Abolverdi's analysis: Gators, Tide trending in opposite directions

Zach Abolverdi
Gainesville Sun
Alabama linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton (20) returns an interception as Florida offensive lineman David Sharpe (78) attempts to tackle him during the first half of the SEC Championship football game between Alabama and Florida on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Atlanta, Ga.

The Gators enter Saturday’s conference title game much like their last two trips to Atlanta. 

Alabama awaits them, they’re coming off a loss to a rival and have dropped out of the top 10 — in the polls, at least. 

That definitely puts a damper on this matchup, but it should still be entertaining nonetheless. These two teams have been on a collision course since Florida’s win in Jacksonville, but are trending in opposite directions over the past month. 

After a season-high 63 points against Arkansas, the Gators have scored in the 30s for four weeks straight. They’re averaging 35 points per game during that stretch. 

Flip those digits and you’ve got Alabama’s average for the last four games: 53 points. The Tide have been on a tear offensively, scoring 50-plus in their last two games. 

Defensively, Nick Saban’s squad has allowed an average of just 7.2 points in the last five games after surrendering 28.8 PPG through the first four weeks of 2020. 

The Gators, meanwhile, ended the regular season by giving up 35-plus points for the fourth time this year. They had only allowed 15.3 PGG in the three games prior. 

Florida’s defense appeared to be making strides down the stretch, then let a true freshman quarterback and first-time starter end a 12-game home winning streak on Senior Night.

Mac Jones has to be licking his chops coming into this game. 

The duel between him and Kyle Trask will likely determine the Heisman Trophy winner, unless Alabama receiver Devonta Smith goes off against the UF secondary. Florida is capable of getting into a shoutout Saturday, especially with tight end Kyle Pitts back in the lineup, and will probably need to score in the 50s to win. 

The Gators can hang with Alabama offensively, but I don’t expect their defense to make as many stops. This could be the highest-scoring game in SEC Championship Game history (Auburn and Missouri combined for 101 points in 2013). 

Eventually, though, the Tide will separate themselves in the second half. 

Prediction: Alabama 45, Florida 31.