The Gators head into Saturday as a 17-point underdog against Alabama, the second biggest point spread in SEC Championship Game history. The line actually opened at Alabama -12 before skyrocketing. It makes sense based on the last month for both teams. Florida has squeaked by lesser opponents before suffering a 25-point loss at home to Florida State on Saturday.
On the other hand, Alabama has won nine straight games and went 4-0 in November with the closest margin of victory at 14 points. The Crimson Tide has stream rolled its way through the schedule since losing at home to Ole Miss on September 19.
Alabama’s loaded front seven on the defensive side has limited opponents to 78.9 rushing yards per game, 32.2 yards fewer than Florida’s second best run defense. The Gators couldn’t score any offensive points against a talented Florida State defense, but with the challenge of Alabama on Saturday, the Gators remain a heavy underdog.
“I think you can find a lot of those for this game,” Florida tight end Jake McGee said. “You come to Florida to play in these games. You come to Florida to play in the SEC Championship game. It's where you belong. It's something you really need to motivate yourself to play in this big-time setting."
The Alabama defense leads the league in rushing defense (78.9 yards), total defense (264.6 yards) and scoring defense (14.3 points). They are No. 5 in the league in passing defense (185.7 yards), but Florida has been unable to hit big plays through the passing game in recent weeks.
The Crimson Tide continues to dominate the clock on the back of running back Derrick Henry, and as he heads into Saturday as a strong candidate for the Heisman Trophy, the running back is a major reason Florida is viewed as an underdog on Saturday.
Even with the challenges, Florida coach Jim McElwain believes his team deserves to be in Atlanta.
“I do know this, we will show up,” McElwain said. “Our guys deserve to be there. (Alabama is) really good. All you read, all your watch, it’s all real. They’ve got really good football players. I think you just look at their last whatever recruiting classes. They have really good players and ones that fit the way Coach (Saban) wants to play.”
Jonathan Bullard (knee) played against FSU and McElwain sounded like the defensive tackle would be fine to face Alabama. Defensive end Alex McCalister (foot) is out. Linebacker Antonio Morrison is dealing with an unspecificed injury, but McElwain thinks he will also play.
"It’s going to be hard to keep him out of this game," McElwain said. "How effective he will be, time will tell. Here’s the one thing I really like about Antonio is he’s really honest with himself and knows that how he can help the team if he’s there and how he can hinder the team if he’s there, if that makes sense. He’ll be there and it will be hard for me to put him in. He won’t. … He’ll do everything he can to play.”
Defensive tackle Taven Bryan (ankle) will work out and see how the injury feels before a decision is made.