Why the Florida Gators are going to shock the CFB world

The Swamp


Ben Hill Griffin Stadium “The Swamp” has always been regarded as one of, if not the toughest environments to play in for away teams in college football. The nearly 90,000 fans can make The Swamp a near-deafening experience. How loud can the stadium get? Let’s just say some Auburn fans at the Auburn - Florida game back in 2019 thought the WiFi routers were speakers being used to produce crowd noise. The value of a home-field advantage of this magnitude cannot be understated.

(YouTube: TheHandOfTheKing, original video from @oliviagranaiola on Twitter)


Alabama



Bryce Young


Bryce Young is undoubtedly one of the best young talents in college football. But that’s what he is, young. Young has a total of two starts under his belt with neither of them being a true road game. One against a G5 team in Mercer and the other against what some would consider a G5 team in Miami. He’s shown the talent and poise that once made him a top recruit, but how will he do against a defense that has a dangerous and experienced Florida pass rush along with some of the best defensive backfield talent not only in the SEC, but the country? Combine this uncertainty with him having a brand new Offensive Coordinator in Bill O’ Brien, things will get interesting. Did I mention The Swamp tends to get loud?



Offensive Line


There’s one word to best describe the current situation around Alabama's offensive line, uncertainty. Throughout Alabama’s historic run, a strong offensive line has been the constant. This year, not so much. Where’s the uncertainty? Take your pick. The three new starters? Four-fifths of the positions having different players? A new position coach? See my point yet? Are they still talented? Of course, but that much turnover requires time to gel and it’s safe to say the nearly 90 thousand fans in The Swamp are going to contribute to at least a couple of missed calls and assignments for this group.


Their game versus Miami may have been a blowout, but it showed clear cracks in the armor of the “vaunted” Alabama offensive line and proved this year’s line is not the typical line they produce. Yes, they still have Evan Neal, a projected top 5 pick; but, outside of Neal, the Hurricanes defensive line was getting consistent pressure on Young the entire game. Keep in mind this is a middle-of-the-road ACC defensive line with 250lb defensive ends, including a 6th year converted linebacker. It’s safe to say, Florida is a tad better in this area.



Florida


#DBlok


One of the primary reasons the Gators are going to win the game is the trenches, especially on the defensive side. Pressure, pressure, and more pressure will be key to this. However, just getting pressure won’t be good enough as Miami found out. First-team All SEC DE Zach Carter, Khris Bogle, Brenton Cox, and gang will have to finish the plays by corralling Young for sacks to keep Alabama behind the chains.


Unlike last season, the Gators have an embarrassment of riches along the defensive line; where they go nearly three deep across the board. Florida has always been a team that can get pressure from the outside, but this year’s additions have provided a much-needed interior push. Both newcomers in Antonio Valentino and Daquan Newkirk have made their presence felt by their ability to collapse the pocket and Gervon Dexter has demonstrated a knack for tracing back and finding the ball.


Elam and Company


With Kaiir Elam, the Gators will have the most talented player on the field for the second consecutive meeting with Alabama. Elam will not only be the best player on the field Saturday, but is also one of the best players in the country, regardless of position. His ability to shut down an entire side of the field will afford the secondary the ability to double and shade coverages away from him, depending on the match-up.


JUCO transfer Jadarrius Perkins seems to have solved the one position Gator fans have been agonizing over since Chauncey Gardner-Johnson left early for the NFL Draft back in 2019. His ability to stop both the run and pass has been a godsend to begin the season for the Gators. His performance is vital with Alabama routinely using the slot position in their offense.


Furthermore, safety play with Trey Dean and Rashad Torrence has settled what has been an uneasy group since Mullen arrived in Gainesville. A lot of the improved play can be attributed to the coaching of Wesley “Crime Dog” McGriff. Look for big things from Dean as has all the physical tools to be an All-SEC player and had an interception in last year’s SEC Championship game.


Now onto Alabama’s wide receivers. Their “next big time receiver,” John Metchie is a quality player but is a far cry from the DeVonta Smiths and Jaylen Waddles of the world, and his numbers so far have proved this. However, they do have one player to truly watch out for in Ohio St. transfer Jameson Williams, He has been a consistent weapon for them early and is arguably their best receiver. Call me crazy though for not being too concerned about a player who couldn’t hack it at his previous school.



Quarterbacks


Is the Florida quarterback situation settled? No. Does Emory Jones have his flaws? Yes. Will the Florida Gators have the most talented quarterback on the field on September 18th? Absolutely. Nobody knows how Dan will handle his quarterbacks, but the bottom line is Anthony Richardson has proven to be one of the most electric players in all of college football this season. That is not up for debate. Combine that with some encouraging throws by Emory, the Gators are in good hands, no matter whose they are. Just remember, when it comes to quarterbacks, “in Mullen we trust.”


(YouTube video from Big Cat Chat)


Mullen


Say what you want about the man, but one thing is certain, Dan Mullen is a damn good football coach. He wasted no time by proving this by taking a four win Florida team to 10 wins and a New Year’s Six Peach Bowl victory over Michigan in his first season. The most underrated part of Mullen’s coaching acumen is his performance in big games, the man flat out is in his bag. He’s proved throughout his time at Florida, there is no stage that is too large for him. All he needs is the horses to compete. This was on full display when the Gators embarrassed Georgia with 38 first half points last year. In the SEC Championship game, he lost a back and forth battle to one of Saban’s best teams ever by one score. Is a close loss acceptable? Absolutely not. We’re not FSU, there are no moral victories. It’s more indicative of Florida almost being over the hump, talent wise. This year’s team has even more horses as it’s arguably better as a whole than last year’s thanks to a much more balanced roster.



Final Thoughts


End of the day, the Florida Gators have always seen Alabama as just another team and not “Big Bad ‘Bama” as others do. The magnitude of this game cannot be questioned; not only for players, but for fans as they’ve had this game circled on their calendars for years. Additionally, a lot of these players were on last year’s team that lost in Atlanta. Needless to say, they’re going to want their revenge. Saturday is going to be a typical SEC battle of trench warfare with the good guys behind a raucous crowd prevailing.


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