Freelance writer Donald Taylor has followed the Alabama Crimson Tide each and every game this season. Taylor collaborated with Gator Country Senior Columnist Mark McLeod in an analysis of the premier Southeastern Conference match-up.
Bama Offensive Line v/s Gators Defensive Line
The Crimson Tide O-Line continues to show its relative youth and inexperience in its performances to date. Although they have shown signs of improvement in pass protection, they have made little progress in opening up holes for the running game. The line appears to be, oddly enough, anchored by true freshman Andre Smith at the left tackle position. At several other line positions, stability continues to be an issue with players such as Chris Capps, Marlon Davis and Justin Britt being jostled around early on in an attempt to find a viable o-line setup.
This lack of production and stability could prove costly against a Florida D-Line that has throttled the running games of their opponents thus far. What does help the Crimson Tide is the absence of Marcus Thomas from the interior defensive line of the Gators. Nonetheless, Florida poses a serious threat to the Tide’s ability to establish a ground attack in the game. Bama’s best bet may be to slow down the aggressive Gators by attacking the edges of their line with the run and short passing game.
The bottom line: Bama has been ineffective in establishing a significant running game against less talented team than the Gators thus far. Don’t look for the Bama O-line to increase production against Florida in this match-up. They would be happy to reach the 124 ypg average they carry into this game.
Gators Offensive Line v/s Bama Defensive Line
The Bama D-line struggled a bit this past week against Arkansas. The Tide allowed the Razorbacks to gain 172 yards on the ground, thanks to a better-than-expected Razorback O-line. Overall, the line has proven to be stout with Wallace Gilberry and Jeremy Clark performing well at the tackle positions. The Tide is allowing just 99 ypg to its opponents on the ground. Although they have provided consistent pressure to opposing quarterbacks, the line has been unable to sack the quarterback with any consistency. The Tide Defense has a total of four sacks coming into this game.
The Gators O-Line has been effective enough to allow DeShawn Wynn an average of 5.8 yards per carry thus far. The unit has provided Chris Leak with enough time to be the nation’s 4th rated passer with a rating of 173.8. The line did show some signs of weakness against Tennessee, which was able to pressure Leak off and on throughout the game.
The bottom line: The Bama D-Line could arguably by the best the Gators have faced this season. If Florida is able to establish a serious ground attack against the Tide, this game could get ugly. Don’t look for that to happen.
Slight Advantage: Alabama
Bama skills positions v/s Gators secondary
Alabama has been performing pretty well without much of a running game for the first month of the season. It hasn’t much bothered the Crimson Tide though. Quarterback John Parker Wilson has been as cool, calm, and collected as any first year quarterback in recent memory. In the face of relentless Razorback pressure, Wilson brought Alabama from behind and had them right where they needed to be in overtime, before a wide right PAT helped seal their fate. Wide receivers Keith Brown and D.J. Hall have proven that they are among the best receiving tandems in the conference.
The Gators secondary did not improve last week. Tennessee and Kentucky have utilized the short controlled passing game with screens, slip screens, slants, quick slants, and skinny posts with a draw and/or misdirection mixed in for good measure. Florida must do a better job of disrupting those lanes down and throwing the timing of these plays off. If Wilson has to hold the ball a couple of seconds longer, that could be the difference in the ballgame.
The Bottom Line: It’s just a matter of time before Alabama running back Kenneth Darby shakes the rust off of his game. The Tide also has a load to bring down in Jimmy Johns, should they opt to give him the ball. If they can generate some hope of a running game, that should be enough to keep things in check for the Gators. However, the Gators have a defensive front that should pressure Wilson and possibly make him finally turn the ball over. Until that actually happens…
Slight Advantage: Alabama
Bama secondary vs Gators skills positions
Mark McLeod: You might have questioned the capability of the Alabama secondary after the Tide gave up 350 yards through the air to Colt Brennan and the Hawaii Warriors. However, defensive coordinator Joe Kines clearly has Ramzee Robinson, Simeon Castille, Lionel Mitchell, Marcus Carter, and Jeffrey Dukes on the same page. Bama has yielded an average of just 103.3 yards passing in the past three games. Furthermore, Alabama has six interceptions in conference play. This is a very talented and athletic Alabama secondary. However, experienced depth is a concern.
Florida enters with one of the most experienced and talented skills positions groups in the nation. The Gators don’t have a weapon- they have an arsenal. They can run and they can pass. The biggest difference in this senior laden group (Chris Leak, Dallas Baker, Jemalle Cornelius, DeShawn Wynn, and Billy Latsko) is their overall knowledge of the Florida system. After watching the Gators uninspired first half performance against Kentucky, it’s obvious that Florida is in need of some motivation. If suffering the humiliation of a 31-3 pasting by the Crimson Tide isn’t enough to fire you up come rematch time…then maybe a nice game of shuffleboard is your cup of tea.
The Bottom Line: We could just as easily call this- Kines versus Mullen. Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen wants to force Alabama defensive coordinator Kines to cover the entire field. Robinson and Castille are the class of this group. However, one of three critical areas where the Crimson Tide has failed to generate consistency thus far is pressuring the quarterback. Meanwhile, the Gators have a senior quarterback, veterans in Wynn, Baker, Caldwell, and Cornelius, not to mention the home field advantage.