Alabama-Florida storylines


Quarterback John Brantley is expected to be a difference-maker in tonight's game.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, October 1, 2011 at 10:37 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 1, 2011 at 10:37 a.m.

Tide immune to Rainey fever?

Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis said earlier in the week that the Kentucky defense fell victim to a case of Rainey fever in last Saturday night's game. On one UF pass play, tailback Chris Rainey sped into one of the flats and two or three defenders went with him, leaving wide receiver Frankie Hammond wide open in the middle of the field for a 20-yard gain. Weis called it Rainey fever. Obviously, the Tide defense is going to make sure and know where Rainey is (and where he's going) on every play. But they will try to defend him with a little more discipline than the Wildcats did on that one play. If Alabama gets too caught up in trying to take Rainey and Jeff Demps out of the game, it will open opportunities for other skill players in other spots on the field. Of course, we're not saying anything Nick Saban doesn't already know.

Mirror, mirror on the wall...

At times tonight, you might think you're seeing double. That's how much these two teams resemble each other in terms of offensive and defensive schemes and formations. On offense, both line up in pretty traditional NFL sets and strive for a balance between the run and the pass, with establishing the run the No. 1 priority. On the other side of the ball, the Gators and Tide do a lot of the same things and have the same basic philosophies, and share some common tendencies. The differences between the Nick Saban/Kirby Smart defense and the Will Muschamp/Dan Quinn defense are minimal, other than the players are different. Muschamp coordinated Saban's defense at LSU and he's carried many of the things he learned under Saban with him in his coaching career.

Taking back The Swamp

One of Muschamp's goals in his first season at Florida is to reclaim The Swamp as the place where only Gators get out alive. Last season, the Tigers (LSU variety), Bulldogs (Mississippi State variety) and Gamecocks (only one variety) all got out of Florida Field alive and with wins in what was an almost unheard of three-game home losing streak for the Gators. So far, the Gators have defended the home turf, winning their three home games by a combined score of 113-26. But UF's ultimate Swamp test comes tonight. The Gators are home underdogs for the first time since the 2003 Florida State game.

'Bama beats the best

The Crimson Tide have a very impressive record against teams ranked in the AP Top 25 over the past three seasons, winning 16 of the 21 matchups. One of those losses came against the No. 2 Gators in the 2008 SEC Championship Game. The other losses have been to No. 7 Utah in the Sugar Bowl (2009), No. 19 South Carolina last season and No. 11 LSU in 2010. Taking down ranked opponents has become a Tide tradition under Saban.

West slide story

Starting with the SEC Championship Game against Alabama in 2009, Florida has dropped four straight contests to SEC West teams. Included in that skid is Florida's three-game losing streak last year at the hands of Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State. The Gators' schedule sets up much like 2010, starting today with Alabama. If UF can't find a way to solve the Tide, the road only gets tougher with trips to LSU and Auburn the next two weeks. Florida wants to end the West's stranglehold tonight.

John Brantley vs. AJ McCarron

The quarterbacks in tonight's matchup are nearly identical, statistically. UF's Brantley and Bama's McCarron both have four touchdowns, two interceptions and a completion percentage in the mid 60s. The biggest difference between them is that one is a senior (Brantley) playing at home. The other is a sophomore making only his second road start. UF's defense will try to rattle McCarron early.

Force may not be with UF

Will Muschamp doesn't know much about ‘Star Wars', but he knows plenty about his former boss, Alabama coach Nick Saban. Muschamp beat his mentor as Auburn's defensive coordinator in 2007's Iron Bowl, but lost as Texas' defensive coordinator to Saban's Tide in the 2009 BCS title game. In the UF-Bama series, the momentum is clearly on the Tide's side. Saban's team has won the last two games against Florida by a combined score of 63-19.

Orange and black & blue

No one is sure what to expect out of defensive linemen Dominique Easley (pictured above center) and Sharrif Floyd (pictured above left) after reports surfaced of each suffering an injury during practice. Easley is probable and Floyd is expected to play, but how effective will they be? Floyd and Easley are two big reasons Florida's defense ranks fifth in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game. The Gators are also giving up a paltry 2.05 yards per carry. Without two of its biggest defensive stars at full strength, it could be a long day for UF against Bama's ground attack.

Sun staff writer Robbie Andreu asks five questions entering each game. Click back after the game for the answers.

TONIGHT'S GAME QUESTIONS,/b>

1. Will Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey be able to shake loose for some big plays against a suffocating Tide defense?

2. Can the Florida defense hold Tide tailback Trent Richardson to less than 100 yards rushing?

3. Tide or Gators … who makes a big play on special teams?

4. Will Florida's wide receivers, who have been quiet most of the season, be a factor against a strong Tide secondary?

5. Can the UF offensive line protect quarterback John Brantley?

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