Gator Country brings you a new Friday podcast as we preview the SEC Championship game where the Florida Gators will meet the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre break down how the Florida Gators can attack the Alabama defense, plus what the Gators must do to stop Jalen Hurts.
Andrew and Nick also predict several championship games around the country, plus give you three players to watch for the Gators.
Andrew: What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, we’re getting to do a podcast this week while 10 other teams are waiting to go do nothing on Saturday.
Nick: Second year in a row Florida’s playing a football game against Alabama while everyone else in the country, everyone else around the SEC, watches.
Andrew: Yeah. As Coach Mac says, “Atlanta is pretty this time of the year.”
Nick: No, it’s not. First off, that sounds nice, but, no, it’s not. It’s freezing.
Andrew: To be fair, Atlanta’s pretty at all times of the year.
Nick: Absolutely not. Atlanta is cold right now. It is very cold right now.
Andrew: You freeze. The Fonzie jacket, for people that don’t know, Nick has a Fonzie jacket. He got it from Fonzie’s closet. It’s a Fonzie jacket. Nick wears it. No.
Nick: It’s a leather jacket that I wear when it’s cold.
Andrew: I know, but it’s a Fonzie jacket. You even call it the Fonzie.
Nick: The high is 50. I’m going to be an icicle.
Andrew: Good thing the game is inside.
Nick: Thank God.
Andrew: You know, I’ve been able to sit back and think about this a little bit, Nick, all throughout the week, and I’ve talked to people. I have come to a conclusion, and it may be, maybe it was the disappointment from last week, but the fan base is just negative, my friend. It is just, it’s awful right now. I do feel bad for Mac, and I do feel bad for the players, because at the end of the day they are in Atlanta while the rest of the country isn’t. You talk about, well, the East is bad. Well, the East is bad, but Florida’s better than the rest of them. I just, I don’t know. You would think the fan base after Willy, Willy Muschamp, would appreciate getting to Atlanta, but it doesn’t, and it’s wild. This week has been wild to see the fan base.
Nick: Listen, man, Gator fans are spoiled. They’ve been that way since Spurrier, and the invention and popularity of social media has just exacerbated that. It’s just made it worse.
Andrew: Let me ask you this. Do you think that the vast majority of Gator fans feel the same way as the, and you’re exactly right in that it’s social media, and you and I follow a lot of fans, have a lot of fans retweeted. Do you think it’s the vast majority of fans?
Nick: It’s not just, I mean, it’s the message boards too.
Andrew: I feel like, and I’m going to say this, and maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like the older guys, the older fan base, isn’t upset, but the younger fan base that is excited by offense is upset. Is that a point that you think is valid?
Nick: I would say sort of, but I’ve seen older fans that are pissed off too.
Andrew: Right. I don’t know. It just is, I don’t know. It’s different. I just feel like it’s a split. I talk to older fans, and they don’t, but let’s move on though, because there is a game in Atlanta, and we’ll see what happens in Atlanta. You can bet on thing, as Coach Mac says, there’s going to be 22 guys get off the bus, 22 guys get on the field and play Alabama.
Nick: Do they have any more than that? Is the actual number 22?
Andrew: Good news though, and that’s what I wanted to get to. Looks like Jarrad Davis is going to play. If you were on Gator Country, you’d have known that last week, but yeah. I think it just shows the heart of Jarrad Davis. There’s a lot of guys that had they been in his situation, probably doesn’t try to play this week. They’re like, okay, not supposed to beat Alabama. I’ll mail it in until the Combine.
Nick: Yeah. Combine coming up. Senior Day. Lot of stuff coming up for Jarrad Davis that is real life. Not to say that playing in this game isn’t real life for him, but lot of stuff coming up that will affect Jarrad Davis’s paycheck, will affect the way Jarrad Davis lives the rest of his life, and you start to look at this game, and what happens if you get worse this game? That’s going to start affecting maybe the Combine or workouts or something.
Andrew: Yeah, and that’s what I’m saying. I think that, I just think that at the end of the day Jarrad Davis is one of those guys, and he’s a lot like Antonio Morrison that when you look back in a few years you’re going to think, that was a great player. That guy’s a great player. I don’t think people appreciate how good of a, not only a player, but a person in the locker room and everything, that Jarrad Davis is, because at the end of the day he is probably the heart and soul of the defense. You can give him credit for David Reese as well. We’ve been told by several people that he’s put Reese under his wing, and to see him gut through it, and Martez Ivey too. If you had asked you and I after the game on Saturday, is Martez Ivey playing this weekend? You and I would have probably laughed and said, “Yeah right. He’s on crutches with both shoulders iced up.” He’s finding a way to play.
