Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium – Tuscaloosa, Alabama [Capacity: 101,821]
Weather: 86°F (feels like 89°F), sunny, winds ENE at 7 mph
Time: 3:30 p.m. EDT
TV: CBS (Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson, Allie LaForce)
SiriusXM: 91 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter
|FLORIDA GATORS||No. 3 ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE|
|Head Coach: Will Muschamp||Head Coach: Nick Saban|
|Record: 2-0 (1-0 SEC)||Record: 3-0 (0-0 SEC)|
|Conference: Southeastern||Conference: Southeastern|
Odds: Florida +14.5 | O/U 50.5
KEEP UP WITH THE GATORS
Busy during the week? Miss a feature, story or post on OnlyGators.com? No worries. Catch up on what you forgot to check out via the links below!
Notebook: Will Muschamp reviews Kentucky, previews Alabama
Story: Florida secondary faltered early, strengthened late
Story: Healthy, motivated Matt Jones made a statement
The Silver Lining: What Nick Saban thinks about Florida
Notebook: Kurt Roper, D.J. Durkin evaluate units ahead of showdown with Tide
Story: Gators not intimidated by recent success of Crimson Tide
Friday Final: Demarcus Robinson breaking out, Jeff Driskel stepping up
HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS
» Alabama is 23-14 all-time against Florida, holding a 7-5 edge in games played in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide and Gators are 6-6 in their last 12 meetings dating back to 1993, but UA has won three-straight against UF, outscoring it 101-29 from 2009-11.
» Florida and Alabama have each won three national titles since 1996, though the Gators have won seven SEC Championships to the Tide’s four since the game started in 1992.
» UF and UA have gone head-to-head in seven of the 22 SEC Championships contested.
» Last week, the Gators opened their SEC slate with a win for the 10th-straight year.
» Florida is 4-12 against ranked opponents under Muschamp.
» The Gators’ turnover margin is +32 combined in 24 wins under Muschamp since 2011 and -24 combined in his 16 losses.
» Florida finished 2013 with a 4-8 record, putting together its first losing season since it went winless (0-10-1) in 1979. UF rebounded to finish 8-4 in 1980, setting an NCAA record for best turnaround in major college football history at the time.
» The Gators have forced more turnovers than any other SEC team this century. UF has accounted for 374 over the last 14 seasons, while LSU is second with 364 forced.
» Florida is first nationally in interceptions returned for touchdowns (18) and interception return yards (1,921) since the start of the 2008 season. In that span, Florida is third in total interceptions with 110, behind only Oregon (116) and Boise State (115).
» Florida has finished with an undefeated 7-0 record at home three times in the last eight seasons (2006, 2009, 2012). The Gators are 2-0 at home in 2014.
» Redshirt senior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar enters Saturday having caught a pass in 30-straight games. He is five games away from tying a school record for most consecutive contests with a reception.
» Sophomore WR Demarcus Robinson matched a school record with 15 receptions in a single game last week. Robinson’s 216 receiving yards last Saturday are fourth-most for a Florida wideout in school history.
» Robinson big day, coupled with junior running back Matt Jones’s 156 rushing yards last week gave UF a set of 200/100 players for the fourth time in school history.
TWO MEN ENTER, ONE MAN LEAVE
Sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III has done everything asked of him since joining the Gators. He’s been a leader off the field, dominated opponents on it and served as an example for young players that want to succeed early in Florida’s program.
On Saturday, Hargreaves will be tested like he has yet to be in his short career when he draws likely head-to-head match-up with Tide wideout Amari Cooper.
“He’s a guy that can stretch the field vertically,” said Muschamp of Cooper this week. “They do a nice job in the run game of getting the ball to him in a lot of what I call a ‘quick situation,’ of seeing a bad box, getting it out to him on the perimeter, creating some one-on-ones. [They] move him around a little bit. We’ve got to make sure we identify him and know where he is. He’s been targeted a bunch in their first three games, so there’s no question he’s a playmaker.”
