Why Would Anyone Think Florida Not Great?

From time-to-time sports reporters think – not say aloud – “Is he talking about me?” Alabama Coach Nick Saban has many great attributes, but one of them is not mind-reading. And he is also a man of habit, one of which is to tar everyone with the same brush.

In the Wednesday evening Alabama press briefing, Saban said, “Florida has an outstanding team, way, way better than anybody here thinks.”

Why would anyone think that Florida does not have an outstanding team? Because the Gators went 4-8 last year, including losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia Southern? Because Florida needed three overtimes, and, just maybe, an assist from the officiating crew, to get by Kentucky last week in Gainesville?

This week the Crimson Tide has its first Southeastern Conference game as Bama hosts Florida at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. CDT with CBS televising the game.

We can put an asterisk next to Florida’s 2013 season. This is not the kind of asterisk that goes next to a team with a national championship earned with bought players, but rather an excuse for a poor season because of injured players. It has been said over and over and over again that the Gators were decimated by injury.

Anyone who thinks Florida still should have had enough players to beat Georgia Southern just doesn’t understand what a mess Urban Meyer left that program in.

But the Gators are back. Saban said, “They lost a lot of players due to injury last year. They've got a lot of players back that are very, very good players. Regardless of what anybody thinks, they'll be as talented probably as anybody that we play this year. It's going to be important that our players play their very best.”

Ever since the 2014 Alabama football schedule was revealed, it has looked as thought the Florida game was potential trouble for the Crimson Tide.

Saban said, “This is one of those games that I think a lot of players look forward to” if they are great competitors.

Historically under Saban, Bama teams haven’t appeared to enjoy games against teams against a mobile quarterback (Florida’s Jeff Driskel isn’t in the league with some, but he’s adequate) playing with three wide receivers and having a tough inside running game (Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor). Oh, and by the way, the Florida offensive line is considered one of the best in the league.

Statistically, the Gators are ranked high defensively, but looked much better in a 65-0 win over Eastern Michigan than in the battle against Kentucky.

Although it may be too early to look at statistics considering both teams have had brief, weak schedules, Florida is scoring 50.5 points per game and Bama 42 ppg. The Tide allows 11.7 points per game, the Gators 15. Florida has a slight edge in total offense, 593.5 yards per game to Bama’s 568.3 yards per game, with Alabama slightly ahead in total defense allowing 267 yards per game to Florida’s 287.5.

So, there is hope for Bama. Saban said, “We’ve had a pretty good week so far in terms of work and preparation and what the guys are trying to do.”

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