The Alabama Crimson Tide and Florida Gators have met in the SEC Championship Game more than any other programs in the conference. Here are the three keys to an Alabama win over the Gators.
They met in the first SEC title game in 1992, a game which profoundly altered and influenced the sport of college football. They met in four of the first five SEC title games. They won consecutive national championships in 2008 and 2009, with the winner of the SEC title game overcoming what was arguably its toughest test on the road to greatness. They met in the 2016 SEC Championship Game and then reunited in 2020. In what was the most entertaining and spectacular SEC Championship showdown in the histories of each program, Alabama won 52-46. Now these teams meet in the regular season, with the Crimson Tide making a very rare trip to Gainesville and The Swamp. Let’s see what the Tide have to do to keep the Gators at bay… and free of Gator bait.
1 – Give Bryce Young a comfort zone
Bryce Young seems likely to have a great season and become a Heisman Trophy finalist at the very least. Yet, it takes just one bad early-season game to put a team in trouble and derail national championship ambitions. Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien need to be sure to give Young a clean start to this game so that he feels comfortable on the road in one of the SEC’s tougher stadiums. Giving Young a good rhythm, safe passes, and an ability to distribute the ball to his skill players would represent a good first-quarter plan. If it’s clear that Florida can’t get a consistent pass rush against the Alabama offensive line, the playbook can expand in the second quarter and enable Young to unleash the full measure of his talent on the Gators. Alabama shouldn’t be overly cautious with the talent it has, but the first two drives should focus on making the game easy for Bryce Young to process. Florida does have a solid defense – certainly better than last year’s group – so Alabama needs to make sure it doesn’t ask too much of Bryce Young in this game until it knows the quarterback is ready to handle this trip to The Swamp.
2 – Prepare for Anthony Richardson
Richardson is Florida’s backup quarterback behind starter Emory Jones, but he has already shown how explosive he can be. He threw just three passes against South Florida and carried the ball four times. Yet, he compiled almost 300 yards of offense in those seven touches. He makes huge plays and has a lot of Gator fans excited about his potential. When he comes into the game, Alabama needs to be ready to handle his speed and dual-threat explosiveness. Emory Jones is a good runner but not an especially developed passer. Richardson has more upside. If Dan Mullen uses Richardson more, Alabama needs to become even more conscious of the need to defend the whole field.
3 – Watch running lanes and QB scrambles
Florida was a passing team last year. The Gators are more of a running team this year. The biggest thing which jumps off the page about Florida is that both Jones and Richardson are very capable running quarterbacks. Shutting down running lanes and making sure improvisational QB scrambles don’t lead to huge plays for Florida is the biggest, most crucial thing Alabama can do on defense.