UF vs. Bama: Stick to the 'Plan To Win'

You can go up and down the statistics, the common teams played, the way the two teams are built to play, and more. Everything about the game between Florida and Alabama on Saturday says it will be close. With two great defenses, two efficient quarterbacks, two great running games, and two great kicking games, this will be a game that the Gators need to stick to their "Plan to Win".

Let's start on defense and the line for Florida and the matchup they have with the Crimson Tide. First and foremost is the running game for Alabama. The first thing you notice when going to head to head is that as much as Alabama is this big power running team, they aren't massive up front like you would be led to believe. Alabama's All-American left guard is the largest on the line and he goes 303 pounds. Compare that to Florida's line whose smallest member is 305-pounds freshman Xavier Nixon and finishes with Marcus Gilbert (320), Mike Pouncey (320), Maurkice Pouncey (320), and Carl Johnson (340) across…the Gators are much bigger along the offensive line.

However, these units won't face each other and the Bama line will be going up against a formidable front in Florida. The Gators have great size and ability inside with 305-pound freshman Omar Hunter who has played very well this year at nose tackle. He will be backed by last year's starter Lawrence Marsh (305). The quick tackle spot isn't exactly small either. Jaye Howard (295) is a playmaker and Terron Sanders (305) is a very solid run stuffer.

The whole point of showing this is that Alabama is not this huge intimidating line that just punishes folks. I think this plays into the Gators' strength as a team that gets better into the fourth quarter, especially with a two-deep rotation at the two tackle spots.

The Gators' four linebackers with quality time this year, Brandon Spikes, Ryan Stamper, Dustin Doe, and Brandon Hicks are versatile enough to create issues for Alabama's offense. The only negative with the group is that a couple of times with Spikes out of the line up, they performed miserably tackling the ball carrier. That can't happen if the Gators are going to be successful on defense in this game.

The Bama backs will be a good test against the Florida linebackers. The stout linebacker corps will be facing a big tandem in Mark Ingram (215) and Trent Richardson (220). If the Gator defense is on the field a lot in this game early, they will need to rotate and keep the backers fresh. They can do this with playing a nickel defense as well.

In the passing game, it's all about locking down Julio Jones and getting after the quarterback in long down and distance situations. That has been hampered by the loss of Carlos Dunlap. The loss is big in this concern, but Bama really doesn't allow itself to drop back and pass too often. In the meantime, Jermaine Cunningham, Justin Trattou, and an assorted blitz package will have to defend a way to get heat on quarterback Greg McElroy.

Florida's linebackers are the best I have seen in pass coverage, and have more interceptions than any linebacker group in the country.

The secondary will have to play physical with Julio and most of the time it will be up to Joe Haden who has played exceptionally this year. He will have to be all over Jones in this game. Janoris Jenkins was burned once big last year by Jones and will be asked to compete sometimes with him. They need to stay on him and tackle him when he does catch the ball.

The safeties will have to help on Jones of course, but they will be asked to help a great deal in run support and getting pressure on the quarterback like we have seen from Will Hill lately.

On offense the game plan begins and ends with Tim Tebow, both in the running game and the passing game. Tebow and company will be going against mainly a three down look for Alabama with huge linemen to deal with, especially in the middle with Terrence Cody. The Pounces and Carl Johnson should be fine with Cody but if they continually have to double team him that will be an issue.

Running wide will be imperative, but will be difficult with a four linebacker set that Bama uses. The backers are fast and talented and Florida will have to really have to use the option and especially the shovel option successful.

Eve though the shovel pass counts on passing stats, it is more of run and I like the four headed running attack of Tebow, Hernandez (shovel), tailbacks, and Brandon James. They have really diversified the running game this year and Brandon James has become more of an option on offense creating another issue for defenses to pay attention to.

I really believe Tebow and company are going to have to pass the ball as well. Tebow is the biggest advantage Florida has on the field and they need to utilize his talent and experience to get the ball past that terrific Alabama front seven. The Tide is talented in the secondary, but even more so up front.

To simplify all of the above and what Florida needs to do the game should come down to Meyer's segments in his "Plan To Win". Florida and Alabama are so evenly matched. The two are likely to put on one of the greatest games in recent memory. The anticipation for this game has been there since week three of the season. Taking care of business in "The Plan to Win" should lead the Gators to victory.

The plan has four segments which are Play Great Defense, Red Zone, Turnovers, and Special Teams. He also talks a great deal about 3rd down efficiency and I can see this one playing a huge part in this game.

Playing Great Defense

Really, there was only one game all year the Florida defense fell asleep at the wheel a bit. Arkansas came in with a pass happy attack that was a bit tricky and the defense was caught off guard, especially when the Razorbacks were able to switch up and run the ball as well.

That won't happen Saturday. Florida needs to shut down the running game of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson first and foremost. Then they can keep containment on Julio Jones and the receivers and Bama doesn't throw deep but rely on a quick passing game to make things work.

Florida is exceptional against both the run and the pass and the best that the Tide will see at both all season.

Red Zone

This is key…not so much as scoring in the red zone, but scoring touchdowns. The Gators have had their issues in the red zone scoring, but most of their issues this season stemmed from turnovers in the red zone. They have turned the ball over three more times in the red zone and those three times were costly in creating games that would be considered blowouts instead of just a win.

Alabama has a lot of the same issues in the red zone as Florida and with their talent on offense they will move the chains. Florida needs to limit their trips in the red zone to field goals much like Tennessee did when Bama had to settle for just four field goals in the game without a touchdown.


This is the most important area in my opinion. One turnover could be the absolute difference in this game from either team. Florida turned the ball over much more in the beginning of the season, but Tebow has gotten a little more in tuned with getting the ball out quicker or taking off than he was early on and that has helped with the turnovers.

Alabama is very safe with the ball, so it will be up to Florida not to turn the ball. Florida would have four more blowouts on their resume without turnovers.

Special Teams

These may be the top two coaches in America when it comes to placing importance on special teams. Leigh Tiffin has had an All-American year as a place kicker. Javier Arenas is great in both out and kick off returns.

Florida's coverage units are the best in the country. I don't think Arenas will beat them as a returner. Brandon James can exploit the punt return game. While Florida has given up just 13 yards all year in punt returns, Alabama averages allowing over six yards per return. That sounds good for James.

Third Down Percentage

This is the biggest stat differential between the two teams. Alabama ranks 78th in the country at 38 percent on third down conversions. Florida ranks 5th in the nation at 50 percent. Florida should create a lot of third down tries for Bama because of being a good run defense.

The reason for the differential goes back to the quarterbacks. Tebow is seasoned and can find ways to make a play out of nothing and McElroy is not able to do it as much.

In a close game the Gators should win 24-16.

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