Nick: Jim McElwain took that one step further on Wednesday. He said Jarrad Davis is really the heart and soul of the team, not just the defense.
Andrew: Wow. I can’t say I disagree. When you see a guy like that go, can you really sit out if you see a guy like Jarrad Davis going? If you’re someone with a thumb injury, does it make you question yourself a little bit?
Nick: Jarrad Davis is a warrior.
Andrew: Yeah. I mean, we all seen that in the Georgia game. I mean, you and I are probably laying on the couch with ice, more or less walking around a football field.
Nick: Yeah. Hangnail, Coach, probably going to hang back this one. See you guys next week, maybe.
Andrew: Yeah. Exactly. Let’s move on a little bit more. We broke the game down a little bit on Wednesday. To start to look at it a little bit more, where do you find success on offense if you’re Florida against Bama’s defense?
Nick: I’ve got a blueprint, Andrew.
Nick: It’s easy, very easy, to beat Alabama, and I can say that because I won’t be playing Alabama, so I don’t have to worry about talking shit. I’m going to sit here and run my mouth, and they can’t do anything about it. Alabama’s been a little suspect as a pass defense. I say that knowing full well that Alabama has the 11th ranked pass defense in the country, but they are a top four defense in every else. So, that is the one area where they’re not as good, even though they’re still very good. You said it before too as well, you might be able to take advantage of their corners a little bit. So I think you’re going to need to throw the ball. You’re certainly not running the ball against Alabama. They’re giving up just over 68 yards a game on the ground, #1 rushing defense in the country.
Nick: Then, offensively, you have to contain Jalen Hurts, and like teams did last year, you have to make, like teams did last year with Treon Harris, you’ve got to keep him in the pocket and not let him be a runner. You have to make him be a passer.
Nick: So, you know what? Easy. I should be collecting a paycheck from Coach McElwain. Come on now, I just gave you the blueprint. That’s how you beat Alabama. Just go out and listen to me, and do it. Send me my Christmas bonus.
Andrew: Yeah. The thing that I’m looking at here, and when I look at it I say, use the game plan they used against LSU. That is, hold the ball, but it’s tough to hold the ball if you’re throwing, because lot of incomplete passes. I mean, you’re going to have that. I say this, and I don’t even believe it myself when I say this, but do you go to more of a two minute drill constantly against them to try to get the ball off quick? I mean, let’s face it, you’re not blocking Alabama’s front seven for four seconds to run deep routes. Are you in the gun more and basically saying, “We’re going to be one dimensional.” You know what I’m saying? It’s tough, because you need to control the clock to keep the ball away from Hurts. Hurts is a guy you can contain, but he’s going to get his yards.
Nick: Yeah. He’s going to get his.
Andrew: So you see what I’m saying? Like it’s kind of what do you want to do? Because if you’re going to throw the ball you’re not going to be able to control the time in possession, but you’re not going to run.
Andrew: That’s what I’m saying. So it’s kind of tough. It’s kind of a pick your poison. I mean, now, granted, if you can throw the ball and score points, who cares how long you hold it? What I’m saying is, you want to shrink the game as much as you can, just like you did in the LSU game. You want to shrink it as much as you can, but can you do that throwing the ball? I mean, I guess if you’re completing 70% of your passes, or whatnot, you can. I just think that it’s tough. Now, here’s my thing with the passing game. The passing game you’re going to have to do a lot of the pop pass, stand pass, that we call to Callaway, to Tyrie, because those are basically outside runs. You’ve got to be able to do that to make Alabama respect that. That way they can’t pin their ears back and come at you. That’s where I look at is you’re going to have to do some things to run the ball on the edges. You’ve got to find a way to get the ball to the edge.
Listen, we talk about this, and I think you and I have said this, maybe we underestimate what’s going on, but Tyrie Cleveland, Antonio Callaway, I mean, even Brandon Powell when he stays on his two feet, Jordan Scarlett, Lamical Perine, these are very good football players. Find a way to get the ball in their hands, and anything happens. My thing is how do you get the ball to those guys? That’s the biggest question.
Nick: You know what, Andrew? I honestly think that we’ve already given the game plan too much. Over here, you and I, doing some couch coaching, seems easy. Just get the ball to the edges. Don’t let Jalen Hurts run, and throw all over the cornerbacks. We got it.
Nick: The problem is Alabama has, as Jim McElwain said it, creatures. So I guess the glass eaters and fire breathers grew up from last year, and now they’re creatures, and Alabama does as good as a job as anybody in the country of not letting you do what you want to do. My only question is how much is Alabama even prepared for Austin Appleby as a passer? That’s not what Florida does well.
