The thud from this game will be heard from Atlanta to Norman to Austin and South Central. And when the dust settles, the winner will not be the flashy, pretty, ESPN darlings. No, the workmanlike Alabama Crimson Tide will emerge victorious on the strength of the two things that matter most in all football contests: great defense and dominating offensive line play.
First, my prediction is predicated on Percy Harvin being out. He is the Reggie Bush of 2008. Having him on the field is like having two extra weapons that are both indefensible. I doubt he will play, and if he does I think he will be severely limited due to the high ankle sprain. As a result, the Florida offense loses it most lethal weapon and that tilts the scale in favor of Alabama in my opinion.
Here is how Bama rolls in Atlanta. First, the best offensive line in the country will establish control of the line of scrimmage by hitting the Gator defense in the mouth extremely hard early and often. Alabama will work the ball down the field methodically and efficiently. Watch for them to get 5 yards or more on first down. When they do that, they will get a first down almost every time. They will run the ball 70-75% of the time with two great backs - Coffey and Ingram. They will ask John Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Parker Wilson to throw high percentage passes with an occasional deep route for good measure. The key is for Bama to not turn the ball over. If they protect the ball, they will have possession for about 36 minutes, which will give them a 12 minute advantage over the Gator offense.
Assuming Harvin cannot contribute, Alabama has a much easier time gameplanning against this Gator offense that has been so amazing for the past number of weeks. First, the Gators will not be able to run inside on Mount Cody, so it will be up to the ends and LBs to make sure that Rainey or Demps does not get turned upfield at full speed. Even Georgia was able to stop these two guys by penetrating and making them run horizontally. Bama has much better talent at the edge than UGA, so they should be able to handle this. Next, they have to contain Tebow when he wants to run. This will be their toughest assignment and Tebow will make some plays to extend drives and score points. Lastly, Bama needs to force Tebow into passing situations and challenge him to beat them with his arm. Bama needs to account for Louis Murphy and the tight end. The other guys will not kill them. It really hurts Florida to be without Harvin and this will bite them on obvious passing downs.
Finally, Alabama cannot allow UF to block a punt. Sure, Brandon James is a threat to break a long one. But, so is Javier Arenas for Alabama. Both average right at 14.66 yards per return and both ahve 2 touchdowns. I call that a push.
This game will feature the two best coaches in college football in terms of scheme and game preparation. Urban's offense against Saban's defense. Since I always have and always will preach that defense wins championships, I am picking Bama to win 27 - 24.
Note: Yes I understand that Florida has a great defense and Charlie Strong should get a HC job somewhere, but I think Bama's defense caught a huge break when Harvin got hurt and that, to me, makes the difference in this close game. Of course, I could be wrong - it won't be the first time! Just read a few of my posts from the week of Halloween or Thanksgiving for proof.
Anyway... GO NAVY, BEAT ARMY!
Florida played a near-perfect game. Very impressive the way other receivers stepped up in the absence of Harvin. Tebow should be the Heisman winner! He is an amazing competitor. The FLorida defense, Spikes in particular, shut Bama down in the 4th quarter and Tebow did the rest. Well done Gators.