No. 7 Florida Gators (4-0, 2-1-1 ATS) at No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0, 3-1 ATS), Week 5 College Football, Saturday October 2nd 8:00PM Eastern, Bryant-Denny Stadium Tuscaloosa, Alabama
By Jay Horne, Professional Sports Handicapper of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Fla +9/Bama -9
Over/Under Total: OFF
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The top ranked Alabama Crimson Tide appeared to be starring down the barrel of their first defeat in over 2 years last week when they trailed a highly ranked Arkansas Razorbacks team 20-7 late in the second half. In fact, the Crimson Tide were down 20-14 late in the 4th quarter when the defense stepped up and made a big interception against Heisman Trophy frontrunner Ryan Mallett. The Crimson Tide then punched in a late touchdown with less than 4 minutes to go in the game and then picked off Ryan Mallett again in the final plays of the game to extend the Crimson Tide’s undefeated streak at 18 wins straight. Those final minutes were just a perfect example of what it takes to beat the Crimson Tide. Arkansas had nearly played perfect football until those final minutes and Alabama still stole the victory.
Now Alabama quickly has to refocus to avoid any type of letdown performance dragging over from last week’s hard fought win and focus attention to the no. 7 ranked Florida Gators that will roll into town. Florida started the season by sputtering on the offensive side of the ball and a lot of media outlets were quick to down grade the Gators offense via the post Tim Tebow era. However slowly but surely the Gators offense has come to life. Florida posted 31 points over Tennessee and blasted Kentucky last week 48-14. If the offense is having problems which were thought to have been the case, the Gators are still averaging a stellar 37.8 points per game to rank in the top 20 teams in the country.
Leading the offense is the Gators rushing attack led by tailback Jeffery Demps. Demps is averaging a healthy 6.9 yards per carry and has racked up 367 yards in Florida’s opening 4 contests. Also, sophomore tailback Mike Gillislee has been the touchdown maker for the Gators ground game. Gillislee is the bigger back of the two and has found the end zone on 3 different occasions despite just 24 rush attempts this season. Still even with the ground game surging at 169 yards per game, the Gators will face one of the top rushing defenses in the nation this weekend. The Crimson Tide have held teams to just 107 yards rushing per game this season and their big guys up front are extremely talented. Arkansas proved last week that the best way to move the ball against that talented defense is to spread the ball around in the passing game.
Therefore, many eyes will be on Gators freshman quarterback John Brantley. Brantley has managed the offense well this season with solid numbers completing 64% passing for 700 yards, 6 scores, and 1 pick. However if the Gators have a tough time running the football which has not happened thus far this season, it will put the pressure on the young quarterback to lead the offense down the field. So far Brantley has not really made the mistakes that a freshman tends to do with decision making, but Alabama’s pass rush could likely change that. The Crimson Tide proved that last week they can put tons of pressure on opposing quarterback as they forced Ryan Mallett to throw 3 interceptions on the afternoon. That is why this game could rely heavily on how the Gators young quarterback holds up against the Alabama pass rush.
On the other side of the ball for both teams, the Gators still have a championship quality defense. Florida has not allowed more than 17 points in a single game this season and ranks 15th in scoring defense holding opponents to just 14.3 points per game. Florida is similar to the Alabama defense in they are very talented up front. The Gators rush defense has held opponents to just 95 yards per game and they are averaging 2.5 sacks per game as well. However again similar to the Alabama defense, they have also showed signs of weakness in the secondary which has remained an area of concern.
The Crimson Tide offense has their former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram back to full strength after missing the first few games of the season healing from knee surgery. Ingram has not disappointed since his arrival back in the lineup rushing for 308 yards on just 33 carries. That’s a whopping 9.8 yards per carry. The Alabama ground game was not exactly struggling without Ingram considering tailback Trent Richardson was running extremely well. Richardson was very effective managing 7.6 yards per carry and totaling 356 rushing yards this season. With both backs at full strength, the Alabama run game will be even more dangerous.
Still, the Crimson Tide will have a tougher time running the football against the Gators defensive front. QB Greg McElroy has been solid this season completing 70% passing for 899 yards, 7 scores, and 3 picks. Unlike the Gators who have been searching for a big wide out to step up, Alabama has a star in WR Julio Jones. Jones has caught 20 passes for 303 yards this season with 2 scores. McElroy has the arm to make the big throws and Jones is just the difference maker that could keep the Florida defense on their heels. If Florida keeps 7-8 guys near the line of scrimmage to stop the former Heisman winner and Trent Richardson, look for McElroy to challenge the Gators questionable secondary.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I know Alabama could be in a letdown situation here, but returning home will help. Frankly, Arkansas had the best chance to beat Alabama than most in the SEC because they spread the ball around which is tough to defend. Florida on the other hand likes to run the football which plays right into the strength of the Alabama defense. Plus they will put some pressure on Brantley which could result into turnovers. Therefore, I do not believe that the Crimson Tide will be in serious jeopardy of being knocked off again this week. Take Alabama and the points.
Don’t forget to check out our week 4 NFL picks!