themselves.
Looking at more numbers, the Gators got 147 on the ground against 13th ranked Tennessee. During this game, once again, the Gators had yet to find themselves on the ground.
It wasn't until their contest with a 16th ranked run defense in LSU that they really emerged as a success on the ground. The Tigers gave up 265 rushing yards to Florida in that game.
In yesterday's game against Florida State's 36th rush defense, the Gators got 317 yards on the ground.. even with horrible field conditions at Bobby Bowden Field.
Facing South Carolina's 41st best run defense, Florida exploded for 346 rushing yards. Even against Georgia's 42nd best run defense, Florida got 185 rushing yards.
The Gators are capable of running the football on Alabama, it won't be done all through the air. I hope this article exposes Alabama's defensive numbers to be a little phony, although they aren't entirely. I give a lot of credit to Alabama, as they do have a great defense, but I expect Florida to go right at Alabama, and do it with some success.
Look forward to seeing some more previews throughout the week on the Showdown in Hotlanta this Saturday. Thanks for reading!
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