Staff Predictions for Alabama vs. Florida
Alabama will take on Florida in its SEC opener at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday. The teams rarely meet each other during the regular season but rather during the SEC Championship game. However, in recent years, as Alabama has kept up to par in their performance the Gators have been on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Many areas of the game can make the difference in whether the Tide will continue their path to the final four or if the Gators will be the spoilers of the 2014 season. Here's a look at the staff's predictions for the Saturday afternoon's game.
Chris Stewart (Host of "The Chris Stewart Show")
This is obviously Alabama's biggest challenge to date. Don't be fooled by the 3 OTs Florida had to endure before surviving Kentucky. The Cats are much improved, and the Gators were likely looking ahead to this one. The possible return of DeAndrew White will provide another weapon for Blake Sims opposite Amari Cooper.
I also expect the Bama defense to make more plays than we've seen in the first three weeks. Alabama 30, Florida 20
Ryan Fowler (Host of "The Game")
Alabama gets their 1st real test in 2014. Alabama leads CFB in stopping the run, giving up an average of only 47 yards per game. Since 2005, Alabama has only given up 14 100-yard rushers and Matt Jones is capable of becoming the 15th back to rush for over 100 yards. Since 2008, Alabama is 63-1 when rushing for at least 140 yards in a game. This game comes down to who can win the line of scrimmage and who can be the most effective team in establishing a rushing attack. Practice this week has been intense and energized and it seems like the team is focused on the task ahead. Yeldon, Henry, and Drake combine for over 265 yards rushing. Alabama 24, Florida 17
Benjamin George (Digital Managing Editor)
SEC play finally opens for Alabama and we’ll find out a lot about both teams in this game. The Crimson Tide and Florida Gators both rank top 3 for offense and defense in the conference but this will be the toughest matchup to date for each team. The return of WR DeAndrew White should take a little focus away from Amari Cooper, but it’s still going to come down to the rushing attack for Alabama. If you control the line of scrimmage, you control the game. Alabama 31, Florida 17
Ryan McMunn (Executive Producer)
Here we go, the first conference game for the Crimson Tide. Look, we all saw Kentucky hang around with the Gators this past weekend, and the immediate reaction would be that Alabama will steamroll all over the guys from Gainesville, but don't go assuming too quickly. Florida has plenty of talent, and from the looks of things so far, Jeff Driskel is showing signs of being the former #1 quarterback in high school football a few years back. That defense is nasty, and it's one of the best in the country. Tide receiver Amari Cooper has been spectacular thus far, but he hasn't faced a cornerback like Vernon Hargreaves III. He won't get open near as much as he has in the past three games, but he's still a play maker and he'll get his yards. One of the biggest things to watch for this Saturday is how Will Muschamp will attack Kirby Smart's defense. Will he go about it with an up-tempo strategy, or will he slow things down at his comfortable pace? Bama is probably three touchdowns better than Florida, but Muschamp and his Gators are looking for a signature win and the game will be closer than the experts think. Alabama 27, Florida 13
Trey Brooks (Producer)
Alabama's defense tends to struggle against hurry up no huddle teams, but Florida's offense is the complete opposite. They are as slow as they come. The Gator defense is nothing to laugh at, but if Bama can control time of possession they won't last all four quarters. Look for Derrick Henry to be the star of the show. Alabama 24, Florida 10
Kevin Connell (Contributor)
Alabama faced a minor scare in its season opener against West Virginia, but Florida will be the first opponent this season to provide an accurate and definite depiction of the Crimson Tide’s true identity in 2014.
Nick Saban said this week that he and Lane Kiffin have slowly opened up the playbook more and more for Blake Sims with each game, but there won’t be any hand holding any longer. Both Saban and Kiffin have a much greater trust in Sims’ handle of the offense than they did when the season began after his positive performances in each of the Crimson Tide’s first three games this season.
Sims will make the big and necessary plays when needed, and T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake, who have been spared from absorbing a lot of hits with only a few carries each in all of their games this season, will also be let loose against a physical and talented Florida defense. Despite their improvement this season, Alabama will keep Florida’s offense mostly in check as it continues to work out its kinks.
Like in its previous two meetings in 2011 and 2010, Florida will keep it close early before Alabama methodically pulls away to a sizeable margin of victory. Alabama 34, Florida 13