No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (12-0) vs. No. 4 Florida Gators (11-1)
The magnitude of this game is pretty simple:
Win, and you're playing in Miami on January 8th.
Lose, and you're playing January 2nd in the Sugar Bowl.
This is old guard SEC and the new school mixing it up once again. These two teams have met the most in SEC Championship Games, and have provided some classics. With the staggering amount of young talent on these two squads, this will not be the last of the Florida-Alabama matchups to come in the next few years.
Florida wins the game if....
1.) They run the perimeter early in the game.
The strength of Alabama's team defense is their defensive line and how they control the line of scrimmage. Tackle Terrance Cody is a mammoth in the middle, so running right at the Alabama defense will be a problem early on. Florida runs its spread option offense very well to the outside by breaking containment of defenses, and often cutting back against the grain.
Running the ball along the perimeter early from sideline to sideline, will wear down the big defensive line to the point that by the 3rd and 4th quarter, Florida can start to work the middle of the defense and rip off some bigger chunks of yardage.
A huge key to running the ball outside for Florida is the downfield blocking of both the receivers and the offensive line. Maurkice Pouncey is great at getting downfield and blocking in the secondary.
2.) They continue to answer the bell.
This Alabama team will be the toughest test the Gators will face all season. Both teams have led a bunch and have rarely trailed at all. Both teams have not had to face much adversity at all. Alabama won a game in overtime on the road, which is no small task. Florida lost a game at home to Ole Miss, a team that Alabama has beaten.
The adversity faced advantage though, goes to Florida. Two points:
The Ole Miss game
Yes, they lost. Florida trailed at three separate times in the game, and each time they came back to either tie the game, or take the lead; until the extra point that was blocked.
Following the Ole Miss game was the now famous promise by Tim Tebow, and a win over Arkansas, the season was still up in the air until:
The LSU game
Florida led the LSU game 20-0 with only 49 seconds left in the first half. Not too bad, until LSU answered with a touchdown drive before halftime, and then a 12 play, 80 yard touchdown drive to begin the second half.
LSU had seized the momentum of the game and sucked the life out of The Swamp. Any and all hopes for the rest of the season hinged on the Gators next drive, which they answered with a 67 yard touchdown drive, a three and out, and a 60 yard touchdown drive. Just like that, the lead was back to 20.
3.) The passing game is clicking.
Alabama's secondary really hasn't been tested at all this season. Rashad Johnson is their best defensive back, but the secondary can be thrown on. They did well against Matthew Stafford, and Jevan Snead is talented but is without surrounding talent like Stafford.
Tim Tebow has the best group of receivers to work with, regardless of whether Percy Harvin plays or not. Louis Murphy would start as a No. 1 WR at probably 100 other FBS schools and is their most consistent receiver. Riley Cooper and David Nelson have stepped up to make plays all season. Tight End Aaron Hernandez could be a major factor in the passing game.
Florida loses the game if....
1.) The defensive line gets manhandled up front.
The success of Alabama's team this season starts up front with their offensive line. Andre Smith and Antoine Caldwell will be playing on Sundays in the near future. Florida's defensive line is banged up, but they will empty the bench on Saturday, rotating in as many guys as possible to play the two inside line positions. Alabama's line has struggled at times this season, and Florida's defensive line needs to play its best to stop Alabama's running game.
2.) They buy into the hype.
For weeks now; the media, fans, analysts, etc. have been saying how great Florida is. Urban Meyer calls the hype surrounding his team "Florida nonsense." Florida is widely predicted to beat Alabama. Only a few of the media have said that Alabama will win. Florida was a 10 and a half point favorite at one point.
People need to stop and think. Alabama is undefeated for a reason. They are No. 1 for a reason. Alabama can beat Florida for a reason. They are a damn good football team.
Alabama should not be taken lightly, and I feel that most people outside of the Florida football program are taking Alabama lightly. It will be a sad day if the Gators take Alabama lightly.
The X-factors will be....
Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes
These two players are the heartbeat of the team. Both players are more mature, they have grown into better leaders, and the rest of the team feeds off of both of them. Brandon Spikes probably wouldn't be having the type of season he is without Tim Tebow, and vice versa. Tim Tebow has elevated his game, and Spikes has as well. Both can take over and become one man wrecking crews on their respective side of the football.
Something to think about....
In the three years that Percy Harvin has been a Florida Gator, Florida is undefeated (4-0) when he misses a game completely. Florida has won by an average margin of 48.5 -18.5.
Game Prediction - Florida 35, Alabama 17
To see what Alabama Crimson Tide superfan Tim Croley has to say, click here.