Alabama Football: Tide rushing defense vs. Kentucky will indicate how well the Florida offense will perform in the SEC Championship game.
Under Nick Saban, the Alabama football team is forbidden to look ahead. Crimson Tide fans do not have the same restriction. One aspect of Saturday’s game against Kentucky will be a clue about the SEC Championship game.
A broad assumption underlies this post. It has a high probability of being accurate. The assumption is the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Florida Gators will play for the SEC Championship. For Tide fans, it is never too early to focus on a key game. In case the CFB Selection Committee makes the mistake of choosing both Notre Dame and Clemson for the Playoff field, the Crimson Tide needs to beat the Gators.
If Florida upsets the Tide and Clemson does as is expected and beats Notre Dame in their second matchup, it might be the ACC gets two Playoff teams rather than the SEC. Such a decision by the Committee would not be warranted, but it could happen.
Like Alabama football, Florida has an explosive offense. Unlike the Crimson Tide, the Gators’ offense is not balanced. Dan Mullen gets little production from his rushing attack. One reason is scheme. The other reason is the Gators do not excel when they do run the ball.
The Crimson Tide’s Najee Harris is averaging 119 yards rushing per game. The Gators’ three most productive running backs average only 92.33 yards-per-game. As a team, the Gators are No. 10 in the SEC and No. 87 nationally running the football. The lack of offensive balance will not keep the Gators from winning the SEC East. It could, however, be decisive in the SEC title game.
How good is the Alabama football defense against the run? The Crimson Tide is No. 4 in the SEC and No. 33 nationally, allowing only 3.39 yards-per-carry. The Alabama football defense has improved during the season. After the Mississippi State game, nearly the entire defensive unit won POTW awards. On Saturday, it will become clear how much the Tide’s rush defense has improved.
Kentucky can run the ball. A big reason is one of the SEC’s top offensive lines. Another reason the Cats run well is that they pass poorly. Without a solid rushing attack, Mark Stoops’ team would struggle to score.
Kentucky has the second-best rushing attack in the SEC. Cats’ running back, Chris Rodriquez leads the SEC at 6.39 yards-per-carry. Also in the SECC top ten of rushers is Asim Rose Jr. at 5.29 yards=per-carry. Kentucky quarterback, Terry Wilson is also a rushing threat. Georgia is No. 1 in the SEC and No. 4 nationally stopping the run. Kentucky, at a 3.5 yards clip, rushed for 138 yards against the Bulldogs.
If the Crimson Tide can hold the Wildcats near that 3.5 yards-per-carry average, it will show the Tide’s improvement in rushing defense. It will also indicate the Florida Gators will have a most difficult time running against the Crimson Tide.
Offenses in college football have changed. Florida wins without offensive balance. The Crimson Tide wins with it. In a close contest, balance can be the deciding edge.