It's simple: If Emory Jones continues his baffling mistakes (or any), Alabama will roll on Saturday
Whether you like it or not, Florida fans, you’re going to see a whole lot of Emory Jones on Saturday against No. 1 Alabama.
Dan Mullen said after another roller coaster showing that Jones would be the starter, and that was before the status of Anthony Richardson’s hamstring was updated. That’s reality. Mullen isn’t totally bailing on the guy he spent 3 years grooming after just 2 games, no matter how electrifying Richardson has been.
In just 37 snaps, Richardson made about as good a case as one can to get more reps (he only played 11 snaps in the USF game). If you ignore the snap minimum, he’s Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 quarterback in America through 2 weeks. That type of thing tends to happen when you average 21 yards per touch. Health permitting — Mullen said on Monday that he’s day-to-day — you’ll see more of Richardson when the Tide rolls into The Swamp.
In just 117 snaps, Jones made about as bad of a case as one can to get fewer reps against Alabama. It’s not just that he threw 4 interceptions in his first 2 games. It’s the way in which he threw them. Predetermined reads, mostly. It nearly resulted in a pick-6 against USF once, and he was too late to process his read later in that quarter. That happened against FAU, too.
If it happens against Alabama? Yeah, it’ll be over by halftime.
A couple of Jones interceptions would suck the air out of that stadium like the relative at the family party who insists on inserting their radical political views into every conversation.
Is Florida’s quarterback situation awkward already? Absolutely. Richardson has played nearly perfect football, but it wasn’t supposed to be his turn. Jones waited patiently behind Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask, yet now, his mistakes are being magnified because of how dynamic his understudy already is.
Alabama doesn’t care about any of that. All Nick Saban’s defense wants to do is embarrass whatever quarterback does step on the field. Assuming that’s mostly Jones, that simply doesn’t set up well for a Florida upset.
Look back on every quarterback who beat Alabama from 2009-present. You’ll notice a common denominator:
To recap, that’s 15 starting quarterbacks who beat Alabama since the start of 2019. They threw a combined 3 total interceptions. Nobody threw multiple picks, either. The last quarterback to throw an interception and beat Alabama was Cardale Jones in 2014. Of those 15 quarterbacks, 12 completed at least 58% of their passes. Jones and Kelly both stretched the field vertically, and Nix had the aid of 2 pick-6s that were forced by the Auburn defense.
Again, Jones threw multiple interceptions against Florida Atlantic and USF. You could combine every elite defensive player in the history of those programs and they still wouldn’t hold a candle to the defense that Jones will face on Saturday.
Go ask D’Eriq King about that. Any thought that King was going to do to Alabama what Trask or Matt Corral did was quickly washed away by that Alabama front 7. King threw multiple interceptions, he was sacked 4 times and his team was held without a touchdown until 40 minutes into the game … when Alabama already had a 41-3 lead.
And that’s for the 24-year-old King, who returned all but his tight end on offense after a standout first season in Rhett Lashlee’s offense at Miami.
It’s not a question of whether Alabama’s defense is going to make Jones uncomfortable. It’s a question of what he does when that happens.
So far, nothing suggests that Jones is capable of avoiding stepping on grenades for 60 minutes. That grenade could be telegraphing a pass right into the arms of Malachi Moore, or it could be throwing behind Jacob Copeland and into the hands of Jordan Battle.
Here’s the question, though. Let’s say that Jones does step on that grenade in the first half on Saturday. Does that then prompt Mullen to give us the full Richardson experience?
In a weird way, more Jones mistakes could give Florida fans exactly what they want. That is, more Richardson.
Backward thinking? A bit.
There will be a bit of desperation in The Swamp on Saturday. Alabama hasn’t been to Gainesville in a decade. By virtue of playing Georgia in Jacksonville every year and FSU slumping, Florida hasn’t even hosted a top-5 team since that epic 2018 showdown with LSU. Of course, that game ended with a pick-6 of Joe Burrow. It was Burrow who overcame that mistake and eventually went on to beat Alabama, though that ultimately happened in his second season at LSU.
There’s nothing that says Jones can’t move past his mistakes. Stephen Garcia didn’t enter that 2010 Alabama game as a mistake-free quarterback. Shoot, it wasn’t even a sure thing he was going to start against the Tide after he struggled so much against Auburn in South Carolina’s previous game.
Jones has an opportunity to flip the switch on his dimming chances of being the next great Florida quarterback. And if he doesn’t?
Turn the lights out on Florida’s upset bid.