Cooper has roasted opposing defenses this season, averaging 11 receptions per game while racking up 454 games and two touchdowns in three contests (against Southern Miss, Florida Atlantic and West Virginia). It is no wonder that he is garnering some early Heisman Trophy consideration.
But just like Hargreaves, who has yet to go up against a talent of Cooper’s caliber, Cooper is in store for arguably the toughest showdown of his slightly-longer career in Hargreaves.
“I’m excited for the matchup,” said Hargreaves this week, explaining that he and Cooper had discussed it previously on social media. “Everybody knows what’s coming. Obviously I’m going to be covering him but, you know, I’m excited for it. … Cooper, he’s a great player. Me and him, we talked a little bit [on Twitter]. We knew this was coming. We both know the magnitude of the game. It’s going to be a great matchup on Saturday.”
@_VH3 look forward to playing y'all too bra. Good year this year too bra keep it up.
— R.I.P Freddy G (@AmariCooper9) December 12, 2013
Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin would not confirm Hargreaves’s assumption, of course. Durkin said the Gators will “have several different plans going into the game” and it will not be a Hargreaves-Cooper duel the entire time, despite the fact that he believes the offensive threat is “very explosive [and] dangerous.”
Cooper did not speak much about Hargreaves this week, simply describing him as “fast, quick” and a “smart” player. Saban discussed the defensive talent further.
“He’s very instinctive, he’s fast, quick,” Saban said Monday, according to AL.com. “But I think probably his greatest asset besides having great ability is he’s a very instinctive player, a very good cover guy. He’s tough, physical.”
The SEC Network‘s College GameDay-esque Saturday show will emanate live from Tuscaloosa on Saturday for the first time in program history. Built outside Moore Hall on UA’s campus, the set, the set will include host Joe Tessitore and analysts Tim Tebow, Marcus Spears and Paul Finebaum commiserating over the upcoming day of college football action.
Expect Finebaum to be featured heavily on the program. Florida will be featured on the show as Alabama’s opponent, making it the second-straight week that SEC Nation will be at the site of the Gators’ game.
INJURIES AND ABSENCES
» Questionable (1): Redshirt freshman linebacker Matt Rolin (ACL)
» Out (6): Freshman QB Will Grier (back spasms), junior left tackle D.J. Humphries (ankle), redshirt sophomore LB Jeremi Powell (knee), freshman WR C.J. Worton (hand), redshirt senior tight end Jake McGee (leg – season), freshman DB J.C. Jackson (shoulder – season)
WHAT’S AT STAKE
Coming off a 4-8 season – newfound health and seemingly improved offense aside – the Gators are not expected to be able to hang with the Crimson Tide on Saturday. Florida has curb-stomped one opponent (Eastern Michigan, 65-0) and gone down to the wire against another (Kentucky, 36-30 in triple-overtime), but UF was not tested in either contest like it will be on Saturday. Simply put, Alabama the most successful team in the country over the last five seasons. Florida will be trying to beat – not just compete – on the road in as hostile an environment as a team can expect. Muschamp is 0-1 as a head coach against Saban and 4-12 overall against ranked opponents since taking over the Gators. A Florida win would silence the doubters, push UF into the top 25 polls and give the Gators the confidence they need to go out and win any game remaining on their schedule? So what’s at stake for Florida on Saturday? A lot.
Aside from a more-difficult-than-expected season-opening win against West Virginia, Alabama’s had little problem dispatching with their last two opponents, defeating Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss by a combined score of 93-12. The Crimson Tide do not have much to gain on Saturday by beating the Gators, but they certainly have plenty to lose considering how little respect Florida has nationally this season. A usual national power like UF is as tough of an unranked opponent as a team can expect to see in a season, and UA is opening up its SEC schedule against such a team. With No. 10 Ole Miss, No. Texas A&M, No. 8 LSU and No. 5 Auburn remaining on the Tide’s schedule – not to mention seemingly-improving Arkansas and Mississippi State – Alabama needs every win it can get this season. Losing to the Gators at home would not be a good start to the Tide’s league slate.