Why Alabama needs to be on upset alert against Florida
Florida is probably not going to beat Alabama this weekend. Sorry Florida fans. It’s true.
However, probably doesn’t mean definitely. The most likely scenario for the Florida-Alabama game is everything falls into place for the Crimson Tide no matter where they play and who they play. That’s how things usually work because Alabama is just that much better than any other team in college football.
Just look at the numbers. Alabama is once again the top-ranked team in the nation. Florida is trying to knock down the championship door as it has been since Urban Meyer last won a national title in 2008. In the meantime, Alabama has won 6 national championships. Las Vegas agrees as well. Despite playing at home, Florida is a 2-touchdown underdog. All signs point to a decisive Alabama win.
Alabama has won 7 games in a row over the Gators, including a thriller last December in the SEC Championship Game. Another win would match the longest streak Alabama has had against Florida. Alabama won 8 in a row from 1964 to 1986. Alabama hasn’t lost to an SEC East team since 2010.
Being one-sided, it’s a good thing that none of those numbers will matter on Saturday. Florida first has to believe they can beat Alabama to actually do so. There has to be some doubt. To erase that, Florida should take a look at the numbers below. Here are 4 reasons that Florida will beat Alabama on Saturday at The Swamp.
I’m not referring to the ancient history I just noted. I’m talking about more recent history — as in last season. Florida is the only team that stayed within a touchdown of Alabama in 2020. That occurred in the SEC Championship Game. So how did the Gators staying within striking distance? They scored — a lot.
We found out early in the season that Alabama’s offense wasn’t going to be stopped and it probably wasn’t going to contained last year. There were too many great players on that unit to simply be stymied. Florida. however, had an answer — its offense. The Gators remained close in the Bama game thanks to 408 passing yards while only picking up 54 rushing yards.
Florida head coach Dan Mullen accepted the fact that Bama’s offense was just that elite last season. With so many future NFL players at the skill positions, Mullen knew he had to outscore Alabama. That was right up his alley and he came closer than anyone else last year. The tables turn a bit this year. Alabama’s offense is still incredibly talented but there are a ton of newcomers. Alabama’s defense is better than last year. Therefore, this game could have a far different feel than 2020.
Alabama often depends on visual clues to change things at the line of scrimmage on offense before the play and to send messages as to when to snap the ball. That’s worked well so far in a dominant 2-0 start. However, things change on the road in the SEC.
Visual cues will be key at The Swamp, but there will still be times when Alabama needs to communicate verbally. That’s tough to do with 90,000 fans screaming at you, especially on offense. As long as Gators fans are in the game, The Swamp’s decibel levels will challenge any stadium in college football.
There’s also the question of where Alabama quarterback Bryce Young is in his maturity process. He looks to be pretty far along, but a trip to Gainesville is different. That hostile crowd has made some great quarterbacks look woefully average.
Uncertain quarterback position
There’s an old saying that if you have two quarterbacks, you really don’t have one.
Is that the case at Florida? We’ll find out. Mullen intends to play both quarterbacks, but it’s doubtful he’ll actually exchange quarterbacks Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson for every play or even every series. There’s no way either quarterback would find a rhythm. It’s unclear just how Mullen will handle his quarterbacks, but we know one thing: Both should be a considerable threat against Alabama. Why? Both can run. Kyle Trask being an obvious exception last year, mobile quarterbacks usually are the only kind of signal-callers that have given Alabama coach Nick Saban trouble in his career. Jones and Richardson have the mobility that could keep Alabama’s defense guessing, but it’s up to Mullen to balance that very fine line of showcasing each of his quarterbacks’ strengths while still allowing them to discover some sort of rhythm. Strictly speaking football, a mobile quarterback who can elude the initial rush, extend the play and still strike downfield is Florida’s best chance of beating Alabama.
To be real clear, Saban is the best coach in the country by far. He has dominated the SEC thanks to recruiting, player development and game-day coaching. Mullen may be close to Saban on the latter — or at least comparable. Mullen has kept underdog teams in the game throughout his career even though he’s often been outmatched. Mullen will be outmatched again Saturday, but the coaching gap won’t be nearly as disparaging compared to other coaches Saban has faced. Mullen could keep Florida in the game until the fourth quarter. If that happens, then the monumental upset that so many would like to see could actually become a reality.
But don’t bet on it.