Abolverdi's Analysis: A lot working in Gators' favor against Alabama, except injuries
Pulling off an upset against Alabama is never easy, but the Gators have a golden opportunity to do so Saturday.
Over the past three decades, these two teams have met more often in the SEC Championship Game than in Gainesville or Tuscaloosa — including five of their last eight matchups.
When Bama typically faces Florida in Atlanta, it had all year to find its groove and can prepare for the Gators with a season’s worth of film to watch. Not this time around.
Nick Saban lost 11 of 22 starters from his 2020 national championship team, including eight on offense. That unit has looked good so far, but it’s not the well-oiled machine that was Mac Jones, DeVonta Smith and Najee Harris.
After producing the No. 1 passing attack in the country last season, UF has the top rushing offense nationally through two games. However, Dan Mullen has kept it simple with his calls and said “a lot” of his playbook hasn’t been shown.
Unlike last year with Kyle Trask, Saban and his defensive staff don’t have a lot of tape to evaluate quarterbacks Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson. Additionally, Mullen has yet to debut several formations with skill players such as Demarkcus Bowman, Jacob Copeland and Keon Zipperer.
Florida is also catching Saban’s squad at an opportune time as an away opponent. With limited attendance last season due to COVID-19, Alabama hasn’t played in front of a sellout stadium since 2019. For underclassmen such as sophomore quarterback Bryce Young, who’s making his first road start, they’ve never seen a crowd like this.
And the last time the Tide had an away game with more than 87,000 fans, they lost in the Iron Bowl at Auburn.
All of those factors have me tempted to pick the Gators, but their injuries are just too impactful to ignore. After losing starting cornerback Jaydon Hill for the year (torn ACL) in preseason camp, starting linebacker Ventrell Miller is now expected to miss the remainder of the regular season (torn biceps tendon).
Those are key losses for Florida’s defense, and Richardson’s hamstring injury makes matters worse. I expect him to play Saturday, but don’t think he’ll be at 100 percent and that will hurt the offense.
The Tide won’t win by two touchdowns, but they’ll score enough with Young and their defense makes a big stop that proves pivotal.
Prediction: Alabama 35, Florida 31.