Nick: Alabama tries to take away what you do well.
Andrew: Right. I’ll say this, and here’s my thing. I’m going to say this, and I should save this for my pick in a little bit, but I expect Florida to come out, and I expect Florida to get an early lead.
Nick: Excuse you?
Andrew: From talking to people Alabama is already looking at playoff. They have no respect for this Florida team. Zero respect for this Florida team. I full heartedly believe Florida will have a 3-0 lead in the game. I do. I believe Pineiro gets a kick, and it’s 3-0. Now, whether that’s a 70 yard field goal or a 50 yard field goal I haven’t decided yet, but there is no respect from Alabama. It’s almost, to me it’s almost like Florida was with Arkansas in there is no respect. Alabama full heartedly believes they’re coming out and dominating this football game. Now, does Florida give them any reason to not believe that? Not lately.
Nick: I don’t know, because I don’t think Nick Saban allows his team to get too far into that.
Andrew: Mississippi State and Chattanooga disagree. I mean, not Mississippi State, Chattanooga disagrees.
Nick: Well, they’re not playing Chattanooga this week.
Andrew: Right, but let me turn, just listen to our podcast, Nick. We’ve given the game to Bama.
Nick: No, we just gave the game plan for Florida to win.
Andrew: But we’ve given the game to Bama. I mean, at the end of the day, we can talk about how bad Florida is offensively, and they’re atrocious. I mean, let’s just call it like it is. Alabama did want Antonio Callaway. They did want Tyrie Cleveland. They did want Jordan Scarlett. They did want Lamical Perine. Let’s remember that. Find a way to get the ball, if you can find a way to get the ball out of your hands, the offensive line doesn’t matter. I mean, it sounds simple, but it is what it is. You’ve got to have a different game plan, and Jim McElwain knows that.
I do think this, and I do believe, I believe this personally, McElwain feels like this is a respect game in that he’s heard the negative naysayers all week. He’s read everything, I’m sure. He’s been told about everything. It’s a respect game for him. He’s got something up his sleeve, in my opinion, to find a way to at least move the ball a little bit.
Nick: I hope so, and last year, I think what we talked about, and what I wrote, I definitely wrote this, was this is a measuring stick game, last year. It was you, Jim McElwain said this week, “I appreciate what Coach has done, but I’ve seen the blueprint.” He said, “I was part of that. I was part of the blueprint to see him get there.” So it was, we’re probably not going to win, but we’re going to go see the best team in the country, the best team in our league, and we’re going to see how we stack up against them, and just how far away we are.
Problem is, you’re supposed to make progress in the year, in the year since, so we get back to those fans, and it is kind of like McElwain. No one’s giving you a chance. You can talk about shocking the world, talk about earning respect, but if you lose by more than 14, you only lost by 14 last year. Will that be viewed as progress or program moving backwards?
Andrew: Do they get beat 49-35? You know what I’m saying? I think it depends.
Nick: What? 35?
Andrew: You know what I’m saying. Is it a high scoring game? Does Florida break out Tom Brady at quarterback? It depends. I mean, if it’s 14-0, yeah, maybe. Maybe you look at it and say, okay, this is closer. I don’t know, but I’m looking here. So, I’m looking at Alabama’s schedule. They’ve had a close game against Arkansas, and I say close game, it was 49-30, but it was 42-30 late in the 4th quarter. Then you kind of look at the next closest game was Ole Miss, 48-43. Both of those teams threw the ball a lot. That’s what they’ve got to do. That’s what they got to do. They got to find a way to throw the ball, and get the ball in the playmakers’ hands. I think they need a special teams touchdown, like they had last year, as well.
Nick: Who gets that? Johnny?
Andrew: Maybe. Maybe. Who knows? Who knows what it is? Callaway hasn’t had one yet this year from punt yet, so maybe he’s saving it for the big one. CJ Worton is primed to come out and get a touchdown. Maybe he gets it.
Nick: CJ Worton’s what?
Andrew: He’s primed to get one. He doesn’t score unless it’s against Alabama.
Nick: Yeah. I don’t think he’s playing this week.
Andrew: It was a joke, but you knew what I meant.
Nick: I think CJ Worton sprained his ankle running into the doghouse.
Andrew: Who knows? Defensively though, for Florida, we agree. Got to have that spy, and got to find a way to contain Jalen.
Nick: Is Jarrad Davis your spy, or are you worried about that with the ankle?
