Florida Gators at Alabama Crimson Tide Game Day

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Forums College Football Florida Gators at Alabama Crimson Tide Game Day

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    The top ranked Alabama Crimson Tide will get their first big challenge of the season as they face the Florida Gators.
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    Cole (cool)


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    Alabama football faces Florida in one of the marquee college football games Saturday, September 20, at 3:30 PM ET at the Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, AL.

    The No. 3 Crimson Tide (3-0), outlasted Southern Miss, would be tested against the much improved Florida Gators (2-0), who just came from a triple overtime against Kentucky.

    Alabama completely subdued Southern Mississippi last Saturday, 52-12, through the magnificent game of quarterback Black Simms who threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another TD in three quarters before resting on the bench. Sims completed 12 of his 17 passes for 168 yards as he led his team into 3-0 victory.

    With the 3-0 record for the Tide, the real challenge would come when they play their first SEC schedule. Of course, it is about to be seen how Sims would be connected to his favorite receiver Amari Cooper, who had eight receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown.

    Meanwhile, Jake Cooker entered the game late in the third quarter. He managed to lead a 99-yard scoring drive over the Golden Eagles. Coach Nick Saban knows that this is a different game as it poses more challenges because the opposing team is a lot better than what they played so far. Saban is expected to utilize Sims as the starter. Of course, Saban wants to remove any quarterback controversy that could arise in the future.

    Alabama’s defense would be in full display also. Alabama ranked 11th in the passing defense by giving up 180.3 yards per game, while it is ranked No. 7 in the rushing defense by yielding 106.2 yards per game.

    Unranked Florida Gators would love to derail the chances of the Crimson Tide to have an undefeated season. The Gators showed poise and stamina last week when they pulled off a nerve-wracking win over Kentucky in three OT.

    Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson had a whopping 216 yards in 15 receptions and two touchdowns to make sure that he has helped his team. Jeff Driskel threw for 295 yards in 25 of 43 passes and three touchdowns for the Gators to stay afloat.

    Anticipate Matt Jones to try to break the rushing defense of the Crimson Tide. Jones rushed 29 times for 156 yards and one touchdown over Kentucky’s defense. Will the Tide be able to contain him? Furthermore, Kelvin Taylor added 64 yards in 15 carries.

    Florida Gators football will have to fight against the powerhouse Alabama Crimson Tide. Of course, Florida coach Will Muschamp understands the importance of this game, that might save his coaching career.

    Alabama football vs Florida is on CBS.
    Odds / Point Spread: -15½-110 Alabama favorite


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    Alabama has experienced receivers, a deep and talented backfield and a preseason All-Southeastern Conference tight end.

    Quarterback Blake Sims and the third-ranked Crimson Tide simply haven’t had to fully utilize that arsenal of playmakers in the past two games. Most of the throws have gone to wide receiver Amari Cooper, and tailbacks T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry haven’t needed to do much against outclassed Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss.

    That figures to change Saturday when the Tide (3-0) opens Southeastern Conference play against Florida (2-0, 1-0). It’s a lot harder to win throwing it to the same guy over and over against an SEC defense, even one that just gave up 369 passing yards to Kentucky’s Patrick Towles in a triple-overtime win.

    Alabama coach Nick Saban said it’s important to get other players more involved in the offense to build their confidence and “so the other team can’t zero in on one guy.”

    “I think that there were other opportunities in the (Southern Miss) game for other guys,” Saban said Monday. “Sometimes we didn’t get him the ball. We did have a drop, but I also think that we’re really trying to feature the players that we have. So far, what we’ve tried to do has been effective and it’s worked. A lot of it is going through Amari Cooper.”

    Cooper is leading the nation with 33 catches and his 454 yards ranks third. That’s more than triple the production of No. 2 receiver Christion Jones (nine catches, 133 yards).

    Tight end O.J. Howard doesn’t have a catch through three games.

    Yeldon and Henry should be well rested entering the SEC schedule. They have each logged just 16 carries total in the past two games after both ran for 100-plus yards in the opener against West Virginia.

    Alabama is expected to get starting wide receiver DeAndrew White back after he missed the past two games with a right shoulder injury. White had six catches in the first game, and Saban said he will practice and a decision on the receiver’s status will be made late in the week.

    “DeAndrew has been hurt but (he’s) a guy that can really run on the top end there,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said..

    Cooper has collected most of the completions from Sims, who was making his first three career starts, and backup Jake Coker. Sims has completed 48 passes, 27 of them to Cooper (56 percent). Of his 646 passing yards, 369 have been compliments of Cooper (57 percent).

    The receiver has also rushed for 29 yards on two end around plays. Muschamp said Cooper “has been targeted close to 50 times in three games, whether running or throwing.”

    None of that has been a factor for offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin to this point. The 1,705 yards is the most the Tide has produced through the first three games of a season, topping the old record of 1,646 set by the 1973 team.

    The Tide does have veteran options for Sims in the passing game beyond Cooper. Jones had 63 catches the past two seasons and White has 54 in three years. Both are seniors.

