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Jumbo Package: Will Anderson still progressing, few give the Gators a chance vs Tide

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Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

Mercer v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Happy Friday, everyone. Alabama will kick off SEC play tomorrow when they head to Gainesville. Your previews:

A possible SEC Championship Game preview? Florida still has to get by Georgia, but the Gators first must find a way to remain competitive with Alabama. Good luck with that, right? Our golden rule is to not bet against the Crimson Tide in too many situations, but this one could be an exception. Alabama will still win this game by two scores, but Florida as a two-touchdown favorite may be just a tad too dicey to consider. Against my better judgment, let’s go with the Gators to keep it within two touchdowns at home. Alabama 34, Florida 21

These are two almost completely different teams – at least at the offensive skill spots – from December, but there are still too many soft spots for Florida to pull this off.

The defense hasn’t been good enough on third downs. the passing game isn’t hitting enough throws, and the secondary that melted down in 2020 is too shaky.

That doesn’t mean this won’t be fun.

Florida will hang around – the running game will work – and the defense will take its game to another level of energy in the super-charged environment, but Young and the passing attack will hit the big plays that Jones and his guys won’t.

If Mullen wants to at least have a chance, he will start Richardson. It doesn’t sound like he’s prepared to due that based on what he has said publicly this week. In the end, though, will it really matter? Probably not. Alabama’s defense will tee off on whoever’s taking the snaps and ensure that the running game can’t get going. Grantham will take unnecessary risks on the defensive side, and the Crimson Tide will roll to an easy win in The Swamp Prediction: Alabama (-15.5)

The Crimson Tide have been unflappable despite losing several key pieces to the 2021 NFL Draft. Watch the running game early. Brian Robinson Jr. averages 5.9 yards per carry, but he only has 11 attempts per game. If Alabama has success running the ball, then Young should be able to settle in with a passing game that will stress Florida on the perimeter. Jones and Richardson will make a few big strikes in the passing game, but it won’t be enough to keep up with the Crimson Tide. Alabama won 38-10 in the last meeting in The Swamp in 2011. It won’t be that jarring, but the Crimson Tide stays in control for four quarters and pulls out the cover.

Final score: Alabama 34, Florida 17

Fans are clamoring for quarterback Anthony Richardson to see more snaps than he’s been getting, but Richardson has torn apart two bad teams in limited time. He’s gotten away with a lot of stuff he wouldn’t be able to against Alabama, even if he does offer big-play potential. And, at the end of the day, whether it’s Richardson or Emory Jones, this Florida offense isn’t capable of keeping up. My only concern here is that Bryce Young struggles in what will be the most difficult environment he’s played in so far. Of course, he could get off to a slow start, and I can still see the Tide covering this number with ease. Alabama 38, Florida 17 | Alabama (-14.5)

At some point, someone could confuse Bryce Young. The blue-chip Alabama sophomore has predictably been strong so far, completing 71% of his passes for seven touchdowns, taking just two sacks and posting a QBR of 78.8, 14th in the FBS. He’s gotten Alabama on the scoreboard on 14 of 19 drives. We can nitpick if we want — both of the sacks he took were drive-killers (one resulted in a lost fumble against Miami), and his raw QBR on third-and-long ranks only 29th. Plus, four of those 14 scores were field goals, which will forever be victories for a defense facing Alabama.

There is a scenario in which defensive coordinator Todd Grantham dials up just the right blitzes at just the right times — granted, Young is 12-of-16 for 200 yards and five TDs against blitzes thus far — and the Florida defense forces just enough non-touchdown drives to make the Tide sweat. But the Gators will still probably need to score at least 30 to win. Can they do it?

If you have two quarterbacks you don’t have one, the old football aphorism goes, but Florida coach Dan Mullen said Wednesday he is still planning to rotate starter Emory Jones and dynamic redshirt freshman Anthony Richardson under center Saturday when the No. 9 Gators play host to No. 1 Alabama. The Crimson Tide are making their first visit to The Swamp since 2011, but Florida’s giant question marks at QB will turn a super-hyped top-10 showdown into just another Bama beatdown with the Crimson Tide winning by at least three touchdowns.

Just to be clear, Mullen was too busy this week trying to implant a Kyle Trask computer chip into Emory Jones to even consider meeting with USC brass. If Jones and/or Anthony Richardson suddenly develop Trask-like passing accuracy, the Gators have a chance. But what are the odds of that? Alabama 31-17.

It would require a collapse of Biblical proportions on the part of ‘Bama for the Gators to pull this one off, but this is the perfect setting for the infamous “moral victory”. If the Gators can keep this one close enough that the game is still interesting in the fourth quarter, then there will be a lot for the program to build on heading into the thick of the SEC gauntlet.

