The nation’s No. 1 team heads to the SEC championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta with one goal – win. With a victory Saturday night, Alabama will most likely clinch the No. 1 ranking in the final College Football Playoff rankings.
Standing in the way of the Crimson Tide’s mission is No. 7 Florida, which controlled its own destiny until just last week. The Gators 37-34 loss to an unranked and 3-5 LSU all but ended Florida’s chances at playing for a national title. Or did it?
The current line for this game at top ranked sportsbooks is Alabama -17 and the total is resting at 74 points.
What many fans may not realize is the Florida defense actually leads the SEC in sacks and is second to Alabama in tackles for loss. The Gators like to blitz, so much so that LSU took advantage of it last week. Blitzes often leave defenses vulnerable and Florida gave up a number of big plays to the Tigers a week ago.
This week, Florida head coach Dan Mullen and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham may have to dial it back a bit. The Alabama offensive line is extremely capable of protecting Heisman Trophy favorite Mac Jones. With protection, Jones will be able to take advantage of one of the most explosive players in the country – WR Devonta Smith. Smith has caught 83 passes for 1,327 yards and 15 touchdowns. That’s an average of 16 yards per reception.
Speaking of Jones, he is the nation’s second-highest rated passer and, with a strong performance Saturday night, will likely receive college football’s highest award – the Heisman Trophy. He is highly efficient and has emerged from the shadows of Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, both of whom are now in the NFL. Jones completes over 77 percent of his passes and has thrown for 27 touchdowns compared to just three interceptions.
Jones’ counterpart, Florida’s Kyle Trask, will lead the 8-2 Gators offense against one of the best defenses in the country. Trask leads the nation with 40 touchdown passes despite the SEC-only schedule this season. He ranks second in passing yards per game with 360.3, which is one spot ahead of Jones at 345.9. Should Trask have a game and lead Florida to a win, he just might lay claim to the Heisman himself.
An Alabama-Florida SEC championship matchup is nothing new. The two teams have met nine teams prior to Saturday night for the conference title. The Crimson Tide hold a slight 5-4 lead in SEC championship games.
The Tide also holds an edge in the last six meetings between the two schools. The edge would Alabama six wins, Gators zero. Three of those Alabama victories were in SEC championship games.
Florida head coach Dan Mullen doesn’t have a strong track record against Alabama’s Nick Saban. Mullen is 0-9 against Saban with all nine of those losses coming when Mullen was at Mississippi State. This will be the first meeting with Alabama during Mullen’s tenure at Florida.
The Tide ATS
Alabama has covered the spread in eight of its ten games this season. That is extremely impressive given the Tide have been double-digit favorites in all but one game. They have been favored by 22 or more points in eight of the ten games, including each of the last six. Oh, and the Tide covered all six of those games.
Alabama’s closest game this season was its 41-24 defeat of eighth-ranked Georgia. The game was close until the second half when the Tide blew the game open. Saban’s team has covered spreads of 31.5, 29, and has covered a spread of 28.5 twice. Since beating Georgia, Alabama has won six in a row by an average of 41.8 points per game.
If there has been one constant in this very weird 2020 season, it has been Alabama. They have proven time and again that they are the best team in the country. The Tide is 7-0 ATS in its last seven games. They are 5-1 ATS in their last six against Florida.
Alabama has a strong passing game, an elite level running game led by RB Najee Harris, and one of the best defenses in the country (16.8 points allowed per game). Florida, while they do have an elite offense, is a little suspect defensively. LSU proved that last week.