Why I Think Tide Will Defeat Gators

Not too many football weeks go by that I'm not asked what I think about Alabama's chances in the next big game. The next big game this week is the next game, the Southeastern Conference Championship Game against Florida. My standard answer is "I always think Alabama is going to win and I'm almost always right." Make that 12 of 12 this year.

True, in my pre-season analysis of the Alabama season, I had the Crimson Tide going "only" 10-2. But in weekly reports--published reports, I might add--I picked Bama to win all 12 games.

And I'm picking Alabama to defeat Florida in the SEC Championship Game in the GeorgiaDome in Atlanta Saturday. Kickoff for that game is 4 p.m. EST (3 p.m. central time) with national television coverage by CBS.

So do I have any reason to expect Bama to win other than the fact that the Crimson Tide hasn't failed me yet?

Good question. I'm not a coach, and don't pretend to have any more technical knowledge of football than just about any other fan. In fact, some who watch pro football games (I don't) probably have a lot more technical knowledge since the color commentators on pro games are always coaching the audience.

But I do have some thoughts about how No. 1 ranked Alabama, with a 12-0 record, can beat No. 2 Florida, with an 11-1 record. My first thought for those who think the Gators are unbeatable is two words:

Ole Miss

But still you probably want more. So here is my analysis of how Alabama wins:

Everyone talks about Florida's speed. I'm just as impressed with Alabama's strength, and I also think that Bama's speed is underrated. I have done just a little technical study of Nick Saban's defense and it's obvious he likes to force the opponent's offense to go inside-out. For the most part, Florida does that for him.

Florida has a great quarterback in Tim Tebow. And Tebow isn't great just because he is an excellent passer, though that would be enough. His exceptional value to the Gators comes from his ability to transform himself into a powerful--very powerful--running back. So reason number two I think Alabama can win is that Bama has a man in the defensive middle who is unlike any other the Gators have seen. May I present Mr. Terrence Cody.

I have also noticed that when teams attempt to shadow Tebow with a linebacker or defensive back abandoning normal duties to pressure Tebow that sometimes Tebow does find himself in trouble. I have also noticed that when that happens some Gator is wide open downfield and Tebow almost always gets the ball to that open man. Reason number three I think Alabama wins is that I suspect Nick Saban noticed that too, and will have a different plan.

Not much has been made of Florida's injuries, but I think they are significant. And not just Percy Harvin. Yes, I know they have Demps and Rainey and a dozen or so other great athletes, but there's a reason Harvin is considered the most valuable player on the team after Tebow. Even more significant, I believe, is that injuries in Florida's defensive line could be hazardous to their health. Alabama has a decent offensive line and powerful running backs. Nothing hurts a Florida offense more than that offense being on the sidelines while Alabama controls the clock, keeps the Bama defensse fresh, and, presumably, scores points.

Most reasonable observers have figured out that a quarterback who has broken virtually every Alabama passing record has bested the performances of some pretty good previous quarterbacks. And those who point to John Parker Wilson's statistics being down this year aren't paying attention to the most important statistic: 12 wins. For the most part, Wilson has been like another Alabama quarterback, one who took Alabama to a national championship in 1992 by not losing any games. Unlike Jay Barker, Wilson is going to have to participate in winning this game. So it's a bit of a shaky reason, but I think, John Parker Wilson--the forgotten quarterback in this game, sort of like Barker against Miami's Gino Toretta in the Sugar Bowl at the end of the 1992 season--will have an excellent game against Florida.

It's asking a lot, but Alabama has to be at least even with Florida in special teams play and in the takeaways-turnovers battle. Florida is very, very good, but Bama isn't bad, and I think this is doable.

And the number one reason I think Alabama will win the game is that Nick Saban will be on the Crimson Tide sidelines.

I don't think Alabama will rout Florida. I think it will be a difficult game. But I do think the Crimson Tide will win its 22nd SEC championship and head to Miami in quest of its 13th (or so) national championship.

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