Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Five reasons the Gators will win, and five reasons they won't

Five reasons Florida wins:

1. They are the best balanced team in the country.

Nobody does more things well. They run the ball. They throw the ball. They catch the ball. They defend the run, they defend the pass. They cover kicks, they cover punts, and with Brandon James they are a special-teams threat at all times. We didn't mention that their cheerleaders are cute and their coach has good hair. We will if we need to.

2. They show well in big games.
Say what you want about every team being different, Florida is a program that's accustomed to winning. Granted, there is no Percy Harvin. There will be no Carlos Dunlap. And maybe Tim Tebow has been slightly off form since he got kicked in the head. But Florida owns the country's longest winning streak, and it was sewn together with scalps from the country's strongest conference. 'Nuff said.

3. Florida's offense, for one game, is almost impossible to defend.
If the SEC championship were best two out of three, maybe this would be different. But the task of controlling the Gators' spread/veer is too much to ask even from Alabama. Too much speed, too many variations, too well executed. Mt. Cody will look like a mountain, as the Florida backs and receivers speed right around him. Too many Alabama players must make the right decisions on too many plays to keep the Gators in check. And even if they do, Tebow ain't shabby at improvisation.

4. As good as they are, Florida is underrated in two key positions.
The Florida defensive backfield is the best in the country -- big enough to stop the run, fast enough to shut down passing games. That ability will give Gator lineman, even without the suspended Dunlap, time to pressure Greg McElroy. If Mac can't throw, Alabama won't be able to run. On the other side of the ball, Florida has the most quietly efficient passing game in the country. Short or long, Tebow seems to make his best throws in big games, even though he winds up like Mariano Rivera. Riley Cooper and Aaron Hernandez have proven to be almost unguardable, and if it's near them, they catch it.

5. Tebow.
The best college football player and leader of my lifetime.

Five reasons Alabama wins:

1. They're the underdog.
As Dawg Tomlinson puts it, this hasn't been a great year for the Overdogs. Tiger gets caught on the back 9 of the PGA, Tebow gets bonked, Tiger really gets caught . . . In last year's classic, Alabama led Florida well into the fourth quarter, until they were Tebowed on back to back drives. They've had a year to measure themselves against that performance. More importantly, Nick Saban has had a full year to brood and scheme. And would it surprise anyone if he asked his former boss Bill, as in Belichick, to drop by and watch some film?

2. Alabama has improved.
The defense is better. The offense has more playmakers. The quarterback has a better feel for the entire field. In Javier Arenas and Rolando McClain, Alabama has two of the best defensive players anywhere. Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Roy Upchurch are the best backfield threesome in college football, and Julio Jones is healthy again. Spencer Tillman of CBS says the Tide will control Florida's receivers, forcing Tebow to run. When you know he's coming he's a little easier to defend, meaning he's a lot easier to hit. If that happens, it will be Alabama controlling the fourth quarter, not the defending champs.

3. Florida is not as good as everyone thinks.
Sure, Florida has virtually everybody back from their BCS title team, but some of the magic is missing. Brandon Spikes has been beat up or suspended; Percy Harvin left an enormous hole; Tebow may still be seeing stars that have nothing to do with heavenly beings; Dunlap is still asleep on his wheel. When you compare the common opponents, Alabama carries a decided edge in margin of victory. Florida struggled against physical teams. Alabama beat LSU, South Carolina, Va. Tech and Ole Miss to their knees. In their two closest games, the Tide blocked kicks against Tennessee and drove the length of the field against Auburn. This Gator edition also struggled against also-rans Arkansas and Miss. State, two teams Alabama annihilated. Which Florida team will show up? This is no time for Gator schizophrenia.

4. Alabama learned from last year.
The Tide will stay better balanced on offense this year. Like Florida, they can run and throw. But last year's game turned in the fourth quarter when the Tide got pass happy. This year, they will run and throw more effectively. Last year, they kicked too many field goals when they got close to the Gator goal line. This year, they'll push through to the other side. One other thing: The Florida offense, though amazingly effective, won't seem so doggone new.

5. Not all fairy tales have a happy ending.
The Disney ones do, but check out the really old stuff. All sorts of horrible things happen, sort of like in life. Tebow has been a miracle of nature and character. But this year he will learn to deal with major disappointment. In the future, that will make him a better person. For the immediate, Alabama has the better team.

-- Michael Gordon


Anonymous said...

1 reason neither team will win Friday. Because they play Saturday.

Peter from Georgia said...

On the yes side #'s 1, 3, and especially #5 are strong reasons to think that the day after Friday will be a Gator day.

On the no Gators/yes Bama side I like #'s 2, 3 and # 6 - No one has hit the Gators - not even LSU - like they will be hit on Saturday. It will be interesting to see how well they sustain their energy and efficiency after the 4 - quarter Bama barrage.