Andrew: No. Not having Jarrad Davis as my spy.
Nick: Worried about the ankle and being able to move and everything like that.
Andrew: Yes. That’s a lot to, that’s just a lot. That’s a lot to ask a guy who is on a bum ankle. I don’t see it. Maybe it’s Reese, and that’s the next question. Who are you playing opposite of Jarrad Davis?
Nick: I don’t know. It’s probably Reese, and then you try to get Kylan in when you can.
Andrew: Right. Exactly. So that’s kind of what I see happening is you’ve got to see that they’re going to either play, either have Reese as the spy, or they’re going to have to have Marcell as the spy. That’s what I think. You’re not going to have Chauncey as your spy, being a freshman safety, and it’s even tough for Marcell to be your spy at linebacker, I mean at safety. You want it to be a linebacker. So maybe it ends up being Reese or Kylan, whoever’s in the game. Maybe it ends up being that guy.
Nick: Well, I say that, because Davis was playing more of the outside spot.
Andrew: I just can’t see him with a bum ankle trying to chase down Hurts.
Nick: Yeah. No, even with a good ankle.
Andrew: Well, I mean, good ankle I’m okay with it. Jarrad Davis is a different animal, and he may run a 4.6, but when it’s time to go chase down the quarterback he’s a different animal. He’s a different creature.
Nick: Yeah, but I think there you could still get into a situation where, remember Antonio Morrison last year basically pulled himself out of this game, tried to come back after an injury, and it was just I’m causing more harm than good. Not saying that’s where Jarrad Davis will be this week. I think he didn’t play last week so that he’d be able to get into this game.
Andrew: Right. He didn’t look bad going through warmups.
Nick: No. He looked good enough yesterday that people were, yesterday, last week, that people were thinking, maybe he’ll play today against FSU.
Andrew: Well, had they been on Gator Country they’d have known he wasn’t going to play, but different time, different story.
Nick: Maybe people should listen to the podcast. Maybe you should give us a shout out.
Andrew: There you go. Alright, Nick, let’s move on. Let’s make some picks. This is a shorter than expected podcast. We’ll keep is short and sweet this week, but let’s make some picks here for games. Going to the Big Ten, Wisconsin and Penn State. Who you got?
Nick: I’m going to go with Penn State. I think the run that James Franklin is on continues, and Penn State winning makes it kind of weird. Going to be interesting couple games.
Andrew: If Wisconsin wins though, couldn’t they make an argument to be in as well? They’re #6 right now.
Nick: Yeah. They can make it #6, but I think Penn State winning, coupled with some other things that goes on, could potentially get Michigan in, so that’s what I mean by making it weird. If Colorado wins, if there’s some stuff that goes down. There’s got to be a bunch of stuff that happens though.
Andrew: Let me throw out a wild scenario for you. Florida finds a way to beat Bama. Virginia Tech beats Clemson. Does both of those teams still get in?
Nick: Alabama gets in, no matter what.
Andrew: Does Clemson?
Nick: I don’t think, I think the committee’s been looking for any reason to get rid of Clemson. The committee’s looking at Clemson saying, “Help us.”
Nick: Help us get you out of here.
Andrew: Help the ACC kick rocks. Alright, let’s go to that ACC, down in Orlando. Virginia Tech and Clemson.
Nick: Who’d you pick?
Andrew: I haven’t picked anybody.
Nick: No, Wisconsin/Penn State.
Andrew: Oh, Penn State, sorry. I got Penn State. I think Penn State’s a better team. I’ll be honest. I don’t think Wisconsin’s very good.
Nick: I think they’re only good win on the year is LSU.
Andrew: I mean, and you can argue on that one. Go ahead.
Nick: I’m going to go with Washington.
Andrew: No, I said Virginia Tech/Clemson.
Nick: Oh, well I already gave my other pick. I already picked that, so Washington/Colorado.
Nick: I write these down when we do it before the show, and then you never keep them in order.
Andrew: Because I just go off the top of my head. Washington/Colorado. I’m going to go Colorado, the Buffs.
Nick: Yeah, no, I’ve been riding the Buffs, Colorado, all year, been riding the Buffs out there, but I don’t know. I like Washington this week. Colorado’s got a great team. They’ve had a great season.
Andrew: Buffalos always eat Huskies.
Nick: Why would you make it, why would you turn the podcast so dark?
Andrew: Because I wanted to. Go ahead. Who you got, Clemson/Virginia Tech?
Nick: Clemson/VA Tech. Clemson.
Andrew: Clemson, but I do think it’s a close game. I do think it’s a close game. I’m not sure Clemson is, I think Clemson gets rolled by whoever they play in the playoffs.
