Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Game Preview: Florida - Alabama

The 2014 SEC season has arrived for the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Florida Gators will be the first test in what promises to be yet another challenging and grueling SEC schedule.

Hungry for an upset, as are most teams that tangle with the Tide, Alabama will have to rise to the occasion in order to send the Gators back to Gainesville with a loss.

Betting Line: Alabama -14.5 (as of 9/17)

-Click HERE to track the line-

Florida Gators

After being delayed a full week due to their season-opener being scratched because of severe weather, Florida will enter Bryant-Denny Stadium with a record of 2-0.

Defeating Eastern Michigan by the score of 65-0 following the game that wasn't, the Gators were taken to three overtimes at home by the much improved and unrelenting Kentucky Wildcats.

While UF will test Alabama like no other team has this season, it has yet to be seen how the Gators truly stack up against top competition. Is Kentucky really that good or is Florida still the same sour team that went 4-8 in 2013? Only time will tell.

Quarterback Jeff Driskel, running backs Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor, wide receiver Demarcus Robinson, and defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III are five key players for Florida. In the contest with Kentucky, Robinson caught 15 passes for 216 yards and what would be the game saving touchdown in the initial overtime session.

Alabama Crimson Tide

In respect to Alabama the message is quite clear. Keep doing what you're doing...only at a higher level. Luckily for the Crimson Tide, with the possible exception of the secondary, most notably corner, UA doesn't have any glaring issues to handle.

Blake Sims, once again, will get the start at quarterback this weekend and unless something major happens Jake Coker will be relegated to spectator status.

Excluding a victory, which is obviously the goal for any and every game, one of the most important aspects for Alabama will involve building a tighter team chemistry and perhaps a better rhythm on the offensive side of the ball. The Tide defense will obviously need to be more physical in order to take care of the Gators. Forcing a few turnovers would be just what the doctor ordered.

Game nuggets

-As noted in the Southern Mississippi postgame blog, safety Nick Perry will miss the first half of Saturday's contest with Florida due to his targeting ejection against USM.

-Wide receiver DeAndrew White is expected to return to the lineup this weekend after being out of action for two weeks due to a separated shoulder.

-Safety Jarrick Williams, who underwent foot surgery following the West Virginia game, has not officially been ruled out by Nick Saban in respect to the Florida contest. Williams was originally projected to miss four weeks of action.

-True freshman defensive back Tony Brown has been working opposite Cyrus Jones in practice with the first team defense. Will that translate to a starting role for Brown this weekend? It is certainly worth a watch. Nick Saban said (Wednesday presser) that Brown will play substantial minutes against Florida.

-As noted above when discussing UA's quarterback situation, Nick Saban has noted that Jake Coker will only play against Florida if needed. Logic suggests that Blake Sims will play every meaningful snap against the Gators based on Saban's remarks.


While Alabama is the better team, often times the glow of such a big stage can get the best of players. Although the contest with Florida is not a high pressure "all eyes on Tuscaloosa" affair, this will be the first start for Blake Sims against SEC competition. All it takes is a rough first quarter to be placed behind the eight ball.

As for Florida, one would think that UF's close encounter with Kentucky would essentially prove that Will Muschamp's struggles of 2013 have carried over to 2014, but that's very hard to say. Perhaps UF just had a bad (fluke) game against a Kentucky team they potentially took for granted.

The Crimson Tide are favored to beat Florida by two touchdowns and logic would suggest such a betting line would be accurate.

If UF manages to keep the game close, the final narrative will be more about Alabama's struggles than Florida's new found stability. As is the case in most games during the Saban era, all the pressure will be on the Crimson Tide simply because so much is expected.

Only in this current age of Alabama football can a victory feel like a loss. If said victory falls short of the standard of excellence which has been in place for several seasons, a faction of people will always walk away unsatisfied.

Saturday's game could be one of those "win it on the scoreboard and lose it in the feelings" scenario for some.

--- Alabama 27 Florida 13 ---

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