This weeks edition of the 2011 Florida Gators Football Predictions features the Alabama Crimson Tide.
This is the "big one" of the Gators schedule. And it comes relatively early in the season. Luckily for the Gators, they will get to have home field advantage against the SEC powerhouse. Last season, Alabama finished 10-3 (5-3 SEC) and 5-3 against top 25 teams.
This will be Nick Saban's 5th year at the University of Alabama. He has consistently brought great talent to Tuscaloosa and he has also been excellent at developing the talent he brings in. 2010 was the first time Alabama had not finished first in the SEC West since 2007. Mainly, that goes to say some strong things about the SEC, when Alabama ranked 22nd in total offense, 5th in total defense, 5th in passing efficiency, and 11th in turnover margin.
Against the two top 10 teams that Alabama played, they lost by an average of 2 points (this of course included the National Champion, Auburn). So what does this mean for the Gators? It means they have a lot of practicing to do, and a bye week would have meant a lot for this game.
Fortunately for the University of Florida, Alabama lost its two greatest assests on offense, Greg McElroy and Mark Ingram. Nevertheless, Alabama still has two very capable quarterbacks in A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims. Last season Sims redshirted, but he will be competing heavily with McCarron for the job. For now, the likely started will be A.J. McCarron who successfully backup up McElroy. McCarron completed 30 our of 48 passes for 389 yards, 3 TD's, and a passer rating of 151.2.
In addition, despite the previous Heisman Trophy winner, Mark Ingram, graduating, don't expect the running game to get any less intense. Trent Richardson is not just being introduced. He made his own statement last season backup up Ingram, and still racking up 700 yards on 112 carries and 6 TD's. He also gave some relief recieving, which will mean much more this upcoming season with Julio Jones going into the Draft, obtaining another 266 yards on 23 catches and 4 TD's.
Imagining a game where Richardson is in full control of the running game is a scary thought. He will get a 1000 yard season next year unless he suffers an injury. Florida better come up with a gameplan to contain this playmaker, or they'll find themselves sprawling on defense.
Also look to Marquis Maze as the other man to step up on offense to fill in for playmaker, Julio Jones. He had only about half of the yards Jones had, but he also only had half as many receptions. Maze could quickly increase his stock after the departure of Jones.
For the Alabama defense, the Gators might have a lot harder time preparing a gameplan. With trouble at the quarterback position, Florida must be especially careful with DB Robert Lester on the field. Last season Lester was 2nd in the nation in interceptions. On top of that, Alabama only allowed an average of 286 yards a game. Florida will have to rely heavily on its run game, where they have players of experience, in order to even have a chance at beating the Crimson Tide.
Keys for Florida: Use the loss of key offensive players for Alabama as an advantage. Mentally and physically attack the inexperienced players to throw the offense off-guard. On offense, rely more on running, with supplemental play action to bring in the secondary and then throw accurate passes to gain yards. The home field advantage should be a factor for Florida, who doesn't even have trouble filling the stadium when FCS teams come into town.
Prediction: After getting a scare from the Wildcats the week before, the Tide rolls all over Florida at home, causing fans to leave the stadium early. Florida 9, Alabama 35.
2011 Football Schedule Prediction
10/01/2011 vs. Alabama L
10/08/2011 at LSU
10/15/2011 at Auburn
10/22/2011 Bye Week
10/29/2011 vs. Georgia*
11/05/2011 vs. Vanderbilt
11/12/2011 at South Carolina
11/19/2011 vs. Furman
11/26/2011 vs. Florida State