No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS) at No. 12 Florida Gators (4-0 SU, 4-0 ATS), Saturday October 1st, 2011. 8:00PM EST, College Football Week 5
The Swamp at Ben Hill Griffin Gainesville, Florida
By Jay Horne, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Bama -4.5/Fla +4.5
Over/Under Total: OFF
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The no. 12 Florida Gators have withstood all challengers thus far this season and have appeared to be the best team in the SEC East through the opening 4 games of the year. However if the Gators are going to make a trip to Atlanta for a chance to play in the SEC Championship at the end of the year, they will have to survive the most difficult two week stretch of their season starting this Saturday. The Gators not only get the luxury of hosting the no. 3 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide this Saturday at home, but then must turn around a travel to Baton Rouge to battle the top ranked LSU Tigers the following week. For the Gators to stay in the hunt in the SEC East, they must take advantage of the home field this week in attempt to deliver an upset over the Crimson Tide of Alabama.
Alabama received a lot of pre-season hype for potentially having the talent to made another run at a National Championship. So far this season Alabama has yet to disappoint. The Crimson Tide blasted no. 14 Arkansas last week 38-14 and the team seems to be getting better each week. Still, this week’s battle with the Gators marks the Crimson Tide’s first big road test of the season. As we all know, road wins do not come easy in the SEC. Therefore the Crimson Tide will have to bring another outstanding performance to “The Swamp” this Saturday if they plan to remain unbeaten.
The tale of the tape will surround the Florida offense vs. the Alabama defense. I have stated numerous times this season that the Alabama defense is the best in the nation and last week they shut down one of the most dynamic offenses in college football in their win over Arkansas. Not only did the Crimson Tide defense hold the Razorbacks offense to just 226 yards in the game, but they also forced a few turnovers which led to yet another defensive touchdown. Currently, the Alabama defense has the 2nd overall ranking in college football giving up a mere 184 yards per game and the Crimson Tide also rank 2nd in scoring defense giving up just 8 points per game.
Arkansas brought an extremely strong passing offense to Tuscaloosa last weekend, but the Crimson Tide defense completely shut the doors on the Razorbacks’ passing attack. This week the Florida Gators will attempt to attack that Alabama defense on the ground as they present the nation’s 10th best rushing offense averaging 259 yards per game. Luckily for the Gators, the best way to beat Alabama over the past two seasons has been by accomplished through a strong running game similar to one that the Florida offense appears to have. The problem is those Alabama losses over the last two seasons have been few and far between.
Still, Florida is a team that has playmakers in the backfield that can break a game wide open. Last week running back Jeff Demps exploded for a 84 yard touchdown run and racked up 157 yards on 10 carries in the Gators blowout victory over Kentucky 48-10. Demps is currently averaging over 9 yards per carry as the 2nd leading rusher for the Gators offense. Running back Chris Rainey has posted 3 straight 100 plus yard performances and currently leads the team with 411 yards on the season. Collectively, the Gators rank 2nd in the SEC behind Alabama with 12 rushing touchdowns on the year.
Florida QB John Brantley has managed the game well for the Gators offense, but has not had to carry the team so to speak yet this season. Brantley has completed 64% passing for 752 yards with 4 scores and 2 picks through the first 4 games. Brantley is a prototypical pocket passer, but it would be hard to imagine that he would get enough time to throw the ball, against that dynamic Alabama pass rush, to carry the offense this Saturday. Therefore, expect to see Brantley in some playaction type passes after Florida attempts to pound the ball on the ground nearly 75-80% of the time.
For the Alabama offense, they have not been too shabby this season either averaging 456 yards per game. The defense normally puts the offense in great field position and that has resulted in the Crimson Tide offense averaging 38 points per game this season (21st in NCAA). Similar to John Brantley, Alabama freshman QB A.J McCarron has been asked to just manage the game with fairly low passing attempts. McCarron has done just that by completing 66.3% passing for 779 yards with 4 scores and 2 picks. McCarron’s two interceptions actually came in the opening game of the season and his decision making has been improved with each passing week.
The rest of the Alabama offense will attack with a power rushing style offense anchored by a tremendous offensive line. The Crimson Tide rushing attack currently ranks 19th on the ground averaging 230 yards per game. Running backs Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy have been tremendous threats out of the backfield. Richardson is the proven veteran that leads the team in rushing with 441 rushing yards and 8 rushing touchdowns. However, Lacy has been a bit of a surprise by complimenting Richardson with an additional 365 rushing yards and 4 scores. Lacy is actually averaging 8.7 yards per carry and has proven he can come off the bench and provide a spark for the offense. Expect Coach Nick Saban to rely heavily again on the Crimson Tide rushing attack this Saturday as Alabama looks to score another huge victory on the road in Gainesville.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m still unsure about this Florida team as they have yet to play a true SEC power. The Gators are on the rise, but you have to be at your best to beat Alabama. Roll Tide -4.5.
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