This Saturday, the Gators and the Alabama Crimson Tide will continue their rivalry when the Gators host Alabama at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.
Last year, Alabama hosted Florida in Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. and defeated Florida to a crushing score of 31-6. This year, the tables have turned in this rivalry and the game will be played in Gainesville. As many SEC opponents know, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is one of the most difficult venues to play in for any team. This Saturday, it will be one of the few challenges No. 3 Alabama must overcome to defeat one of the SEC’s surprise teams.
It isn’t too often the words “Florida Gators” and “surprise teams” are placed in the same sentence. However, with last year’s disappointing record of 8-5, quarterback problems, turnover issues and an identity crisis on offense, the Florida Gators have struggled to make strides toward relevance. This year, the Gators have been pleasant to watch.
John Brantley seems to be more comfortable as the starting quarterback and has completed 64 percent of his passes, while throwing four touchdowns and two interceptions. Florida is also ranked 10th in the nation in rushing offense, rushing for more than 250 yards per game. Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps have spearheaded the Gator offense with a combined 731 rushing yards, 284 receiving yards and eight touchdowns total.
Gone is the Gator offense of last year, which utilized the spread option under former coach Urban Meyer. The new pro-style offense implemented by Will Muschamp and Charlie Weis has been more effective this year, and the Gators have scored on 16 straight red-zone trips. What is even more impressive is the fact UF has scored in 15 of 16 quarters this season.
As of Week 5, Florida boasts the 15th-ranked offense in the NCAA at 40.25 points per game. They are also doing much better on the other side of the ball as well, boasting the 20th-ranked pass defense in the NCAA at 175.25 passing yards per game. Perhaps the best stat for the Florida Gator defense is the fact their defense is allowing fewer than nine points per game.
However, Florida will face their toughest challenge this season when they face the Crimson Tide, who are ranked second in overall defense. As of Week 5, Alabama is only allowing a total of 184 yards per game.
On the other side of the ball is AJ McCarron, who has been more than suitable in the Crimson Tide’s “game manager position” with a 66 percent completion percentage, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Alabama also hosts the two-pronged rushing attack of Trent Richardson and Eddy Lacey, who have run over opposing defenses for a total of 806 rushing yards and 12 total touchdowns.
Needless to say, this should be the Gators biggest test yet. This is becoming a heated rivalry, with both of these teams ranked in the Top 15 and two schools who essentially mirror each other in skill set and statistics. This game also has SEC Title implications and very possibly National Championship implications.
If you’re in Gainesville for the game, you will certainly see a bunch of crimson shirts and feaux “Bear” Bryant hats, as Alabama fans are known for traveling to the ends of the earth for their school.
Will Alabama “Roll” out of The Swamp, victory in hand? Or will they just become “Gator Bait” to a Florida team hungry for revenge and on the brink of greatness?