It will be deja vu in Atlanta, as Alabama and Florida are set to meet for the 2016 SEC Championship for the second consecutive season.
Much like last year, the Crimson Tide are undefeated and rolling behind a dominant defense and steady offense. The Gators are once again struggling to move the ball, but they can play some defense themselves in what could be a low-scoring battle.
Here is the schedule for the showdown, as well as a breakdown of each team and a prediction for the game.
|Saturday, Dec. 3||Alabama vs. Florida||4 p.m.||CBS|
Alabama’s dominance is no secret, as the Crimson Tide have been the class of college football all season.
The defense is once again the catalyst for another undefeated regular season. The unit leads the nation in scoring defense with 11.4 points allowed per game while also topping the country with just 246.8 yards conceded per contest.
Somehow, the Alabama defense has raised its play down the stretch, putting up these ridiculous numbers in November, per ESPN Stats & Info:
In the SEC championship game, Florida will face an Alabama defense that did this in November. pic.twitter.com/xMADjy2naK
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 27, 2016
On the season, only five teams scored touchdowns against the Crimson Tide. The list of teams on their schedule that did not find the end zone is even more impressive, via ESPN’s Braden Gall:
USC, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas A&M, LSU, Mississippi St and Auburn combined to score three total touchdowns against Alabama.
— Braden Gall (@BradenGall) November 28, 2016
It does not appear that Alabama’s stinginess will let up on Saturday. Florida has failed to score at least 25 points in six of its last seven games, and the Gators are fresh off a 205-yard total offense performance in a 31-13 loss to Florida State.
Florida ranks a putrid 114th nationally in total offense with 352.7 yards generated per game. The Gators have a solid stable of running backs in Jordan Cronkrite, Lamical Perine, Jordan Scarlett and Mark Thompson, but their passing game has simply not been good enough. Luke Del Rio is completing just 56.7 percent of his throws for 1,358 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions, while Austin Appleby has thrown for 964 yards, six touchdowns and two picks.
Third down has been a problem for the offense. It is a modest 60th in the nation with a 41.6 percent success rate, but the struggles have been most apparent in Florida’s three losses:
|Opponent||Third-Down Numbers||Florida Total Yards||Florida Points Scored|
Yet a stout defense has kept Florida afloat this season. Behind star cornerbacks Jalen “Teez” Tabor and Quincy Wilson, the Gators rank fifth in scoring defense at 14.6 points allowed per game and sixth in total defense with 291.9 yards allowed per outing.
The red zone is where this unit really excels, as it ranks third in the country by holding its opponents scoreless 31 percent of the time. This could be crucial on Saturday for the Gators keeping the game close by forcing Alabama into field goals or stops altogether.
The Crimson Tide are playing well on offense, as the team just put up over 500 yards against a tremendous Auburn defense last week. The team is loaded with weapons, which could turn out to be a handful for the Florida defense.
Jalen Hurts is playing well at quarterback. He has rushed for 840 yards and 12 touchdowns while throwing for another 21. He also showed solid efficiency against Auburn, ending up with a great outing despite throwing two first-half picks, per 247Sports’ Charlie Potter:
Jalen Hurts set an Iron Bowl record by completing 75% of his passes. It's the best mark by a QB in the series with a minimum of 30 attempts.
— Charlie Potter (@Charlie_Potter) November 27, 2016
Damien Harris, Joshua Jacobs and Bo Scarbrough are powerful runners, and Alabama may have the best receiving group in the SEC with O.J. Howard, Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart.
With both teams possessing strong defenses, points could be hard to come by on Saturday. However, there is much more reason to believe that Alabama can generate enough offense to pull out a win, as Florida’s offense is too anemic at this point in the season to count on it to pull the upset.
Prediction: Alabama 26, Florida 9
Statistics are courtesy of NCAA.com.