Nick: Clemson’s very good. I feel like Clemson’s kind of fallen into a little bit of like the Florida championship season, where it’s kind of seemed like a struggle.
Nick: You came in with such high expectations that they’re almost impossible to live up to, and I think it’s just tough. It’s tough to do, and then one close win turns into two close wins, and all of a sudden you start feeling bad about yourself, for winning football games.
Andrew: Right. So, what’s the next one? Do we have another one? I feel like I’m missing one.
Nick: You only picked three, but I can give you a couple more. It’s just kind of a championship week.
Andrew: Give us one more, and then the Florida one will be five.
Nick: Okay. Let’s do, do you want to do the AAC, or do you want to do Conference USA?
Andrew: Conference USA.
Nick: Louisiana Tech at Western Kentucky, and Conference USA plays at places.
Nick: It’s at Western Kentucky.
Andrew: I’m going to go with the fighting Jeff Driskels.
Nick: Okay. He does not play there anymore. I’m going to go with the Hilltoppers.
Andrew: Okay. By the way, Western Kentucky is just, and maybe it’s because while I was in school they were a little bit bigger, but it was Western Kentucky used to be pretty good in the sun belt. Their basketball team used to be incredible. Now, they’ve kind of fallen off.
Nick: I had a friend play golf there.
Andrew: Maybe I can get some lessons. Alright, Nick, Florida/Alabama. I think we’re both going to go Alabama, so close or not close?
Nick: Not close.
Andrew: Not close. Alabama by 10.
Nick: Not that close for me.
Andrew: Alabama by 10. Alright, I get first pick this week in players. I’m going to go with David Reese.
Nick: Thought you were about to say David Sharpe.
Andrew: Yeah. Hell hasn’t frozen over yet.
Nick: My first player is going to be Marcell Harris.
Andrew: If you make that poor man play bad after he’s been playing great, I’m going to tell him. I’m going to put you to him, tie you down on the goal post and let him hit you.
Nick: I would not survive that probably.
Andrew: It’ll be alright. The podcast will still move on.
Nick: That’s rude.
Andrew: I’ll just find another five star. I’m like Nick Saban. I just stock five stars over here.
Nick: That’s just rude.
Andrew: Life goes on. It’s a cold world. It’s a cold world, my friend. My second pick is going to be 57, Caleb Brantley.
Nick: Solid pick. I’m going to go with Eddy P. Eddy Pineiro, think he might get Florida’s only points.
Andrew: Okay. My third pick is going to be Jordan Scarlett. Jordan Scarlett will find a way to get the ball, and will lead the Gators in rushing.
Nick: I mean, if he leads the Gators in rushing with 15 yards, that’s not a win.
Andrew: But I called it.
Nick: We’ll discuss that. We’ll discuss that after the game. My next star of the game is going to be Johnny Townsend.
Nick: We’ll discuss that, because that’s going to be flipping the field, and Johnny’s going to be on the field a lot.
Andrew: We’ll see. It’ll be that. Nick, tell everyone where they can find us. We’ll be in Atlanta. If you’re in Atlanta, Fan Fest or anything like that, hit us up. We’ll be showing off the golden arms on Friday. Nick and I have a little score to settle. We’ll be doing that on Friday, and then we’ll be on the field on Saturday. Hit us up if you’re in town.
Nick: As always, www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. The website and the message boards have been doing well. Thank you to everyone that’s new that joined. Thank you to everyone that’s been on the site since ’96, when it first came up. Thank you for that. Podcast, you can find it there in transcript and audio form. You can find the podcast on iTunes. Subscribe there and never miss a show. Also, social media, on Twitter and Facebook, @GatorCountry. On Instagram, @TheGatorCountry. You can find me, @NickdelaTorreGC. You can find him, @AndrewSpiveyGC. Thank you for everything. It’s been a fun season.
Andrew: Yeah. It has been. If you still want to come over and join, hit me up. We may still be able to get you that Black Friday special, even though it’s a little old. Still hook you up just for the Gators being in Atlanta. Why not? Tennessee is life champions, but the Gators are SEC East Champions, so, Nick, can I really say Mark and Butch suck, since they’re at home?
Nick: They’ll be doing the same thing as us this week, watching some football.
Andrew: Yeah, but we’re actually there. They’re at home. So, yeah, Mark, Butch, you suck. You’re at home. We’re in Atlanta. That means you’re not life champions. So, as always, go Braves. Chomp, chomp. See you soon.
Nick: You stay classy, Gator Country.