No one, it seems, wants to be the overwhelming favorite to win a college football game. On the other hand, no one should want to be the overwhelming underdog, either.
Alabama and Florida are the most common matchup in SEC Championship Game history with seven meetings, two in Birmingham and five in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta where Saturday’s game will be played. The Crimson Tide (11-1 overall and 7-1 in SEC play), winner of the Western Division, takes on the Gators (10-2, 7-1) at 3 p.m. CST (4 p.m. Eastern time) with CBS televising the game.
Alabama is designated as the home team Saturday.
This week, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban said, “We haven’t beaten a 10-win team this year.” Of course, there are not a lot of opportunities to defeat a 10-win team in a 12-game season, meaning it would take one of the last three teams on the regular season schedule being at or near undefeated.
Florida will be playing in its 11th SEC Championship Game, which leads the league, and the Tide is second in appearances with its 10th upcoming. Bama is 5-4 in title games.
Although Alabama holds an all-time lead of 25-14 in the series, the Gators are 4-3 against the Tide in SEC Championship Games. Bama won the last SEC title game meeting against Florida, a 2009 win by 32-13 en route to an undefeated season and the national championship for Alabama, and the Tide is on a four-game winning streak against the Gators.
Alabama is going for a second consecutive SEC Championship and the 25th in Crimson Tide history. If Bama can win, its SEC title total will equal the next two teams combined, Tennessee with 13 conference championships and Georgia with 12. Alabama won the first SEC Championship in history in 1933 and the Tide won the first SEC Championship Game in 1992, defeating Florida en route to the national championship.
Alabama, which defeated Missouri in last year’s championship game, is going for its first back-to-back SEC titles since 1978-79. No team has won back-to-back SEC Championship Games since Tennessee in 1997-98.
Alabama and Florida had four common opponents this year. The Crimson Tide lost to Ole Miss, 37-43, while the Gators stomped the Rebels, 38-10. Both teams defeated Georgia, Bama by 38-10, the Gators by 27-3, and Tennessee, the Tide winning 19-14 and Florida by 28-27. Alabama defeated LSU, 30-16, while Florida lost to LSU, 28-35.
A statistical comparison of the two indicates that both are in the SEC Championship Game primarily because of having very fine defensive teams.
Here’s a look at the teams statistically:
Alabama is third in the league in scoring offense at 34.5 points per game, while Florida is ninth at 25.2 points per game. Defensively, Bama is first in the league, allowing 14.3 ppg, the Gators second, giving up 15.5.
Alabama is third in the league in rushing offense, 206.2 yards per game, and Florida is 13th, 137 ypg. On defense, the Tide is first against the run, allowing 78.9 ypg, the Gators second, giving up 111.2.
In passing offense, Bama is fifth in the conference, 215.2 ypg, Florida sixth, 214.9 (which amounts to three yards total over a 12-game season). In pass defense, the Gators are fourth, giving up 172.3 ypg, Alabama fifth, allowing 185.7. The Tide is fourth in passing efficiency, Florida fifth, and Bama is second in pass defense efficiency, the Gators third.
Alabama is sixth in the SEC in total offense, averaging 421.3 yards per game, and the Gators are 12th, 351.9 ypg. Bama leads the league in total defense, giving up 264.6 ypg, and Florida is second, allowing 283.6.
Florida is best in the SEC in the important Turnover Margin statistic. The Gators have 24 takeaways (10 fumble recoveries, 14 interceptions) and 14 turnovers (7 lost fumbles, 7 interceptions) for a margin of plus 10. Alabama is tied for second with a margin of plus 7 with Bama having 23 takeaways (8 fumble recoveries, 15 interceptions) and 16 turnovers (6 fumbles, 10 interceptions).
On third down situations, Florida ranks ninth in the league in conversions, 68-182 for 37.4 per cent, and Alabama is 11th, 60-167 for 35.9 per cent. On defense, the Tide is third on third downs, holding opponents to 55-186 for 29.6 per cent, and Florida is fifth, allowing 54-180 for 30 per cent.
In the Red Zone (inside the 20) on offense, Bama is seventh in the league with 41-50 scores (28 touchdowns, 13-17 field goals), 82 per cent, and the Gators are 13th on 33-48 scores (28 touchdowns, 5-12 field goals) for 68.8 per cent. On defense, Florida is seventh, allowing 21-26 (80.8 per cent) with 13 TDs and 8-9 FGs, and the Tide is 11th, giving up 20-24 (11 TDs, 9-11 FGs) for 83.3 per cent.
Bama leads the league in sacks with 41 with the Gators second at 38, but Alabama is tied for third in not allowing sacks, 17, and Florida is last in the league, giving up 37.
Florida is ninth in the league in penalties, 79 for 620 yards, and the Tide is 13th, 76 for 710 yards.
Alabama is second in time of possession, 33:04 per game, the Gators third, 32:58, a difference of 6 seconds per game.
In individual numbers, it’s the Derrick Henry Show. The junior Alabama tailback leads the SEC in scoring (132 points), touchdowns (22), rushes (295), rushing yards (1,797), and rushing TDs (22).
Bama safety Cyrus Jones leads the league in punt returns for touchdowns with three and with total punt returns, 29.
Tide safety Eddie Jackson is tied for the SEC lead in interceptions with 5 and tied for the lead in interceptions returned for touchdowns with two and leads the league in interception return yardage with 230.
Florida defensive back Jalen Tabor leads the league in passes defended with four interceptions and 14 passes broken up.