Alabama Football: Who’s been hiding the most, Tide or Gators?

Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama Football vs. the Florida Gators is always supposed to be a big game. That perspective has faded a bit during the Alabama Crimson Tide seven-game win streak over Florida. The average score in the seven games, going back to 2009 is Alabama 40 – Florida 18.

Saturday afternoon’s game in Gainesville is certainly the biggest so far this season for both teams. As a National Championship contender, Alabama Football, with an SEC road game, against a Top 10 team (No. 9 in Coaches Poll), seeks a stepping stone win. The Tide can dispense with the Gators by playing to its own standard – and move on. The game is bigger for the Gators. That is especially true for Dan Mullen. As much as Mullen is respected for his offensive acumen, he has never beaten a Nick Saban team.

Florida and Mullen got a boost from playing last season’s National Champions close in the SEC Championship game. A two or more touchdown loss to the Tide on Saturday would be seriously deflating for the Gators’ program. Mullen must have worked on his plan for the Tide all summer and fall. Part of his strategy has been to force the Tide to prepare multiple defensive plans for use against two, somewhat different style quarterbacks.

Mullen has long been comfortable with a two-QB system. Gaining an edge, with the contrasting strengths of his two guys, is the Gators’ only real chance against the Tide. Florida has plenty of talent, but to succeed, it must get the deeply talented Crimson Tide out of position and vulnerable to explosive plays. The Gators will use anything and everything in their playbook, trying to confuse the Tide defense. A good bit of Mullen’s playbook has no doubt been held in reserve for the game.

Has Alabama Football or the Gators been more vanilla?

Bill O’Brien has probably been even more vanilla in his play-calling than Mullen. The Alabama Football OC will use only what he needs to create mismatches and take advantage of the openings Todd Grantham gives him. Some expanded use of RPOs, play-action and screens can be expected. The Crimson Tide’s not overly impressive run game could also be different. It has been run-right heavy so far, giving that side of the offensive line needed challenge. Running left more often, using the strength of Evan Neal and Javion Cohen could compact the Gators defense. O’Brien will have Bryce go deep when that happens.

Florida has struggled with whichever corner has played opposite of Kaiir Elam. Elam’s two-season, plus two games, Florida Gators career includes six interceptions and 21 passes defended. The return of Elijah Blades from injury might be the ‘other CB’ solution on Saturday. Grantham has always been known for being a bold, blitz-caller. If his guys – either because of good Tide O-Line protection or being out-schemed by O’Brien- cannot frequently pressure Young, the Gators secondary will be in serious trouble.

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However Grantham chooses to defend the Alabama offense, the current streak of 30 or more points by the Tide will not end. And Mullen’s offense cannot win a shootout.