Florida State Review / Alabama Preview

The Beat Goes On……

Another beatdown of the Criminoles capped off a perfect Senior Day at the Swamp.  The gap between the two programs is as wide as ever.  The superiority in talent and coaching was in evidence for a national audience to witness on Saturday, and the last 3 victories so complete that even Blobby Bowdown has had enough and will retire.  How much better could the script be than that?  The coach that coined such sportsmanlike phrases like, “Praying for a misdemeanor”, “The Polish Rules”, “playing to the echo of the whistle”, all the while doing anything and everything to keep players eligible and continually recruiting thugs like Darnell Dockett, Geno Taze, er, Hayes, and currently Nigel Bradham and Greg Reid, can’t hang with the Gators anymore.

The Florida defense toyed with F$U all day.  The Criminole OL (aka “The Turnstiles”) were once again dominated by the Gator front seven.  No running game of note, and a dink-and-dunk passing game that hardly posed any threat.  That’s one dangerous offense new head coach Dumbo Fisher has.

Even worse was the F$U defense, which is defenseless this year, and is the worst in probably over 30 years in Taliban City.  The Gator offense didn’t have to do anything but run mostly base plays, letting the OL easily abuse the Criminole front seven.  There were some good developments — seeing some long runs broken off by Demps and Rainey, improved pass protection, and some very accurate passes to the intermediate zones by Tebow to Cooper and Nelson.

Talk about “resistance is futile”.  Florida dominates F$U across the board, and the best thing is that the F$U “fans” still think it’s going to get better.  They have no idea how the past 3 years of poor recruiting, to be coupled with a weak class this year (and possibly a few more), will keep them down for a loooong time.

It was quite an atmosphere at the Swamp, watching the introductions of the Senior class.  The accomplishments of this group are on a level of the best groups in SEC history, and possibly nationally as well.  It was an emotional week for Coach Meyer and the departing players, capped off perfectly on a beautiful afternoon.  By the time Tim Tebow was introduced, if there was a dry eye in the stadium, that soon changed as he wept openly on his walk to hug Coach Meyer, a truly wonderful moment.  It was almost surreal during the last few drives by the Gators, as camera flashes went wild, looking almost like paparazzi at an awards show, capturing Tebow’s last few snaps in the Swamp.

But, as the players themselves said to a man, there’s still work to do……

It’s on to Atlanta for a rematch with the Crimson Tide in a game that somehow may eclipse last year’s in anticipation and hype.  Alabama has wanted the Gators all season, and now has them.

I really think that Bama will throw a lot on first and second down — especially with Carlos Dunlap out — and it could hurt the Gators.  It would also take some pressure off of McElroy by not putting him in must-pass scenarios on 3rd down.  The loss of Dunlap’s playmaking against the pass could be felt much more than folks are talking about.  There’s no way Bama’s OL is as good as last year — despite the running success of Ingram and Richardson.  Last year’s group was damn good.  They have no lineman that can Dunlap one-on-one, but now they don’t have that worry.  Justin Trattou will probably move out to DE.  He is a tenacious player, and plays the run very well.  But , he is still playing hurt with a ruptured biceps tendon.

Coach Strong will have to adjust accordingly.  I expect to see the multiple looks from the front seven that have been so successful the second half of the season, and hope that this can lead to some confusion on the Bama OL and with the QB.  As good as Julio Jones is at WR, Florida has enough talent at CB that I could see some exotic blitz packages dialed up to try and force a turnover or get a timely defensive stop.

The Florida offense seems to have turned the corner since the start of the Georgia game in terms of finally spreading the ball around and utilizing all of the skill players.  The zone-read must remain the staple of the game plan…..but Coach Addazio HAS to spread the ball around early and often.  That has been the key to better efficiency on offense.  Once again, the Tide will have the best defense the Gators have faced all season, and they have the experience pf playing Florida as recently as last year to learn from.  Coach Saban knows defense, and I fully expect them to frustrate the Gator offense occasionally.  Cody, McClain, Arenas, Jackson, and co. are simply too good and experienced to expect anything less than a difficult challenge from.  However, this is no time for Florida to go into a shell.  You have great senior leadership and playmaking — take advantage of it.

Another #1 vs. #2 matchup.  Another berth in the BCS Championship Game at stake.  And this quite possibly will be the most-watched college game on CBS — ever.  Unbelievably, the hype exceeds 2008, and again proves the superiority and cache of SEC football across the country.

Irresistible force meets immovable object again.  Bama has immense motivation to avenge last year’s loss, while at the same time Florida seeks a special place in college football history.  It has been a year of distractions and detractors for the Gators, even going into this game.  And yet, they persevere to survive and advance.  I have to go with the coaches and players that can face and overcome what this group of Gators has done.

Prediction – Florida 27        Alabama 23