With kickoff for Alabama and Florida less than 24 hours away, the alligatorSports football beat writers predict who walks away from The Swamp with victory on Saturday.
Ryan: Florida’s offense dropped 46 points on the Crimson Tide in December, but this offense has done a full 180 in the months since. While the 2020 Gators, helmed by now-Buccaneers quarterback Kyle Trask, paced the nation in passing yards per game, head coach Dan Mullen now boasts the best rushing offense in the country through two games. This is still a Nick Saban team, however. Florida can’t afford to be one-dimensional. Jacob Copeland and the other receivers have to get loose deep like they did against South Florida, and either starting quarterback Emory Jones or backup Anthony Richardson has to make those throws.
On the other side of the ball, UF’s defense has one priority: rattle Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. Young, a sophomore, has never started an SEC road game. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and his players know they can cripple the Tide’s offense if he loses sync, much like Auburn starter Bo Nix in 2019. Unfortunately, I think Young is a much better quarterback than Nix, and he’ll gash the side of Florida’s secondary Kaiir Elam isn’t defending. Alabama wins, 48-28.
Zachary: The Florida football team mentioned how their six-point defeat to Alabama in the SEC Championship game served as a chip on its shoulder all offseason. Now, the wait is finally over. The offense put up 35-plus points in each of its two games and the defense seemed much improved since 2020, albeit against inferior opponents. But the Gators received sour news on Thursday. They learned redshirt senior linebacker Ventrell Miller, the team’s leading tackler a season ago, will miss the rest of the season due to a torn biceps tendon.
It seems like coach Dan Mullen will likely get Richardson back against the Crimson Tide after he suffered a hamstring injury against South Florida. However, Mullen was adamant that he would stick to his current plan of playing both Richardson and Jones. Because of Miller and the talent gap between the two rosters due to recruiting, Alabama cruises to an easy victory Saturday and covers the spread. The Crimson Tide roll over the Gators 42-24.
Michael: Florida enters Saturday as a 15-point home underdog. While that number may seem high for a top-15 matchup, the Tide beat then-No.14 Miami 44-13 in Week 1. Florida is a better all-around team than the Hurricanes, but the two-touchdown spread makes sense in context. The Gators have three things they must do to have a shot at dethroning Alabama: Limit the Tide’s explosive plays, create some of their own and pressure Young without blitzing.
We all saw Young’s 94-yard touchdown against Miami in Week 1. Florida doesn’t have a chance if plays like that happen Saturday. The Gators defense is vulnerable, specifically on the back end, and the unit needs to lock in after allowing 20 points to USF last week.
Richardson has been a big-play machine, completing three passes for 162 yards last week against USF and scoring three touchdowns longer than 70 yards this season. Florida will not beat Bama with long drives down the field — the Tide are too talented to allow those — so UF needs to create some huge plays and limit turnovers to have a shot at winning.
Ashlee Woods, sports editor of the Crimson White, said this week in our “Know Your Enemy” series that Bama’s offensive line has yet to be tested after losing multiple starters this offseason. Young is incredibly poised in the pocket for someone his age. His 70.8% completion percentage tells the story — he’s accurate and doesn’t get rattled easily. Young can diagnose a defensive blitz well and take advantage of it, so Florida needs its defensive line, specifically edge rushers Zachary Carter and Brenton Cox Jr., to harass the quarterback without the extra help from blitzers.
If they can get him out of his comfort zone, the Gators have a shot at slowing down this Alabama attack. I don’t see that happening enough for Florida to win, though. Alabama doesn’t cover the spread, but it paints the field crimson in a 38-24 victory.
Contact Ryan Haley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryan_dhaley.
Contact Zachary Huber at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @zacharyahuber.
Contact Michael Hull at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Hull33.
Michael Hull is a fourth-year journalism sports & media major and a sports writer at The Alligator. He hosts the weekly sports podcast and has worked on staff for five semesters. In the past, Hull has served as the sports editor, the men's and women's golf beat writer, the volleyball beat writer and the football beat writer.
Ryan Haley, a UF journalism senior with a sports & media specialization from Jacksonville, Florida, is Summer 2022's Engagement Managing Editor. He grew up playing a bunch of different sports before settling on golf, following Rory McIlroy and all Philadelphia sports teams. He also loves all things fiction, reading, watching shows and movies and talking about whatever current story or character is in his head.