    Third-year sophomore Chris Black (five catches, 58 yards) arrived in the same recruiting class as Cooper and was even more highly touted than the Tide star.

    And now White returns to the mix.

    “He’s a great playmaker for us,” Cooper said. “If the defenses focus on me, other receivers are going to make plays. The running backs are going to make plays. It’ll be a disadvantage for them.”


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    Alabama and Florida hook up for the first time since 2011 when the Crimson Tide waltzed into Gainesville and came away with a dominating 38-10 victory. Alabama was tested in Week 1 vs. West Virginia but is rested and ready after back-to-back blowout wins. Florida meanwhile got all it could handle against an improved Kentucky squad, needing overtime to escape with a 36-30 win.

    This issue for Florida in this game is what approach to take offensively. They want to play fast, they want to spread things out, they want to hit on big plays. But with a suspect offensive line on the road against a top-tier defense you’re faced with the likelihood of a lot of quick three-and-outs and more possessions for the Crimson Tide offense. On the flip side, we’ve seen Alabama struggle at times against up-tempo spread offenses with losses to Auburn, Oklahoma, and a near loss to Texas A&M a season ago. And in Week 1, West Virginia gave the Crimson Tide issues with nearly 400 yards through the air. The problem is those four offenses are far more established than Florida which again is in the infant stages of transitioning from slow paced and conventional to high octane.

    What Florida needs to hang in this game is a stellar defense showing something they are capable of producing. Going back to last year, in step up games against LSU, Georgia, and South Carolina all away from Gainesville the Gators allowed less than 20 ppg. So the potential is there to slip under the number should this become a low scoring affair. But I can’t help but feel that the increased tempo and “greenness” with the offense isn’t the ideal formula in this situation


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    Landon Collins brought up the subject without any sort of prompting.

    The Alabama safety was talking about the threat Florida poses Saturday of taking deep shots to keep the secondary honest. Collins, who loves playing close to the line of scrimmage, said this wouldn’t affect where he lines up in Alabama’s SEC season opener.

    This, Collins said, would be the best possible way for Alabama to snap its 15-quarter drought without an interception. Asked to clarify if he knew how long it’d been since the Alabama defense intercepted a pass, Collins nodded and said, “Oh, yeah. We’re aware.”

    “We try to bait the quarterback into taking those deep shots so we can get those good breaks on the ball and try to finally get a pick or something like that,” Collins said. “So I’ll definitely stay close to the line and try to see what (the quarterback) is going to do.”

    If the Alabama defense wasn’t aware of its shortage of turnovers at this time last week, it’s received the message loud and clear heading into a matchup against the nation’s No. 1-ranked team in turnover margin. While Florida has forced eight turnovers and given up just one, Alabama has given up three and forced one — good for a turnover margin (-.67) that is tied for 95th in the country.

    When reporters first caught a glimpse of Alabama practicing Monday, both the inside and outside linebackers were working through drills in which they thudded and tried to strip the ball from the runner. Collins and linebacker Trey DePriest assured the drill wasn’t just a show for the media.

    It’s been a constant.

    “It’s always an emphasis. We got away from that and (the coaches) are right. It changes the game,” DePriest said. “Turnovers are key with a momentum swing. Any time we get the offense back the ball it’s a plus for us.”

    It’s even become a focal point for the defensive line, which has been better at affecting opposing quarterbacks, rushing throws and batting down passes at the line of scrimmage. Defensive linemen and pass-rushing linebackers account for five of Alabama’s eight pass breakups.

    Sophomore defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson was quick and blunt about the area where Alabama’s defense needed to improve most.

    “Create more turnovers. I think that’s our main focus right now,” he said. “We can continue affecting the quarterback, disrupting paths, and start stripping for the ball whenever we get the chance.”

    The trend stretches back to last season, as Alabama forced the least amount of turnovers (19) since Nick Saban arrived in 2007. The Crimson Tide got off to a fast start with defensive touchdowns in its first two games and a blocked punt touchdown in its third but ended on a down note when it forced just one turnover while giving up five in its Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma.

    Collins had Alabama’s last interception in the first quarter against the Sooners. Cornerback Eddie Jackson forced a first-quarter fumble against Florida Atlantic for the Crimson Tide’s only turnover of 2014.

    “We’re trying our best to get the ball,” Collins said. “We’re trying our best to get the ball out, fumbles, and that’s what coach has been getting on us about is getting turnovers and getting the ball. We get balls out and interceptions in practice, but it’s not the same as in the game.”


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    Per expectations, the Gators have a top 15 run and pass efficiency defense. More importantly, the Gators are above average in FBS in overall offense, ranking 39th in our strength-of-schedule-adjusted passing efficiency metrics and 47th in running. The schedule has not been daunting, but it is still compelling that junior quarterback Jeff Driskel has opened his season completing 64% of his passes and has a 4:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio with 88 attempts through two games. Driskel’s career numbers are mostly in line with his performance thus far, but his critical mistakes have been minimized and he appears to be healthy after dealing with injuries throughout his career to-date. Driskel has also found a true weapon in the passing game in Demarcus Robinson, who has 21 catches for 339 yards in just two contests. Adding balance to the offensive mix, running backs Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor have looked explosive after dealing with injuries last season and in the spring. Health to the skill position players makes this offense look far more formidable than we have seen in years.

