The Alabama Crimson Tide are back on top of the SEC in its season of rebounding and revenge. On Saturday, Alabama took on the #7 Florida Gators in the 2020 SEC Championship game in a matchup of two of the most high-powered offenses in the nation. The Tide started off strong early against the Gators, taking a 37-17 lead into halftime. Alabama couldn’t shake off Florida in the third and most of the fourth quarter as the Gators kept it close. The Tide’s defense allowed too many mistakes and Florida came close to securing an upset. Alabama finished the game with a 52-46 victory over Florida. This secured the 32nd conference title and sixth College Football Playoff birth in seven seasons. While the Tide have proven to be one of the two elite teams in the nation, they are just as vulnerable as any other team.
Alabama Takes SEC Title in Offensive Shootout
Jones, Smith, and Harris lead Alabama to Explosive Performance over Florida
Both teams came into this matchup as two of the most explosive passing offenses in the nation. This would be the last chance for the Heisman Trophy to be decided potentially between Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith, and Florida quarterback Kyle Trask before the votes were final on Monday. The Gators were looking to suppress the impact of Smith as a one-man wrecking receiver corps against their defensive backs. What they didn’t expect was the impact and reliability of running back Najee Harris in the running and receiving game. Harris, thanks to the stellar playcalling of offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, was able to put in great scoring situations. Harris rushed for 178 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries. He was a bigger threat in the passing game as he was highly efficient, catching five receptions for 67 yards and three touchdowns.
Jones played a nearly perfect game. He passed for 418 yards, five touchdowns, an interception, and a QBR of 92.2 on 33 completions (out of 43 passing attempts). His only major mistake was forcing an interception in the middle of the first quarter where wide receiver John Metchie delivered a hard hit and forced the fumble on Gators Trey Dean III. Smith then recovered the fumble. Jones followed that play up with a touchdown to Smith, who bumped his Heisman Trophy stock on Saturday. Smith caught 15 receptions for 184 yards and two touchdowns. The Tide’s offense continues to produce a high-amount of yards against SEC defenses. Alabama accumulated 605 total yards and 33 first downs against the defense of Florida. Jones and Smith continued to boost their Heisman Trophy resume as well as any potential of Harris receiving the award.
Golding and Secondary at Their Worst Against Florida
While the offense for the Tide played one of their best performances of the season, the defense might have played their worst. When tasked to face a Florida offense that ranks first in the nation in passing yards per game, Alabama needed its key players to play their best game. In the first half, it was the speed of Kadarius Toney that made some significant plays. The Gators accumulated 213 total yards and nine first downs in the first half. In the second half, Gators offensive coordinator Brian Johnson and quarterback Trask found more holes in the Tide’s defense, mostly in the secondary and zone linebacker coverages. Alabama allowed Trask to throw the ball consistently against its more established man coverage defensive backs such as Patrick Surtain II, Josh Jobe, and Malachi Moore.
The Tide allowed 249 total yards and 17 first downs from the Gators’ offense. Four of the seven drives for Florida resulted in a touchdown with one including a two-point conversion. Jobe was challenged often as he accounted for three pass deflections. He had multiple mishaps in the end zone of one of the Gators’ key drives. The Gators played more efficiently in the second half as they adjusted to coverage schemes. Tight end Kyle Pitts was more productive in the second half as the defense kept switching out players in coverage. Defensive coordinator Pete Golding coached one of his poorest performances with the Tide since the Ole Miss game. If Alabama wants to control the game in the College Football Playoffs, the defense must line up and play more efficient man coverages as they were disastrous in zone coverages.
Alabama Remains Number One
Despite an ugly finish, the College Football Playoff Committee announced Alabama as the number one seed for the College Football Playoffs on Sunday. Alabama has been selected as the number one seed for the playoffs four times in seven seasons. They have not won a National Championship in the same playoffs they were the number one seed. Alabama looks to be the second-ever number one seed to win the title since LSU last year. They will have to play without senior center Landon Dickerson, who suffered a major knee injury late in the game. Chris Owens will likely be the starting center for the Tide while the College Football Playoffs. The Tide faces the #4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-1; 9-1) in the Rose Bowl which has been relocated to Arlington, Texas in Cowboys Stadium on January 1st.