I told you I didn’t tend to overestimate what Alabama teams do. I predicted 10-2 with no SEC Championship berth; the Tide went 12-0 and will obviously be in Atlanta.
The big difference maker was Jalen Hurts stepping in and solidifying the quarterback position as well as he has. There are moments (especially when turnovers happen) when you have to shake your head and say, “he’s still a freshman”, and the downfield passing game isn’t as dangerous as it has been in years past, but he adds a dimension that Alabama opponents have never truly had to face. Combine that with a defense that is outstanding even by Nick Saban-coached teams’ standards, and you have the makings of a perfect regular season. It didn’t hurt that the SEC seems down this year. There aren’t any teams other than Alabama in the conference with less than three losses. While that makes the “anyone can beat anyone” argument hold some water, it damages the conference’s credentials as a whole. Nevertheless, here we are, and most people seem to believe that Alabama, flawed though it still may be, is the best team in the country. Are they? That remains to be seen. First, a date with the Gators.
Florida, as many readers know, is my second team. My wife is a graduate, I met her there, and I got a grad degree there. So this is my favorite pairing possible in the conference title game. Technically, I can’t lose. Of course, I’d prefer Alabama win. And I think that they will. Why? I could probably list many reasons, but I think two will suffice.
One: Alabama is simply the better, more complete team. There are very few weaknesses Alabama has, and those that are there tend not to be very big and are covered over well by the play of the defense as a whole. Florida has a very good defense as well, but the Gators just don’t have the offense to match. Special teams are a slight advantage to Alabama because of JK Scott. If he has a “normal” game, I just don’t see Florida making a lot of long drives for scores against the Tide defense.
Two: Alabama has the better injury situation. Yes, Tide fans would love to have Eddie Jackson in the defensive backfield, and we don’t know the extent of Marlon Humphrey’s leg injury, but Florida may have as many as nine starters out for this game. Florida State showed what can happen when the Gator backups start wearing down in the late stages of the game, down a couple of scores. Combine that with an Alabama offense that closed out the Iron Bowl by killing nine minutes off the clock in just that situation, and I think it’s heavy advantage Alabama there.
You can’t finish 15-0 unless you get to 13-0. And I think that Alabama will do just that. They may start slowly; Hurts will probably be good for at least one freshman turnover, and the defense might finally let an opponent in their end zone. But in the end, I just don’t think Florida can hang with an Alabama team that is more talented, healthier, and deeper without playing the collective game of their lives. Alabama wins 27-7. 13-0.