    Florida finished last year’s injury-riddled season just 4-8 straight-up and 3-9 against-the-spread while facing the 19th toughest schedule in the country. The Gators allowed just 21.1 points-per-game despite the tough schedule, yet did not have enough of an offense to remain competitive in the SEC. The elite defense returns nine starters for 2014 and the offense is at its best and healthiest in a long time.

    Alabama has no real shortage of depth or talent, yet this team is not as great as what we have come to expect for a Nick Saban squad. The Crimson Tide ranks third overall in our College Football Power Rankings, but is a distant third to Florida State and Oregon. Alabama has a top ten run offense and defense, yet is just 11th in passing efficiency at this point (a down year after four straight top five finishes) and falls far down the list at just 57th against the pass. Even with the young schedule, the fact that the Tide has allowed 6.5 yards-per-pass without an interception and just seven sacks in three games against the nation’s 141st ranked schedule-to-date should be worrisome to Saban and the Tide faithful.

    The Tide went 11-2 straight-up and just 6-6 against-the-spread last year against the 39th ranked overall schedule. Always a favorite of the public, the Tide has been over-bet recently, losing against-the-spread in five of the team’s last six games. Alabama lost six starters from last year’s defense (ten starters overall), including both starting safeties and a starting cornerback. It shows. Florida is getting the Tide at the right time as the Gators’ offense is playing well and Alabama’s young secondary has yet to materialize.


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    The relationship between Alabama coach Nick Saban and Florida coach Will Muschamp is well documented with the mentor taking on his student again this weekend.

    The matchup on the field to watch is how Crimson Tide star receiver Amari Cooper fares against Gators defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III.

    Saban recruited Hargreaves hard, but the talented cornerback opted to play for the Gators, who seek improvement going into Saturday’s road game against the third-ranked Crimson Tide.

    Muschamp was Saban’s defensive coordinator at LSU and also worked with him with the Miami Dolphins. Saban referred to him as “one of the best assistant coaches I ever had.”

    They last met in Muschamp’s first season with the Gators (2-0, 1-0 SEC) in 2011, a 38-10 victory for an Alabama team that went on to win the BCS championship.

    “I’ve got a lot of respect for Nick,” Muschamp said. “I probably wouldn’t be standing here if it weren’t for the opportunities he gave me early in my career and he’s an outstanding football coach.”

    Muschamp is tasked with slowing down the dynamic Cooper, who leads the nation with 33 catches and is third with 454 yards. That’s more than triple the production of No. 2 receiver Christion Jones (nine catches, 133 yards).

    “So far, what we’ve tried to do has been effective and it’s worked,” Saban said. “A lot of it is going through Amari Cooper.”

    The Florida coach fortunately has a major defensive weapon at his disposal in Hargreaves, who is tied for first in the nation with 2.50 passes defended per game according to the Gators’ sports information department. Hargreaves is first in the SEC with five pass breakups and is eager to go up against Cooper for the first time.

    “I’m excited for the matchup,” he said. “Everybody knows what’s coming. Obviously, I’m going to be covering him. I’m excited for it.”

    There is some concern that the Crimson Tide (3-0, 0-0) have been too one-dimensional. Jones hasn’t been too involved and tight end O.J. Howard doesn’t have a catch, but both could be targeted more by Blake Sims if Hargreaves limits Cooper.

    Starting wide receiver DeAndrew White is expected back after he missed the past two games with a right shoulder injury. He was second on the team to Cooper with six catches in a season-opening 33-23 win over West Virginia on Aug. 30.

    The Crimson Tide are seeking their 23rd straight win in an SEC opener while the Gators were fortunate to prevail 36-30 in triple overtime over Kentucky in their first conference game last Saturday.

    ”There’s going to be games like that when you play in our conference, and you’ve got to find ways to win those games,” Muschamp said. ”Our guys found a way to win the game. That’s a huge positive, and it shows some resiliency and fighting through adversity.”

    Jeff Driskel threw for a career-high 295 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. The bulk of his yards went to Demarcus Robinson, who matched a school record with 15 catches for 216 yards and two scores.

    Robinson became the first Gator to top 200 yards receiving since Taylor Jacobs in 2002. He was targeted 21 times.

    “He’s a tough matchup just because he’s got really good vertical speed,” Muschamp said. “He can run through contact. He’s stronger.”

    The Gators may choose to attack early with Robinson since the Tide are short-handed at safety. Jarrick Williams is out with a fractured bone in his foot while replacement Nick Perry is suspended for the first half after he was ejected in last Saturday’s 52-12 rout of Southern Mississippi.

    Driskel is one of relatively few Gators who have experience against the Tide. He entered in relief of an injured John Brantley in the matchup three years ago and completed 2 of 6 passes for 14 yards.

    “(I was) definitely under prepared,” Driskel said. “I didn’t know how to prepare at that time to play anybody, especially Alabama as good as they were. Going in not knowing what you are doing is not a good situation so I’m not going to let that happen again.”

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