Florida vs. Alabama, Game Thread: Will full strength make Gators fearsome again?

USA TODAY Sports

In Florida's full strength games in 2012-13, the Gators have been awesome. They return to full strength against Alabama on Saturday. Will they be awesome?

Florida still expects to have Will Yeguete, Casey Prather, and Michael Frazier back in its rotation for Saturday's SEC showdown with Alabama (noon, ESPN or WatchESPN), and that is a great sign. When Florida has had its full complement of players in 2012-13, it has been downright terrifying — especially at home.

First, the list of games with players from Florida's eight-man rotation missing this year:

  • Georgetown: Prather, Scottie Wilbekin
  • Alabama State: Prather, Wilbekin
  • Wisconsin: Prather, Wilbekin
  • Middle Tennessee State: Prather
  • Savannah State: Prather
  • Yale: Erik Murphy
  • LSU: Mike Rosario
  • Texas A&M: Prather
  • Missouri (home): Prather
  • Georgia (away): Prather
  • Mississippi State (away): Prather
  • Arkansas (away): Yeguete (injured in first minute)
  • Mississippi State (home): Yeguete
  • Kentucky (home): Yeguete
  • Auburn (away): Yeguete
  • Missouri (away): Yeguete
  • Arkansas (home): Yeguete
  • Tennessee: Yeguete, Frazier
  • That's 17 games (and one half on the U.S.S. Bataan) spent without at least one major contributor, almost two thirds of Florida's 27 games played to this point. And, no, Florida hasn't had to play without Kenny Boynton or Patric Young, but this list also doesn't account for Wilbekin breaking a finger and Rosario playing with fingers taped against Tennessee.

    In the 10 games at full strength, Florida is 8-2, with losses to Arizona and Kansas State by single digits on the road, and half the eight wins coming by more than 30 points. Florida beat Marquette by 33 at full strength, and has beaten the six teams it's seen in the O'Connell Center with all eight members of its rotation by a staggering 29.2 points.

    This bodes ill for Alabama, which comes into this game with a chance to take first place in the SEC — and no wins in Gainesville against Billy Donovan.

    The Crimson Tide have compiled 11 SEC wins, but none more impressive than a SEC season-opening victory against Tennessee at home; they've been shellacked at Missouri and shorted out at Auburn, and have lost close heartbreakers to Tennessee and LSU on the road. Alabama plays excellent defense, as it has throughout Anthony Grant's tenure, and is second only to Florida in points per possession allowed in conference play.

    The Tide also like to pace slow every bit as much as Donovan's Gators do, so this game might not get to 60 possessions. Or, on the flip side, Florida could maximize its greatest advantage (an offense that has scored 1.15 points per possession against the SEC, far better than Alabama's .969 PPP) by running more, and attempting to get more, and by extension better, shots.

    If Florida does run, it will need to avoid turnovers, as the Alabama defense leads the SEC in steal percentage and ranks ninth nationally in that statistic. Trevor Relaford, Trevor Lacey, and Devonta Pollard all snag steals on 2.9 percent of defensive possessions or better. (In fairness, Wilbekin, Yeguete, and Prather are all at 3.2 percent or better, but only Wilbekin plays about as much as the Trevors.)

    I'll be watching from my warm recliner in chilly Gainesville, and I'll be tweeting and commenting as usual. Ask questions, make observations, etc.

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