GAME NOTES: Traditional SEC heavyweights square off on Saturday afternoon, as
the Florida Gators hit the road to challenge the third-ranked Alabama Crimson
Both teams come in undefeated, with Florida having taken down Eastern Michigan
(65-0) and league rival Kentucky (36-30, 3 OT), both at home. The Gators’
season opener against Idaho was ruled no contest after being suspended for
inclement weather. UF is idle for the first time next week, and will return to
action on Oct. 4 when it battles Tennessee in Knoxville.
As for Alabama, it opened the 2014 campaign in Atlanta with a 33-23 win over
West Virginia, then had an easier time of it in routs of visiting Florida
Atlantic (41-0) and Southern Miss (52-12). The Crimson Tide will enjoy their
first bye of the season next week as well, and then will play their first true
road game when they visit Ole Miss on Oct. 4.
Alabama has won the last three meetings with Florida to take a 22-14 series
advantage. The Gators’ last victory in Tuscaloosa was a 16-10 verdict back in
While the competition level certainly wasn’t the same as it will face this
week, Florida has had very little trouble imposing its will on both sides of
the ball in the first two games. The Gators are averaging 50.5 ppg, while
churning out nearly 600 ypg (593.5). They have been equally effective in both
modes of attack (248.5 ypg rushing, 345.5 ypg passing),
Jeff Driskell has been an efficient field general, completing 63.6 percent of
his passes with four touchdowns against only one interception. Demarcus
Robinson is clearly his favorite target, as the sophomore wideout has logged
21 receptions for 339 yards and three scores.
The Gators have a pair of 100-yard rushers in Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor,
and the duo has accounted for four of the team’s five rushing TDs. Overall, UF
runners are averaging 5.6 ypc.
The effort on defense has been just as impressive, as the first two opponents
have combined for only 30 points while generating an average of 287.5 ypg.
Florida has been especially stingy against the run (80.5 ypg), and it has yet
to allow a rushing score.
A total of four players have recorded double-digit tackles on the season, with
Neiron Ball, Antonio Morrison and Michael Taylor tied for the team lead (11).
Ball has two of the Gators’ five sacks, while Keanu Neal already has a pair of
picks, both of which came last week against the Wildcats.
Florida beat Kentucky for the 28th straight year, which is the longest active
winning streak in an annual series, although it was anything but a cakewalk.
Florida tallied 532 yards, but permitted 450. The Gators once again stood
their ground against the run (81 net yards), but allowed 369 yards and three
scores via the pass. Third-down conversions were an issue for UF, as it moved
the chains on just 5-of-17 chances. It did however, score on all seven trips
to the red zone, including four TDs, while Kentucky did so on both of its
visits, settling for field goals each time.
Robinson was a beast in the passing game, logging 15 catches for 216 yards and
two scores, as Driskell went 25-of-43 for 295 yards, three TDs and one INT.
Jones spearheaded the rushing attack with 156 yards, and scored the game-
winning TD in the third extra session. It was only the fourth time in school
history that Florida had a 200-yard receiver and 100-yard rusher in the same
Morrison paced the UF defense with 10 stops.
While obviously pleased with the effort put forth by his team to this point,
Florida head coach Will Muschamp spoke earlier this week about the task ahead.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Nick (Saban). I probably wouldn’t be standing
here if it weren’t for the opportunities he gave me early in my career and
he’s an outstanding football coach.”
He continued, “They’ve got a good football team. We’re looking forward to
going to Tuscaloosa for the opportunity.”
Alabama’s offensive output is predicated on balance, as the team averages
270.3 ypg on the ground and 298.0 ypg through the air. The result being a
rock-solid 42.0 ppg. The Tide have scored two-thirds of their offensive
touchdowns (15) by running the football, with T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry
serving as the leading rushers. Both players are over 200 yards, while Kenyan
Drake has found the end zone a club-best four times.
Quarterbacks Blake Sims and Jake Coker have combined to complete 71.6 percent
of their passes, with the former being especially efficient (.750). Sims has
thrown four TD passes, and like Florida’s Robinson, ‘Bama wideout Amari Cooper
has been a monster is logging 33 catches for 454 yards and a pair of scores.
Defensively, the Crimson Tide have dominated the opposition to the tune of
11.7 points and 267 yards allowed per contest. Foes have found it particularly
tough to move the ball on the ground, doing so for a total of 141 yards (47.0
ypg) while failing to score that way.
Landon Collins has been a man possessed for the UA defense, more than doubling
the production of his closest teammates by coming up with 27 tackles (two
others have 11). A pair of players (Xzavier Dickson and Ryan Anderson) have
two sacks each. The Tide have only come up with one turnover in three games
(fumble recovery), so being more opportunistic will be paramount to the unit
achieving an even greater level of success moving forward.
Alabama will be without the services of starting free safety Nick Perry for
the first half of this contest, after he was ejected in the second half of
last week’s game against Southern Miss for targeting (helmet-to-helmet contact
with a player who did not have the ball). Veteran defensive back Jarrick
Williams is expected to miss the game as he recovers from a broken foot.
Cooper matched the school record with his fifth consecutive 100-yard receiving
game in last week’s whipping of Southern Miss, finishing with eight grabs for
135 yards and a TD. Sims had a pair of scoring strikes, going 12-of-17 for 168
yards, while Yeldon paced the ground attack with 73 yards on 11 carries. Drake
scored three of the team’s five rushing TDs, and six guys in all tallied at
least 39 yards.
Sims spoke after the game about what it means to have such an outstanding
player in Cooper at his disposal.
“It’s always good to know that you have a guy that’s going to run for you. It
really helps when everyone focuses on him you have other receivers to throw
to. (Amari) Cooper does it very well, and he is great team player. He gives
extra effort all the time and it’s good to have him and know that you always
have someone open.”
The Golden Eagles found little breathing room on the ground last week,
amassing only 56 yards on 18 totes. They had more success through the air (207
yards), but averaged only 5.6 yards per pass attempt. Collins was credited
with a dozen tackles, while Dickson tallied two pass breakups. Souther Miss
was just 3-of-13 on third down, while Alabama converted 7-of-11 opportunities.
Florida certainly has plenty of athletic talent, but the Gators are a few
years removed from being a true power in the SEC. Alabama is loaded for bear
once again, and the Tide should be able to control the action enough to give
the hometown faithful yet another reason to smile.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Alabama 31, Florida 17