No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. No. 18 Florida Gators (10-2 SU, 7-5 ATS)
College Football Week 14
Date/Time: Saturday December 5th, 4:00PM EST
Where: Georgia Dome Atlanta, G.A.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ALA -17/UF +17
Over/Under Total: 40.5
The SEC Championship will be decided this Saturday when the 2nd ranked Alabama Crimson Tide meets the no. 18 Florida Gators inside the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. For the Crimson Tide, this will be their play-in game for the College Football Playoffs. If Alabama wins as expected, they will represent the SEC as part of a 4 team playoff for the National Championship. On the other hand if the Gators were to score the upset, it would knock Alabama out of the picture and it would be the first instance since 2005 an SEC team did not either play in the National Championship Game or make a College Football Playoff appearance.
The Gators were dominated last week in their rivalry meeting with Florida State as they were held scoreless on the offensive side of the football. A safety was the only thing that kept the Gators from being shutout in the 27-2 loss. The offensive woes have not been anything new for Gators fans. In fact, it was the play of the offense that sent former Head Coach Will Muschamp packing this time one year ago. Earlier in the year, Florida was performing pretty well but the loss of quarterback Will Grier during the mid-point of the season derailed their offseason improvements. Since Griers absence, the Gators have averaged just 13.75 points per game over the final 4 contest. The last two games included an embarrassing overtime win over Florida Atlantic (20-14) and a 2 point outing against the Seminoles last week.
The offensive issues are the main reason that Florida is a 17 point underdog this week. Alabama has been firing on all cylinders and it is going to be tough for the Gators to match them on the scoreboard unless they can turn things around. However, lets not completely write off the Gators chances. Florida has one of the best defenses in college football and they have the talent to match up pretty well this Saturday. The Gators rank 7th again the run allowing just 111 yards per game on the ground. This defense is extremely tough and you can bet that they will be up to the challenge to stop Derrick Henry and Alabamas rushing attack.
Henry recorded his 4th 200 yard performance in last weeks 29-13 Iron Bowl victory. Henry recorded an Alabama record 46 carriers in the win over Auburn resulting in 271 yards and a touchdown. It was the 4th 200 yard performance for Henry in the last 5 SEC contests and it may have just been the performance that wins him the Heisman Trophy. Offensively, Alabama has made it pretty clear that they are going to ride their work horse until someone proves they can stop him. Of course I think it is unfair to give Henry all of the credit because Alabamas offensive line has played incredible during the 2nd half of the season.
I believe the main thing to watch in this Saturdays contest is if Florida can match Alabamas physicality upfront to stop the run game. I am not convinced Alabama quarterback Jake Coker can put this team on his shoulders if they need him to do so. However, Coker has not been put into those tough situations because Alabamas running game has been so relentless. Therefore, it will be interesting to see if Florida approaches this game defensively with a sell out effort to stop the run. If that happens, things could get rather interesting.
Of course even if Florida does find a way to stop Alabamas run, they will still need to find some answers offensively. Quarterback Treon Harris is completing just 53% passing on the season since taking over the starting job again. Running back Kelvin Taylor has posted 3 straight 100 yard games as one of the lone bright spots on the offensive side of the ball. However, Alabama is ranked #1 in all of college football against the run yielding just 78 yards per game. Therefore, Florida is going to have to find a way to hit a few passes even if they are short passes to create some type of space if they are going to get the running game going. Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart knows that Florida is a run first team so he is going to force the vulnerable Treon Harris to throw the football. How well Harris plays will determine how well Florida can contend.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I like the Gators to keep this one with-in reach. I think this will be a low scoring game and if Florida can just get 1-2 scores they could cover the spread with ease. Take Florida +17
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