In an early season meeting of nationally-ranked Southeastern Conference teams, Alabama will host Florida at 2:30 p.m. CDT Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. CBS will telecast the game. Alabama is ranked 15th in the nation, while the Gators are ranked fifth. Both teams have 4-0 overall records and 2-0 SEC marks.
Alabama Coach Mike Shula said that his team had another good day in its final practice for Florida on Thursday. The team was out for about 90 minutes in shorts. "The guys were focused and into it," Shula said. The Crimson Tide will have a normal Friday "walk-through."
"The preparation is no different," Shula said. "We feel one reason for our early success is we have been prepared. We don't want to lose sight of how we have won four games."
Shula recognizes that Florida is a greater challenge than has gone before. "There is more excitement around campus," Shula said. "You can sense the atmosphere."
The coach said, "It's going to take a complete effort in all three phases and we know we have to get better and play better than we did last week. We know our best football game is still out there. We just keep hitting the guys with preparing the best way they know how. I think that has paid off over the course of this year and hopefully it will again this week."
Alabama's offensive line play is considered key for Bama to have success against Florida's outstanding defense. "Our offensive line has a lot of respect for Florida's defensive line," Shula said. "Florida has size and speed. They do a good job with their blitzes. We have to continue to build on the things we have done well. On running plays, our guys have to recognize their assignments and come off with confidence. On pass plays they have to pick up the rush and give our receivers time to get open."
He reiterated that Florida does a good job on pass defense. "Brodie (quarterback Brodie Croyle) has to do a good job in recognizing it and the receivers have to do a good job."
"We are about as healthy as we have ever been," Shula added. "It looks like (junior linebacker) Terrence Jones (who has been out with an ankle injury) is going to be ready to go and help out the defense and special teams. (Senior right guard) Mark Sanders (ankle and knee) will be ready to go in an emergency. (Sophomore cornerback) Eric Gray (hamstring) has looked as good as he has looked all year. Hopefully, he can help us possibly on defense, and for sure, on special teams."
The Alabama-Florida game is one of three game this weekend featuring a pair of 4-0 teams. The other two games involve Minnesota at Penn State and Virginia Tech at West Virginia. In all, there are only 11 teams in the nation with 4-0 records.
Among the practice visitors were Todd Blackledge, the CBS analyst, and former Bama Interim Athletics Director Glen Tuckett. Tuckett is one of the voters in the new Harris Poll, which will be used as one of the factors in determining Bowl Championship Series teams, including the BCS national championship game participants. In the initial [poll released this week, it was revealed 113 of the 114 selectors had voted. Tuckett said he was not the one who failed to vote. "I got my vote in early," he said. "I had Alabama 12th." Tuckett, who lives in Utah, told Shula that he is familiar with Florida Coach Urban Meyer, who went to the Gators this year from Utah.