There was the quick look. There were heroes from both Florida and Alabama. There was a recruiting story from the past. Now on to the full preview.
Learn about the opponent – the team and the school – and what the Gators need to do to win. This week, Florida will need to do a lot more than they have over the first four games of the season. The rush offense has been amazingly explosive and the defense has done its job. Both will have to be even better against the Crimson Tide. Kentucky isn’t on this level. Tennessee? Not either. This is the first true test.
Opponent: Alabama Crimson Tide
When: Saturday, October 1, 2011 – 8:00pm
Where: Gainesville, FL
Television/Radio: CBS, GRN/GatorZone, Sirius 220, XM 199
Records: Florida: 4-0 (2-0), Alabama: 4-0 (1-0)
Point Spread: Alabama -3.5
Betting Score That Would Calculate To: Alabama 24-21 or 25-20
Scoring Offenses: Florida: 40.3, Alabama: 38.5
Scoring Defenses: Florida: 9.0; Alabama: 8.0
Our Gators’ Win Factor (See Here): TBG: 35, OEW: 30
10 Things About Alabama From Wikipedia
Oh great Wikipedia, tell us what you know. (For football, keep scrolling.)
1. In Alabama’s early days students were prohibited from drinking, swearing, making unauthorized visits off-campus, or playing musical instruments outside of a one-hour time frame. Despite that, gunfights were not uncommon. No, really.
2. In 1860, the university was approved to become a military school. It would have a military structure until approximately a decade after it began to enroll women in 1892.
3. Some guy named Bear Bryant coached football at Alabama.
4. Some guy named Forest Gump did not actually play there.
5. The law school is the oldest at Alabama’s academic divisions as it was established in 1892. The honors college, created in 2003, is the newest.
6. Numbers of Alabama graduates have been named to the USA Today All-USA College Academic Team. That’s actually what is says – “numbers.”
7. This is word-for-word from Wikipedia: “Since its founding in 1914, a secretive coalition of fraternities and sororities, commonly known as ‘The Machine’, has wielded enormous influence over the Student Government Association. Occurrences of harassment, intimidation, and even criminal activities aimed at opposition candidates have been reported. Many figures in local, state, and national politics have come out of the SGA at the University of Alabama. (Esquire magazine devoted its April 1992 cover story to an exposé of the Machine.)”
8. The student newspaper is called The Crimson White, but is commonly referred to as The CW. No word on whether or not it has a pro or con Gossip Girl stance.
9. Despite the Tide’s great success on the football field over the years, Mark Ingram became Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy winner in 2009.
10. Notable alumni: Dabo Swinney, Danny Ford, Charley Pell, Hootie Ingram, Frank Howard – all were (or are in Swinney’s case) head coaches at Clemson.
When The Gators Have The Ball
Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps will be the focus, there’s no denying that, but against the Alabama defense, so much more needs to go right.
John Brantley hasn’t had a bad season, but he hasn’t had a particularly good one either. His numbers are modest and probably will remain so as he continues to develop into a game manager. He does appear more confident than he was in 2010, but we have yet to see him have to win a game with his arm. That may not be a focus of Charlie Weis, but depending on the circumstances, it could be something that has to happen sooner rather than later. The wide receivers and tight ends are barely getting the ball, but that is because they’re rarely getting looks. Fans are quick to jump on Brantley for this issue, but how many times is he being asked to throw their way? The answer is not many. Against the Tide, Brantley may need to throw. It’s no longer a luxury that can be worked into the game plan, but isn’t needed. Alabama will focus on Rainey and Demps as much as Weis will try to use them throughout the game. If the Tide can manage to slow the dynamic duo, it could be a long night for Brantley. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but we don’t know what kind of thing it is yet.
When you have two running backs with the talent and speed Rainey and Demps have, you aren’t worried about many defenses. When you add Mike Gillislee and Trey Burton to the mix, your stable is full. Weis will do his best to get the speedsters out in space and pound Burton in short-yardage situations. The running game has been spectacular so far, but hasn’t faced a top-notch defense. Alabama possesses that defense. That said, who is faster than either Rainey or Demps? If one gets a hole or to the outside, look out. You may have one of the more talented defenses in the country and you may execute to near perfection, but sometimes speed wins out. We all saw what Demps did to Kentucky. Alabama isn’t Kentucky, but no one can match Demps in a foot race.
Of course for the running backs to be successful, the offensive line must find consistency. The Tide will bring everything they have at the line. From blitzes to changing looks, the defense will test the line all night. It’s up to the line to come together as a unit for not just two or three plays in a row, but for the entire 60 minutes.
When The Crimson Tide Have The Ball
You would think the Gators have a slight advantage in some areas because Will Muschamp coached under Nick Saban. You could flip that on its head and say Saban may have an advantage because he knows Muschamp. The last time the two coached together was 2005, let’s move on from this.
The same that was said in the above section could almost be repeated here with just a few name changes. Alabama possesses a dynamic running back duo and a quarterback that has been average. A.J. McCarron won’t be needed to win the Tide many games. His main goal may just be to not lose them. This will be covered in another piece, but his numbers are surprisingly similar to Brantley’s. McCarron isn’t a world-beater, but doesn’t have to be. He can rest on the running game and just not make bad decisions. This is why the Gators’ defensive line is so important.
Since Sharrif Floyd returned to the lineup, the line play has improved dramatically. Against UAB, there was virtually no push from the front four. The line was rarely getting to the quarterback. With the unit fully assembled (although word is Dominique Easley may be dinged up), pressure has returned and the line is forcing opposing quarterbacks to think fast. Against a QB like McCarron, it’s critical that continue.
Now on the other amazing similarity: the running backs. Trent Richardson is being discussed as a Heisman candidate. Rainey is not. Explain that one to me. Richardson is good. Actually, Richardson is great. He’s a power back with an explosion and second gear that’s hard to match. And oh yeah, his backup averages 2.3 yards per carry MORE than he does. The Florida defense can’t breathe a sigh of relief when Richardson goes to the sideline; Eddie Lacy is just as dangerous. Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins must carry their tackling clinic of the last two games over to this one. Richardson and Lacy thrive on bouncing off of would-be tacklers. It’s the goal of the defense to take them down on the first hit. Missed tackles will result in big problems for the Gators.
Lastly on the defensive side of the ball, the defensive backs have to grow up over night. The DBs haven’t been awful, but like the offensive line, they’ve lacked consistency. Against a quarterback like McCarron, they have to play smart. As mentioned, McCarron isn’t an All-American; the Gators can’t make him look like one. Tight coverage and forcing turnovers will be a vital aspect to Saturday’s game.
This will be kept short…
Do NOT punt to Marquis Maze.
The Bull Gator
According to the spread and the over/under, this game could end up somewhere around 24-21. I could definitely see that. Many think the Tide could come into The Swamp and run right over a program in transition, but these teams are incredibly similar. From talent in certain areas to the numbers they put up, Alabama and Florida aren’t exact copies, but their similarities make a close game possible. To keep it so, Florida has to execute. This is the best team they’ve faced and there’s another one right behind it. The focus must be on 60 minutes and 60 minutes only. Not next week, not next month. The Gators can stay in this one and they can win it, but they have to do everything they do well even better.