Both teams enter the meeting with impressive defensive numbers. Alabama leads the SEC in scoring defense (8.0 points per outing), while Florida is No. 2 (9.0). The Tide lead the league in total defense (184 yards allowed per contest). The Gators are No. 2 (231.8). But here’s the surprising statistic, Florida is only seventh in turnover margin (seven fumbles or interceptions gained, the same number lost) and Alabama is tied for ninth (six gained, seven lost).
The Tide have already proven they can neutralize a high-powered offense after limiting the Razorbacks to 226 yards, including 17 on 19 rushes. Arkansas came in ranked 11th in the FBS in total offense at 517.3 yards and eighth in scoring at 47.0. "We set out to establish that we were going against the best offense in the SEC and a lot of people were labeling us as the best defense in the SEC," Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower said. "So we wanted to go out and show people what we were capable of with all cylinders turning."
Though this Florida defense isn’t particularly big, Hanks said they’re very fast. So far this season, the Gator defense has gotten four interceptions. "It’s no different than any other week," Hanks said. "I look at all [defensive backs] the same. I respect all of them, but I still feel like I can beat them."
Through four games, the Crimson Tide has finished with a flourish. Of its 923 rushing yards, 413 have come in the fourth quarter. That's almost 45 percent. Opponents have been held to 44 rushing yards in the fourth quarter. "Last year, in the Auburn game, we didn't finish well, and you can see the outcome of that game," senior wide receiver Darius Hanks said. "This year, we're just trying to win every fourth quarter." How has the Tide turned talk into action? "We just go out and do it," Hanks said.
"I can get better. I still have a lot to work on. The season's early right now. I still have to work a lot on my pass pro and I missed a couple of my reads last week, left a lot of yards on the field. I know I could have done better. In my head, a 126-yard game, that's a good game, but I know I can do better." - UA running back Trent Richardson.
"There are certain games that bring the intensity," quarterback John Brantley said. "When I say they mean the same, they mean the same on the schedule — a win's a win. And different games bring different intensities, but we try to be as intense in game one as we are in game 10. You always want to bring that intensity." So where does Alabama rank on the intensity scale? "It's pretty high," Brantley said.
"The worst thing you can do in a leadership position is be something you're not,'' Muschamp said. "I've never called plays before and I've never coached quarterbacks, either. "Charlie runs the offense. Philosophically, we're on the same page. His opinion is a lot more important than mine in terms of where to take the ball in certain coverages. A lot of head coaches want to stand there and move their mouths and act like they're saying something. I don't.''
"We had a good game against Arkansas," added Milliner. "We played well, and I think we were really able to control the game for the most part. The offense did well, as did the defense. To hold their offense to 226 yards was really good."
Injured sophomore inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (elbow) was on the field Tuesday, and he was not in a black, non-contact jersey, but his right arm was wrapped, and he appeared to be doing very little. On Monday, Alabama coach Nick Saban said Mosley is questionable for Saturday's 7 p.m. CDT game at Florida.
Alexander's performance was unforgettable. He was simply unstoppable when it mattered late in the game as he rushed 28 times for 106 yards and three touchdowns. He also had four catches for 94 yards and a touchdown reception. Often early to rise even after most football games, Alexander said the physical pounding of the game forced him to sleep most of the next day. He said he felt "twice as slow" the next week in a 30-24 win against then-No. 11 Ole Miss. "We kind of felt like if we could make it a fist fight to the end we would be able to hold onto it," Alexander said. "That was really the goal, to slug it out with them."
If Alabama fans are at all antsy to see what their first-year starter will do against a top-flight SEC defense -- and he'll face one Saturday at Florida -- LSU fans have to be holding their collective breath hoping Lee won't revert to form. His success after those early struggles is one of the SEC's feel-good stories of the young season, but LSU hasn't faced a particularly strong defense yet. The truth is, Alabama and LSU appear to be very similar. They both have excellent defenses. They both have strong running games. They both have quarterbacks who have played efficiently and have largely kept them out of bad situations.
If you cover college sports for ESPN, you’ve got a real problem right now. The biggest story these days is the conference realignment that’s bringing tectonic shifts to the NCAA landscape, ending century-old rivalries, and setting longtime partners at each others’ throats. Problem is, ESPN itself is at the heart of why this is happening. Its Longhorn Network deal with the University of Texas kicked off the mess, sending Texas A&M to the SEC because they’re so mad about the deal, which gives Texas $300 million over twenty years, puts a conference game on the network, and wants to show high school games and highlights (ever seen a ticked-off Aggie? It’s not pretty). The idea of a school-only network played a role last year in sending the Nebraska Cornhuskers to the Big Ten. That helped lead Colorado to leave for the Pac-12 and left the Big 12 near death, having lost a quarter of its members, including two premier ones. The instability in the Big 12 and movement toward superconferences surely played a part in the ACC’s recent raiding of the Big East’s Pittsburgh and Syracuse.