SQ SEC Championship Preview
The SEC, you either love it or hate it. Even if you fall into the latter part of that statement, there's still a part of you that has to know about what's going on in the conference that has been labeled as the gold standard for college football. We're giving you the rundown on what you need to know heading into this weekend's title bout between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Florida Gators.
Storylines Heading Into the Game
Florida's offense continues to struggle — Whether it's the offensive line finally playing down to expectations or the lackluster play of QB Treon Harris, the Gators offensive woes are back. The pass protection has broken down more times than not, and Harris is either left scrambling or making an erratic throw.
Harris has completed just 50.9 percent of his passes and thrown four interceptions since he took over as the permanent starter. Jim McElwain and his staff need to have a different gameplan going into this matchup or else they won't even score the two points they were lucky to get against FSU.
Alabama DC Kirby Smart to become Georgia's next Head Coach — Every year it seems like we're talking about which one of Nick Saban's assistants is next in line to land a job fronting his own program. After being one of the hottest names on the coaching carousel, Kirby Smart will have the chance to be the next head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs. Smart is one of the brightest defensive minds in all of college football, and is more than deserving of this opportunity.
Derrick Henry's final push for the Heisman — While much of the season was devoted to gawking at the numbers Leonard Fournette was putting up, Henry was stockpiling stats of his own and building his case for the Heisman. There's no question now that Henry is the front runner after compiling 1,797 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns.
He's two rushing scores away from becoming the single-season record holder for rushing touchdowns in the SEC, which coincidentally was set by former Florida QB Tim Tebow. Fournette and Dalvin Cook have each rushed for at least 180 yards and two scores against the Gators this season, so it's not far-fetched to think that Henry could do the same.
4 — Florida RB Kelvin Taylor has rushed for over 100 yards in four of his last five games, and should eclipse the 1,000 yard rushing mark this week against Alabama. This stat will probably surprise most fans as Taylor's success on the ground has been overshadowed by the lack of production from the rest of the offense. During this stretch, Taylor has rushed for 514 yards, which is a little more than double of what he produced through his first four games this season.
8 — This meeting marks the eighth time that the Gators and Crimson Tide have met in the SEC Championship. It might seem a little hard to believe since the two teams haven't faced off in the title game since 2009 when Nick Saban crushed the hopes of Tim Tebow winning his third national title in four years. Oddly enough, the Gators hold a 4-3 advantage in the championship matchup. However, most seem to think Alabama will even up the series on Saturday.
15 — Gator fans will feel a sense of irony when reading this. Not only is 15 the number of beloved QB Tim Tebow, but it just so happens that Treon Harris was sacked that many times in the month of November. Eight of those sacks have come in the last two games against FAU and Florida State. If Florida is going to have any hope of scoring against Alabama, Harris cannot take more than a couple sacks.
Treon Harris, QB, Florida Gators — We all know the Florida defense will show up, but will its offense? Yes, the offensive line has to play better, but so does Harris. Too often these past couple weeks has Harris looked lost after the ball is snapped. He's not seeing open receivers out of their breaks and is taking off way too soon. There has to be a different gameplan for Harris going into this game because he can't run the same offense that Will Grier could.
Alabama's Defensive Line — If Alabama is going to squash any hopes of Florida even thinking it has a chance at winning this game, it starts with the defensive line. This defensive front is the strongest that Florida has faced all season, and will no doubt give the offensive line fits all game. Florida has given up 37 sacks this season, and as mentioned above, 15 of those were given up in November. If Alabama can get to Treon Harris early, Florida will virtually stand no chance against the Crimson Tide.
College Football is a funny sport. Just when you think one team is far superior than its competition, it gets upset by an opponent that may have been perceived as inferior. The David and Goliath subplot in sports is one that almost every fan loves to see. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem likely that will happen in this year's SEC Championship.
Alabama is a runaway train that is nearly impossible to stop right now, and Florida is directly in its path. The Crimson Tide play big boy football with an elite defense and a power run game that just crushes its opponents. Derrick Henry will continue the trend of elite running backs having big games against the Gators, while Alabama's defense won't even give Treon Harris a chance to think clearly after the ball is snapped. Don't expect this game to be a nail-biter.
Final Score: Alabama 35 - Florida 7