The top matchup for week 5 of the 2011 college football season is without question the Saturday night (8:00pm ET) SEC tilt featuring the 2nd ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0) traveling to Gainesville, FL to take on the 12th ranked Florida Gators (4-0) in the Swamp. The Tide rolled over SEC-rival Arkansas last week by a score of 38-14 at home, covering the 11 point line. The Gators have defeated SEC foes Kentucky by a score of 48-10 in Lexington last week to cover a 17.5 point spread, and Tennessee at home by a count of 33-23 the previous week to push on the 10 point line.
The two teams are very similar in terms of philosophy in that both like to run the ball and play tough defense. Head coaches Nick Saban for Alabama and first-year coach Will Muschamp for Florida worked together in the NFL and LSU where Muschamp served as a defensive assistant for Saban, so they have a keen understanding of each other’s styles and strategies. Alabama ranks 2nd in the SEC and 20th among all FBS teams with 230.8 yards per game rushing on offense and 21st in the country in scoring with an average of 38.5 points per game. Defensively the Tide ranks 2nd in the country in stuffing the run with an average of 45.8 YPG allowed and 2nd in scoring defense as well with 8 points per game allowed. The Gators lead the SEC in rushing offense and ranks 10th in the nation with an average of 259 yards per game on the ground, and has averaged 40.2 PPG to rank 15th among FBS teams. The Gator defense is also tough against the run, allowing only 56.5 YPG on the ground (5th in the country). Florida has allowed an average of 9 points per game to rank 4th in the country and their 231.8 YPG allowed puts them 5th in the nation in total defense.
Alabama vs. Florida Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Alabama Crimson Tide -3.5
@ Florida Gators +3.5
Over 44.5 (-110)
Under 44.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from BetOnline.com
Alabama vs. Florida Pick:
The Crimson Tide have won the last two meetings between the teams, including last season’s 31-6 rout in Tuscaloosa when they easily covered the 7.5 point line. The under is 8-3 in the Tide’s last 11 games in October and 17-7-1 in their last 25 SEC games. Florida is 2-5-1 ATS in their last 8 games when playing a team with a winning record, and 34-16-1 ATS in their last 51 games overall. In head-to-head play, Alabama I s 7-1-1 ATS in the last 9 meetings between the two teams and the underdogs is 6-2-1 ATS in those last 9 games.
Both teams are incredibly similar in terms of their scheme and philosophy on both offense and defense. The difference in this game will come down to coaching and execution, and Alabama with a more experienced head coach and seasoned roster has the advantage. The Tide will pound the rock relentlessly with Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy and wear down the Gators defense. Florida has not been tested this season by an offense that is a tough as Alabama’s and will struggle to stop the run. Alabama has the athletes on defense to stop Gator running back Jeff Demps, who is averaging 9.4 YPC and force erratic quarterback John Brantley to the air. Brantley, who was 16 for 31 for 202 with 2 interceptions in last season’s loss to Alabama, has not been called upon much this season in offensive coordinator Charlie Weis’ run-first attack and will not be able to handle the pressure from the ‘Bama defense. The Tide has too many athletes on defense for Florida to compete in this game, take the Tide to cover the 3.5 points.