The Alabama Crimson Tide will travel to the Swamp to take on the Florida Gators in a rematch from last year’s conference championship.
That matchup ended with the Tide winning 52-46 in a thriller that pitted two of the best quarterbacks in the country against each other in Mac Jones and Kyle Trask. Defenses were good, but offense reigned supreme in the championship game.
Both of those guys are gone now, but their replacements may be some of the best talent in the league again this year. Offense will once again be the highlight of these two teams.
Florida coach Dan Mullen is an offensive-minded guy and a great quarterback developer. While Nick Saban has been known for his defense in years past, his team last year had one of the top offensive outputs in the nation.
Alabama needs to do three things to ensure a victory in one of the toughest atmospheres in the SEC and keep their spot at the top of the rankings.
Spy the quarterback
Emory Jones has been the starter so far this year, but look out for Anthony Richardson to possibly start in today’s matchup. Jones has been impressive thus far with an athleticism that equals his accuracy. However, Richardson dazzled the crowd last week with his play-making ability.
Richardson went out of the game with a hamstring injury, and isn’t a confirmed 100% for Alabama, but if he is the defense needs to be ready. He is averaging 25 yards a carry and has an impressive deep ball.
Alabama fans are tired of hearing about how their defense struggles with running quarterbacks, but it’s true. Although they have progressively gotten better, it has still been a struggle up until this season.
In week one, Alabama did a good job of spying the quarterback to make sure Miami’s D’Eriq King wasn’t able to scramble for big yardage. Bama should carry that same game plan over to this week. Whoever starts at quarterback for the Gators will be looking to run or scramble as much as they can against the Tide.
If Alabama forces one of these quarterbacks to beat them with their arm, Alabama will be in a good position to win the game.
Bryce Young needs to play well on the road
Bryce Young looks like everything Alabama expected him to be. Young dominated Miami in a neutral-site game week one and put away Mercer easily in week two. However, Young has not started in a true road-game yet. The Swamp is a tough place to experience that first hostile road environment.
What can he do to prove he is a true road warrior? Play exactly like he has been so far and stay within himself.
Young has completed 70% of his passes so far for over half a thousand yards this season. With an average of 185 yards-per-game, if he does that again Alabama will be sitting pretty by the fourth quarter.
Young can also run the ball, but he doesn’t make a habit of it unless necessary. This is important in a hostile environment with a Gator pass-rush that is downright scary. A defense like that can cause some passers to put too much of the game on their shoulders and get happy feet.
If the young quarterback keeps his cool, and doesn’t try to ditch the pocket too much, he should have a successful showing against the 11th-ranked Gators.
Play a full 60 minutes
Since midway through week two, Saban has been saying that has team hasn’t finished through a full game yet. While that is certainly hard to do when a team is pummeling their opponents into the ground, he wants to see his players finish a game.
Today’s game will be the time to do just that. Florida is by far the best competition this team has faced this season, and it is time to see if the Tide can finish the big game.
Sure, they may end up blowing Florida out in typical Alabama fashion, but if they let the Gators stick around past the midway point of the third quarter then Alabama will finally have to take their head coach’s advice and finish a full 60-minute game strong.
The key to this game will be how the Tide respond to getting punched in the mouth early by a formidable opponent on the road. Can the Tide push through the finish line if they get in a shootout?
That will all be revealed this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. central time in Gainesville as Saban’s squad marches into enemy territory for the first time in 2021. If Alabama can do these three things, they will keep their title as top team in the country.
Come back to check out the instant analysis after the game.
Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: email@example.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.