The Year of the Gator….We think So

By: Mr. Sensible

Will this be an old school defensive battle?  The author thinks so.

Will this be an old school defensive battle? The author thinks so.

Florida 24, Alabama 20

Three Keys for Florida Victory

1) Florida’s Defense
It is safe to say, Alabama hasn’t faced a tougher test than the one waiting this Saturday. Florida’s league leading defense is built in pressure, aggressiveness, and taking the ball away from the opponent. It is as hard to move the ball consistently against Florida as it is to score points – only nine times this season has the other team crossed the goalline against the Gators. Moreover, Florida is good as stuffing the run – only giving up 2.6 yards per attempt – which puts the onus on Alabama’s passing game even more. The Gators defensive backfield has produced 20 INTs this year and in a game against big, physical wide receivers of LSU (comparable to Alabama’s squad), Florida held them to 11 catches for 96 yards. That’s darn impressive. The loss of Carlos Dunlap on the defensive line due to suspension is noteworthy and he will be sorely missed. However, Florida possesses strength in scheme and quality depth which helps to cover for that loss and gives them a distinct advantage in this game.

2) Florida’s Coaching Staff
It is not a matter of Florida’s staff being better than Alabama’s as much as it is Florida’s staff has experience in these games and beyond and it all starts with the head coach, Urban Meyer.  It’s hard to describe Meyer without using the word “winner” in the report. Five double-digit win season, four conference titles,  two undefeated regular seasons, two BCS Championships, a number one overall NFL draft pick, a Heisman trophy quarterback, and 95 total wins over his nine year head coaching career. At Florida, he’s 56-9 overall and this may not even be the best team he’s fielded for the Gators. The supporting staff is excellent (don’t be surprised to see some of them plucked from the sidelines by season’s end) and they get maximum effort from highly-touted players. That’s not a small feat. It’s rare for Alabama’s Nick Saban to be equaled by the opposing sideline. Florida’s Meyer may just be better.

Only 2 more games of Hype, Will Vern's head explode...it just might.

Only 2 more games of Hype, Will Vern's head explode? ...it just might.

3) Tim Tebow
Without going into too much hyperbole, Tebow is the x-factor, been there done it all, leader every team covets at the signal caller position. Even when it doesn’t seem possible for him to do something else, he finds ways to do it. Tebow’s won 34 times as a starter and lost only five times (four of those coming in his first year as starter). He’s thrown 84 TDs against 15 interceptions and rushed for a league record 56 TDs. Besides the insane stats, the leadership skills are undeniable and, maybe, unbeatable in big games like this one. Last year going into the fourth quarter, Florida was against the ropes and then Tebow made plays – with his arm no less – to bring them back to two fourth quarter scores against roughly the same Alabama team he’ll face Saturday. It’s hard to go against this guy with the big prizes are on the line.

Raise your hand if you think Alabama can knock Tebow out of the game. It took a blindside shot under the chin to do it before and it’s the only time we’ve seen this guy take a lick and not get up from it. I don’t think Alabama can be one dimensional on offense the way they were against Auburn and win this game; Florida’s too good at pass rush and pass defense for that. Alabama proved they can beat Auburn without a running game. Can they beat Florida without it? I don’t think so because opposing teams hoping to win against the Gators need balance. When it comes down to it, the best defense against Florida’s offense is to control the clock and keep the ball out of Tim Tebow’s hands. Finally, Florida’s offense isn’t as explosive – the scoring average is down 8 points and they haven’t been in the endzone as much – but they have actually gained more yards than last year’s squad. Additionally, the defense gives up 3 points less and 33 yards less per game this year. I’d say Florida is as good as 2008, just getting it done differently.

Final Thoughts
This is appointment football television for college fans. It’ll be an epic battle at every position and will come down to the wire. In the end, I believe Florida’s defense can limit Alabama’s endzone opportunities forcing field goals and the Gators offense can get to the endzone often enough to win the SEC Championship.

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