There is only one game standing in the way between the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide and their sixth College Football Playoff appearance in seven years in the SEC Championship. This Saturday, Alabama will face the #7 Florida Gators for the tenth in the conference championship game. This will be the tenth SEC Conference Championship matchup between the Tide and the Gators with the last matchup in the postseason being a 54-16 victory over Florida in 2016. Once again, the SEC Championship will help decide which team will go to the College Football Playoffs. Last weekend showed two different stories of the two teams as Alabama destroyed the Arkansas Razorbacks 52-3. The Gators lost to the struggling LSU Tigers with a 37-34 score. This game will still be one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the week.
#1 Alabama Prepare for SEC Championship Game Versus #7 Florida
Alabama quarterback Mac Jones versus Florida quarterback Kyle Trask
The SEC Championship game is also a game that highlights specific matchups between the strengths of the team. This game will feature two of the most high-caliber quarterbacks in not the SEC but in the entire nation. Alabama’s quarterback Mac Jones has been one of the biggest surprises this season in the 2020 College Football season. The Tide, led by Jones, is ranked third in the nation in points per game (49.5) and fifth in passing yards per game (338.5). Jones has accumulated 3,321 passing yards in ten games this season, which is fourth in the nation. Florida’s quarterback Kyle Trask continues to be one of the most productive passers in the nation. The Gators, under Trask, are ranked 12th in points per game (41.2) and first in passing yards per game (386.4). Trask has thrown for 3,717 yards in ten games, the most in the nation.
Both the Tide and the Gators will have two of the most progressive and explosive passing offenses in the nation. Alabama has an established system of deep threat plays where DeVonta Smith and John Metchie can capitalize on big plays. Within the past couple of weeks, tight end Jahleel Billingsley has become a dynamic target and highly aggressive target from all over the field. The Gators have more reliable short-to-mid-range receivers, especially in senior wide receiver Kadarius Toney. Their star target for the Gators and Trask is the tight end, Kyle Pitts. Last week, the lack of his impact on the field was significant in the loss to the Tigers last weekend. His huge presence in the red zone can pose a serious threat to the Tide’s defense.
DeVonta Smith’s Continue to Rise in the Heisman Rankings
Within a few weeks, Smith has been rising in the Heisman Rankings. Despite not having a receiving touchdown last weekend against Arkansas, Smith is the number one player listed to win the Heisman Trophy in several major polls. In the ten games played this season, Smith has caught 83 receptions for 1,327 yards (leads the nation) and 15 touchdowns (second in the nation). Smith didn’t catch a touchdown last week, but he did return an 84-yard punt return for a touchdown. Since the injury to flex receiver Jaylen Waddle, Smith has emerged as the number one receiver in the nation. His impact on the field has been tremendous to where his absence would so significant enough to where it is the same level as a quarterback.
This weekend, the Tide’s passing offense will take on the Gators’ defense that is ranked 70th in the nation (fourth in the SEC) in passing yards allowed per game (221.3). Smith will compete against Gators cornerback Marco Wilson often during the game. Alabama will also expect safety Kaiir Elam to contribute in double coverage deep down the field. Elam leads the Gators in pass breakups with 11. Jones will need to be efficient in the time of his throws deep to receivers like Smith. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has done a great job of mixing up route assignments for Smith to contribute from all over the field. Huge performance in the SEC Championship game will help separate himself as the Heisman Trophy front-runner.
Alabama’s Defense Will Have Their Biggest Test Since Ole Miss
The Crimson Tide’s defense will have their biggest test since facing the dynamic, high-power offense of the Ole Miss Rebels in the third week of the SEC season. In that game, the Tide allowed 647 total yards of offense, the most ever given up in program history. Since that game, the defense of Alabama has been getting better at stopping the opposing offenses. This weekend, Alabama will face the Gators’ and their top-ranked passing offense in the nation. Trask is a quarterback that can spread the ball around the field. They have an offense that can wear down an opposing defense. That is why it will be crucial for the key players of the defense to play their most efficient performance.
The top cornerbacks for the Tide in Patrick Surtain II and Josh Jobe will have to be able to stay in coverage against a set of receivers who are able to run a wide variety of routes. This will be a big game for Tide true freshman slot cornerback Malachi Moore, who has accumulated three interceptions. Florida will be installing multiple short passing game situations where Alabama has been strong all year with Moore. There will be a serious concern for sophomore middle linebacker Christian Harris and his status for the game against Florida. Harris is questionable to lead the Tide’s defense after leaving with a shoulder injury last week against Arkansas. Jaylen Moody has been an efficient playmaker for the Tide’s defense in replacement of Harris last week.