I don’t think Florida has much of a chance against Alabama in this 2016 SEC Championship Game (4:00 p.m., CBS or CBSSports.com).
I think Jalen Hurts is very, very good, and the exact sort of player — like Tennessee’s slippery Joshua Dobbs, Hurts is a fantastic runner and a decent-to-good thrower — at quarterback that taxes even a defense as good as the 2016 Florida defense, the one that existed when every member of it was healthy.
I think Florida’s nowhere near that healthy, no matter how big having Jarrad Davis back in the starting lineup and on the field is.
I think Alabama has a ton of skill-position talent surrounding Hurts, too, maybe as deep a bench of playmakers as it has had under Nick Saban. Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough, Calvin Ridley, Ar’Darius Stewart: Any one of these Crimson Tide stars could be the one to put Florida behind for good, even alone.
And I think Alabama’s offensive line, always underrated as a piece of the Crimson Tide’s expertly-assembled puzzle, is plenty good. Alabama has allowed just 19 sacks this season, some of them undoubtedly on Hurts moving around, and Alabama averages 5.7 yards per carry — some of that undoubtedly attributible to Hurts, who manages 5.5 yards per carry, sacks include, but also to Harris (7.2 YPC) and Scarbrough (5.7 YPC) and Josh Jacobs (6.7 YPC), a freshman reserve who hasn’t had 10 carries in a month.
And I think Alabama’s defense is much, much better than its offense.
The no-touchdowns-in-November stat is great, and has been much-repeated this week — and it’s relevant, especially since Florida had just four offensive touchdowns in the same month.
But Alabama’s also got the only defense in the nation allowing under 4.00 yards per play, checking in at 3.96 — and that number was just 3.36 in November, despite meeting LSU in Tiger Stadium and occasionally pyrotechnic Mississippi State and Auburn’s powerful running game last month.
Florida State remained No. 1 in the nation in sacks thanks to six of Austin Appleby last Saturday, but Alabama might take that title from the Seminoles this Saturday, as the Crimson Tide are just six sacks back.
And while Alabama’s not actually great at forcing turnovers — the Tide have at least one in every game on the year, but just 21 total, and more than two in just one game, a five-takeaway performance against Arkansas; Florida has as many in one fewer game, and four three-takeaway performances on the season — those turnovers have turned into points time and again, with 12 non-offensive scores all year.
I do think Eddy Piñeiro is better than Adam Griffith, and that Florida’s secondary might be better than Alabama’s. But that might be it as far as advantages for the Gators go.
So I think Florida’s going to lose, probably in emphatic fashion.
But wouldn’t it be great if I were dead wrong?