SEC powerhouses will clash on Saturday afternoon when the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide take on the No. 11 Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Alabama is off to a dominating 2-0 start after handling the FCS Mercer Bears with a 48-14 win last weekend, although it didn't cover the 54-point spread. Florida is also 2-0 after beating the South Florida Bulls 42-20 on Saturday, failing to cover as a 29-point road favorite.
The Crimson Tide have won seven straight games against Florida dating back to 2008, including a wild 52-46 victory in the 2020 SEC Championship Game. Alabama leads the all-time series 26-14.
Alabama gets a tune-up against MercerAfter destroying the No. 24 Miami Hurricanes in the season opener, Alabama predictably rolled by FCS Mercer last weekend with a dominant first half before taking its foot off the gas pedal. Jase McClellan scored on a blocked punt and five-yard run with Steve Bolden also adding an 18-yard touchdown catch to help the Crimson Tide build a 31-0 lead at the half. Mercer did find the end zone twice after the break, but couldn't get any closer as McCllelan was at it again with a 21-yard touchdown catch late in the third.
Quarterback Bryce Young was excellent again in his second career start, completing 19 of 27 pass attempts for 227 yards and three touchdowns. Brian Robinson Jr. led the team in rushing with 10 carries for 70 yards and a score, while JoJo Earle reeled in seven catches for 85 yards. The Crimson Tide were in command on both sides of the ball, outgaining Mercer 424-216 while forcing two turnovers.
"Proud of our players for the way they played some of the time. We probably didn't play to the standard that we like to play to. I mean really what we are trying to do is create the kind of habits that create consistency in performance so that you can stack performance and get better and better and better. I think some guys did that today, and I think some guys probably didn't," head coach Nick Saban said via Alabama's website.
Alabama is off to a 1-1 start against the spread, as it easily covered as a 19.5-point favorite against Miami on opening weekend in Atlanta. Overs are also 1-1 for the Crimson Tide, as a late field goal got last Saturday's game over the total of 60.5 points.
A year after having one of the best offenses in college football history, Alabama is off to another fast start with an average of 46 points and 462.5 yards per game. Alabama's defense is also sharp in the early going with opponents managing just 13.5 points per game, while the Crimson Tide have only allowed an average of 68 rushing yards per contest.
Young is already getting some Heisman buzz having completed 46 of his 65 pass attempts for 571 yards and seven touchdowns in two games. Jameson Williams is a big-play threat with seven catches for 157 yards and two scores. Kool-Aid McKinstry has been a standout on defense with six tackles, one interception and one pass breakup.
The big news from last weekend was preseason All-American linebacker Will Anderson Jr. leaving early with a leg injury, leaving his status unknown for the trip to Florida. Alabama is already shorthanded at linebacker, as Christopher Allen suffered a season-ending foot injury in the opener while Quandarrius Robinson is suspended. Cornerbacks Josh Jobe and Jalyn Armour-Davis are expected to return after missing last weekend's contest for undisclosed reasons. Freshman running back Camar Wheaton is also questionable with an undisclosed injury.
Florida puts USF away early, QB debate continuesA Florida team that lost a ton over the offseason hasn't missed a beat so far with two easy wins, but the Gators still have a quarterback controversy after both Anthony Richardson and Emery Jones made some big plays to beat South Florida on Saturday. Richardson found Jacob Copeland on touchdown passes of both 75 and 41 yards in the first half, while Jones also hit Xzavier Henderson on a 35-yard score while running another touchdown in to help Florida build a dominant 35-3 lead at the break.
Jones got most of the snaps, going 14 of 22 for 151 yards with one touchdown and two picks while adding 13 carries for 81 yards and a score. Richardson looked to be more of a big play threat, completing all three of his passes for 152 yards and two scores while piling up 115 yards and a score on just four carries. It was a complete domination for the Gators, as they outgained the Bulls 666-297 overall.
“We have two quarterbacks that are pretty talented guys that can make things happen on the field,” head coach Dan Mullen said to Associated Press. “But there are a lot of things quarterbacks have to do. I thought (Jones) played much better this week than last week. I just thought we got sloppy in the second half."
Florida is off to an 0-2 start against the spread, as it didn't cover as a big 23.5-point favorite in the opener despite easily beating the Florida Atlantic Owls. Overs are off to an even 1-1 start for the Gators after last weekend's game narrowly cleared the betting total of 57 points.
Mullen has had the Florida offense operating at a high level since taking over in 2018, and the Gators are piling up 38.5 points and 609.5 yards per game so far this season. Florida's defense struggled badly last season but is off to a better start in 2021, with opponents putting up 17 points and 325 yards per contest.
Richardson has reeled off numerous explosive plays, completing six of his 11 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns while carrying the ball 11 times for 275 yards and two scores. Copeland looks headed for a monster season with six catches for 190 yards and two touchdowns. Jeremiah Moon is the leader of the Florida defense with 11 tackles, one tackle for loss and one sack.
While there was some concern after Richardson appeared to injure his hamstring on his 80-yard touchdown run, current indications are that he has looked fine in practice and will play. Starting right tackle Jean Delance left Saturday's game on crutches, but it turned out to just be a bruise and he is also practicing. The news isn't so certain about starting linebacker Ventrell Miller after he was injured last week. Cornerback Elijah Blades is also questionable, and fellow defensive back Jaydon Hill is out for the season with a torn knee ligament.
Trends via Covers.com. Florida is:
- 1-6-1 ATS in its last eight games overall.
- 2-5 ATS in its last seven games against Alabama.
- 8-1 ATS in its last nine games following an ATS loss.
- 7-1 ATS in its last eight SEC games.