NCAA Saturday Night Football: Alabama/Florida Preview

by Alec McMordie

Alabama plays Florida for the SEC Championship on CBS at 8 PM ET. The neutral field site for this game is the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Alabama is the top-ranked team in the college football playoff rankings with a 10-0 record. They closed out their regular season schedule last Saturday with a 52-3 victory at Arkansas. The Crimson Tide is third in the nation by scoring 49.5 points-per-game, and their 537.7 yards-per-game average is fifth in the FBS. The 'Bama defense is holding their opponents to 16.8 points-per-game and 340.1 yards-per-game, ranking 11th and 27th in the country.

Florida endured a tough-luck 37-34 upset loss at home to LSU last week as a 24-point favorite. The Gators outgained the Tigers by a 609 to 418 margin. Yet the defending national champions scored on a 68-yard interception return for a touchdown and then later given a reprieve from a failed third-down conversion late in the game by a Florida personal foul stemming from one of their players throwing an LSU to celebrate the defensive stop. The ensuing 15-yard penalty kept the Tigers’ drive alive, which ended with a 57-yard field goal that decided the game.

The Gators have an 8-2 record, with their second loss being by three points to Texas A&M. Florida’s signature victory was their 44-28 win against Georgia. They are 12th in the nation by scoring 41.2 points-per-game, and their 513.5 yards-per-game mark is eighth in the country. The Gators allow their opponents to score 26.3 points-per-game along with 384.7 yards-per-game.

A subplot to this game is the battle between the Heisman Trophy contenders opposing at quarterback. Alabama’s Mac Jones is completing 76.4% of his passes for 3321 yards with 27 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. Kyle Trask is completing 70.2% of his passes for Florida for 3717 yards with 40 touchdown passes and just five interceptions.

This game will have significant ramifications for the college football semifinals on January 1st. An Alabama victory ensures them a spot in the playoff and the likely top seed, which brackets them against the final fourth-seeded team. It remains possible that the playoff committee would still rank the Crimson Tide no lower than fourth even with a loss in this game, although with controversy. The Clemson-Notre Dame loser could be on the outside of the top-four, and the Tide has a 52-24 win over Texas A&M that currently ranks fifth.

Florida ranks seventh, but their two losses likely mean finishing in the top-four even with an upset victory would be a bridge too far. Yet an Ohio State loss in the Big Ten championship game and an Aggies loss to Tennessee could make things interesting if the Gators win this game.

The last time these two teams played was in the SEC championship game in 2016. The Crimson Tide won that game handily by a 54-16 score. Jim McElwain was the Gators coach that season. In his third season as the Florida head coach, Dan Mullen will be looking to stymie Nick Saban this time. Alabama is a 17-point favorite at BookMaker, with the total set at 74.5.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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