Published September 28, 2010 - 11:30am
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This coming Saturday night October 2nd, the battle the whole country anticipated before the season started will take place in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The # 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide will host the # 7 ranked Florida Gators. Both teams are coming off week four wins and each were impressive in their own right – for Alabama it was Arkansas and Florida it was Kentucky. The Crimson Tide smoked the Gators last year in Atlanta in the SEC championship game and the rest was history. Florida has some unfinished business left on the field for this one. Here are the keys to the game for each team:
The Gators are coming off an impressive offensive game against Kentucky, in which their offense got rolling earlier than what they usually do in the first half, scoring on the first two drives. Kentucky is not really an accurate measuring stick; however, against lesser teams, the Gators have gotten off to a slower start in each of their three games before Kentucky. It is important for quarterback John Brantley to take care of the football. He has done this throughout his career, but he will need to do an exceptional job against an Alabama defense that picked off Ryan Mallet three times last game. Brantley will need to exploit the Alabama defense – particularly the corners and secondary. This is a young secondary – very talented, but young – and Brantley will have to be effective and accurate throwing the football. Florida will also have to be effective in the running game. The offensive line is good for the Gators, and they will need tough yards on the ground. If the Gators can’t run the ball, they will be one-dimensional like Arkansas, and that spells trouble. The Gators will have to get back-up quarterback / athlete Trey Burton the football, as he seems to be one of their top playmakers along with Jeff Demps.
The number one question will be whether the Alabama secondary can cover all of Florida’s offensive weapons on the perimeter. The Gators will undoubtedly try and get the ball in space to their speedsters. Will Alabama be able to cover them? Alabama will have blitz packages ready for John Brantley because he has not seen or faced a defense like this in his career. They will bring linebacker Don’ta Hightower on blitzes to get some licks on Brantley. Alabama is great against the run – something that Florida desperately needs to establish early in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide will have to be better against the pass, as they gave up 357 yards through the air to Ryan Mallet last week.
The Florida defense will play a run-first defense in this game. Florida showed a 5-2 defense against a rushing offense of Tennessee and it proved to be effective. Alabama’s running game is night-and-day better than Tennessee, but this is the only comparison the Gators have faced in the running game to this point. Florida will force Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy to beat them through the air and will likely put eight men in the box. I think McElroy got exposed somewhat in the Arkansas game for his lack of arm strength. How will he fair against a talented secondary and defense that is leading the country in interceptions right now? If Florida is able to slow down Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, they have a legitimate shot.
As the whole country knows, Alabama probably has the best two running backs in the country in Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. Alabama loves to establish the running game with their big uglies up front. Will they be able to do that against a physical defense of Florida that will likely load the box? Ingram and Richardson will get plenty of touches in this one. I love the match up of arguably the best wide receiver in the SEC Julio Jones and the number two cornerback Janoris Jenkins for Florida. Alabama will need to establish the run game early with their tremendously talented backs.
Enough Talk Already
This game will come down to grit. It will come down to heart and physicality. Alabama may be the most complete team the SEC has seen in 5+ years. Both teams do different things well. Florida’s offensive line against Alabama’s defensive line will be a huge key factor in this game if Florida will be able to establish anything on the ground. Alabama’s young defensive backfield will also be a key – a defense that forced three turnovers last week against an Arkansas team that could not establish the run. Whoever wins this game will be the front-runner, not only in the SEC, but in the national picture as well. This is why everyone loves SEC football and why it’s the best conference in college football in America.