Alabama vs. Florida Game Preview: Everything You Need To Know Before Kickoff
Florida (2-0, 1-0 SEC) at No. 3 Alabama (3-0, 0-0 SEC)
When: Saturday, September 20 at 2:30 p.m. CT
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Local weather at kickoff: 86 degrees with 46 percent humidity and a 0 percent of precipitation. Winds moving east at 6 mph.
TV: CBS (Play-by-play: Verne Lundquist, color analyst: Gary Danielson, sideline reporter: Allie LaForce)
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network (Play-by-play: Eli Gold, color analyst: Phil Savage, sideline reporter: Chris Stewart). Coverage begins at 11:30 a.m. CT.
Spread: Alabama (-14½), according to Danny Sheridan.
Last Meeting: The Crimson Tide rallied from an early 10-3 first-quarter deficit to beat No. 12 Florida, 38-10, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in 2011.
Series History: Alabama leads the series 22-14, which includes a three-game winning streak dating back to the 2009 SEC Championship Game. Florida defeated Alabama, 16-10, in 1998 for its last win in Tuscaloosa.
The Crimson Tide took care of business for the second consecutive game last week against an overmatched non-conference opponent in its 52-12 win over Southern Miss.
Blake Sims played every meaningful snap for Alabama, completing 12-of-17 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns along with 46 rushing yards and a sore. Sims was replaced with Jake Coker close to the end of the third quarter when the Crimson Tide put the game out of reach up 35-9.
On Wednesday, Alabama coach Nick Saban said Sims will start against Florida.
Elsewhere offensively, Amari Cooper continued his hot start in 2014 with eight more catches for 135 yards and one touchdown, bringing his season total to a 33 receptions (first in nation) and 454 yards (third in nation). He passed Ozzie Newsome for third in Alabama’s career receiving yards list and tied DJ Hall for second in career touchdowns with 17.
The Crimson Tide allowed 207 of its 263 yards against through the air. Safety Nick Perry, who was ejected for a targeting foul, was Alabama’s lone significant casualty in the game. He will have to sit out the first half against the Gators.
The Gators topped Kentucky 36-30 in a triple-overtime thriller last week in its SEC opener.
Florida went back and forth with the Wildcats throughout the game before a 1-yard touchdown run from Matt Jones ended it. Kentucky sent the game into overtime with a short field goal attempt as time expired at the end of regulation.
Along with his game-winning touchdown, Jones had 29 carries for 156 yards. Demarcus Robinson was quarterback Jeff Driskel’s favorite target, connecting on 15 of his 25 completions and 216 of his 295 yards with the sophomore wideout. Robinson also caught two of Driskel’s three touchdown passes.
Defensively, Florida yielded 369 passing yards against Kentucky, but only 81 on the ground.
Keep an eye on:
Blake Sims, quarterback: Sims will get the start and likely take all the reps at quarterback until the game is out of reach, whether winning or losing. After rotating series at quarterback throughout the game against Florida Atlantic, Sims played in every series until late in the third quarter when Jake Coker came in and finished the game with Alabama comfortably ahead. It will be Sims’ significant game action against an SEC team and one that also happens to have one of the most physically-imposing defenses the Crimson Tide will play all season.
Cyrus Jones, cornerback: Eddie Jackson had been limited in practice with a quadriceps, regulating him to the second team, at least for the time being, making it probable that Jones trots out on the field against Florida as the Crimson Tide’s No. 1 corner. Whether it’s Jones or Jackson, it’s likely they will matchup against the Gators’ top wideout Demarcus Robinson, who ranks near the top in all major statistical receiving categories despite playing one fewer game than most receivers at this point in the season. Like Amari Cooper for Alabama, Robinson has carried the majority of the receiving load for Florida this season.
Jeff Driskel, quarterback: As was the case a year ago, the best way to expose Alabama’s defense so far in 2014 has been through the air. The Crimson Tide ranks first nationally against the run, but 54th overall in pass defense, allowing 220 yards per game. With Alabama missing a few players in the secondary, the pressure will be on the now-veteran quarterback to perform on the big stage.
Vernon Hargreaves III, cornerback: In terms of on-the-field matchups, the biggest and most pivotal of them all may be Hargreaves versus Amari Cooper. Hargreaves, a sophomore and highly-rated prospect coming out of high school who held an offer from Alabama, was selected as a preseason All-American this offseason. Cooper, who was also chosen as a preseason All-American on the same list, is arguably the best wide receiver in college football.
- Defensive back Jarrick Williams (foot) returned to practice in a limited role to start the week but was not by the end of it. Though it is still likely doubtful, Saban said Williams is “ahead of schedule,” hinting at the possibility that he may be able return to action against Florida.
But with Alabama off next Saturday, a return to action at Ole Miss on Oct. 4 appears to be the most likely scenario. At the time of his injury after the West Virginia game, Saban said Williams will be out four weeks “for sure.”
- Wide receiver DeAndrew White, who has also not played in a game since he separated his shoulder in the season opener against West Virginia, is expected to play, though Saban did not confirm it when mentioning White on Wednesday. White returned to practice last week in a limited role but has not been this week.
- Fifth-year senior tight end Jake McGee, a transfer from Virginia, broke his leg in the Gators’ first game of the season against Eastern Michigan and will be out for the season.
- Junior left tackle D.J. Humphries will miss his second straight game with an ankle injury he suffered in the first quarter against Eastern Michigan. Humphries was named to the preseason All-SEC third-team this offseason.