If not, it could be an ugly, demoralizing defeat. Personally, I think Florida will ultimately avoid embarrassment but do not expect this game to be terribly close. However, a few big plays by Anthony Richardson will keep things interesting and finally convince Mullen to give him the team’s reins.

Alabama 38, Florida 17

I searched high and low, near and far, and could find nobody picking the Gators to win. That last link has several Florida writers picking the game, and even they all picked Alabama. That’s pretty wild for a game with a 14.5 point spread, particularly since Florida will be at home. There is a 60-70% chance of rain at gametime, which could make for an ugly affair. Wet fields can sometimes lead to chaos.

Outside of that, however, there is little reason to think that the Gators can keep this game close. If not for backup QB Anthony Richardson hitting a few big plays, their offensive stats would be quite mediocre, particularly considering the level of competition faced. On defense, the secondary is suspect and they just lost their leading tackler for the season. They have enough beef up front to frustrate the Tide running game a bit, but there is little else to be bullish about.

An Alabama team that caught the ire of Nick Saban all week after a lazy week of practice led to an uninspiring game, and they will be ready to roll on the road. Bryce Young will indeed be facing a hostile environment for the first time, but he’s given us no reason to believe that he will be terribly affected. On the other side, Alabama is as well equipped as anyone in the country to take away the QB runs and the deep ball. Dan Mullen is a fine schemer, but I just don’t think he has the pieces this year. Let’s call it 41-17 Alabama.

Of course, that is merely my opinion. Vote and give us yours in the comments.

Poll

What will be the result of Alabama at Florida?

This poll is closed

  • 72%
    No sunshine for Florida, Alabama covers
    (589 votes)
  • 24%
    Mullen keeps it close in the muck, Alabama by 1-13
    (198 votes)
  • 2%
    Gators pull the upset (FLAGGED)
    (21 votes)
808 votes total Vote Now

Michael Casagrande has you covered on Saban’s “Hey, Coach!” show from last night.

— As an NFL defensive coordinator, Saban said he liked to work from the box upstairs but Belichick wanted him on the field. O’Brien is comfortable in the box to call the game. Saban said there are fewer distractions up there and it’s all a matter of how the group works together.

— Saban was asked about the joke that Jordan Battle leaked the other day. He said he has habits and jokes with certain players when they’re doing stretching.

— On the ‘deez’ discussion, Saban said the following. “It’s to anyone’s imagination what ‘this’ is or ‘these’ are. So it doesn’t mean … it’s whatever you think it is. Aight. If you think it’s something bad, then it’s something bad. But it doesn’t have to be anything bad. It can be whatever you think it is.”

Anderson should be good to go barring any setbacks, and you will all be shocked to hear that Saban was complimentary of the opponent.

Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel wrote about the gulf between Alabama and the rest of the league.

Each time the gap closes, Saban finds his second wind and sprints ahead of the competition. The only question now is when he will take a breath and relax.

When it happens the rest of SEC will let out a sigh of relief.

“You don’t know when it’s going to end,” Finebaum said. “The problem for Alabama fans is they don’t think it’s ever going to end. They think Nick Saban is going to coach forever and win national championships forever.

“There is an end date ... when is it?”

Former mental conditioning coach Trevor Moawad passed away after a long battle with cancer.

Nick Saban hired Moawad soon after arriving in Tuscaloosa to rebuild the Alabama program. He was a behind-the-scenes presence but he could be seen on the sidelines on game days in the full Alabama coaching uniform.

Moawad spent eight seasons working with Alabama, according to his website. Former Alabama assistant coach Mario Cristobal, now at Oregon, was among those who posted condolences online Thursday morning.

A 2018 Sports Illustrated profile of Moawad went deep into his career and famous clients. He worked with Saban dating back to his Miami Dolphins days while expanding his roster to include star athletes like Russell Wilson.

Condolences to his family.

Last, Arch Manning will be in town for the Ole Miss game, and had this to say.

“It’s just a machine,” Manning told 247 Sports this week of the trip. “Saban he runs a great program and there’s really no loopholes in that, no cutting corners which was amazing.

“I went to go see Bryce (Young) in a player run practice and it was cool because there was no coaches on the field and how organized and tight it was with just the players. They get after it and it’s organized and it was cool to watch.

“I’d love to be in a program like that, that organized with Coach Saban, that would be a dream come true.”

What a quote. You can make that dream a reality, Arch. Ball is in your court.

That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.

Roll Tide.