December has arrived, and that means that the Georgia Dome will be hosting the SEC Championship once again. Florida won the East pretty handily, while Alabama had to get some help from some Arkansas 4th-and-25 magic to get to the big game. It’s crazy to think this game would be Tennessee vs. Ole Miss if the Rebels had stopped a 4th and 25 and Tennessee had stopped a 4th and 14. Here we are though, the Tide and the Gators once again, their 8th meeting in Atlanta to decide the SEC.
Nick Saban’s SEC Championships at Alabama: 2009, 2012, 2014
Jim McElwain’s SEC Championships at Florida: None (1st year)
Florida: 10-2 (7-1)
Tennessee: 8-4 (5-3)
Georgia: 9-3 (5-3)
Vanderbilt: 4-8 (2-6)
Kentucky: 5-7 (2-6)
Missouri: 5-7 (1-7)
South Carolina: 3-9 (1-7)
Alabama: 11-1 (7-1)
Ole Miss: 9-3 (6-2)
Arkansas: 7-5 (5-3)
LSU: 8-3 (5-3)
Texas A&M: 8-4 (4-4)
Mississippi State: 8-4 (4-4)
Auburn: 6-6 (2-6)
It’s really a testament to Alabama’s schedule that every team in the West is bowl eligible. They’re ranked 3rd in the FBS in strength of schedule based on opponent win percentage (Ohio State ranks 56th, just for you Mike Thomas). The Tide have rolled to 9 straight, and Florida just fell to in state rival Florida State. Can the Tide stay hot, or will Florida play spoiler?
Alabama -17 (largest in SEC Championship History)
Why Florida Can Win:
Florida ranks 7th in run defense, and if they can slow down Heisman frontrunner Derrick Henry, things can get chippy. Florida has shown the ability to produce takeaways, in Alabama’s only loss they coughed it up 5 times. Treon Harris is the key. If he can play the game of his life and outplay Jake Coker, the D can force some turnovers, and a little bit of luck, Florida has a shot to knock off Alabama.
Key Players: Treon Harris, Jalen Tabor, Vernon Hargreaves III, and the entire Front 7.
Why Alabama Can Win:
While UF ranks 7th in run defense, Alabama ranks 1st. Saban is facing his old assistants McElwain and Nussmeier, so he knows what to expect. Treon Harris has been without a doubt one of the most average Quarterbacks in all of the FBS this year. On the season, he has completed 53% of his passes for 1365 yards, 8 TDs, and 4 picks while splitting time with the now suspended Will Grier. In his last game against the Seminoles, he rushed for -5 yards and completed 50% of his passes for no TDs. Elite QB play is needed to beat Alabama. With the run game likely to be shut down by Alabama’s front 7, offense will be scarce for the Gators. If Alabama can secure the football, eat the clock, run the ball, and limit big plays; they’ll walk to the CFB playoffs.
Key Players: Derrick Henry, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Cyrus Jones, and the entire Front 7.
Alabama 27, Florida 10
I think this game looks similar to the Auburn game. A lot closer on the scoreboard than it is on paper. Florida gets an offensive touchdown off of Jake Coker early. Derrick Henry gets 35 carries and rushes 200 yards, he will secure this game and the Heisman. McElwain has made excellent progress at Florida, but he’ll have to settle for second place.
What’s your prediction for the game? SportsTalkATL will be doing a special on the Bowl games, and picking every game. We’ll tally up the percentage and declare a winner out of our 4 writers. Be on the lookout!