Florida Gators vs. Alabama Crimson Tide, Saturday December 5, 4 p.m. ET
Here's a shocking headline - the Crimson Tide are on the verge of making the College Football Playoff with a win here. It seems as inevitable as the sun coming up that Alabama is right in the mix when things come down to the wire every year. They just know what they are doing, and they have an endless supply of spectacular talent to make things work. Given that, it's quite amazing that the Tide have a chance to become the first SEC team to win back-to-back conference titles since Tennessee did it in Peyton Manning's last year and the year after. Be honest - you'd have guessed that Alabama had done it probably twice since then.
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Florida vs. Alabama Betting Storylines
When you look at the Gators, you have to look at them at a couple of different levels. At a macro level what they have done is truly amazing. The program has been a hot mess ever since Urban Meyer started feeling sick, and it seemed like a rebuild was going to be a decade long. All it took, though, was a coaching change. It's the first year with the new regime and the squad wins their division, wins 10 games, and looks like an entirely different team than the last five years in pretty much every way. Incredible.
The problem, though, is that on a micro scale this team has been a lot harder to love over the last month. Since the start of November they squeaked past Vandy 9-7 in quite possibly the worst game I watched this year, made South Carolina look much better than they are, needed overtime against Florida Atlantic, and then got absolutely crushed lifeless by the Seminoles. This is a team that is barely holding on. That's a real problem against a team like this. Alabama has beaten Florida by at least 19 points the last four times the squads have met dating back to 2009, and it's quite possible that it could happen again.
Derrick Henry. That's really where the analysis of this game can probably end. Henry is playing exceptional ball lately and is just one not-humiliating performance away from running away with the Heisman Trophy. He's good. He's topped 200 yards in four of his last six games - and barely played in another against Charleston Southern yet still scored twice. He's a total difference-maker, and he has a great line to run behind. Now, here's the problem. The second-best pure running back in the country right now is probably Dalvin Cook at Florida State. He's a step back of Henry, but he's still exceptional. Last week against Florida Cook carried the ball 26 times. He ran for 183 yards - seven yards per carry - and he scored twice. It was a great performance, and it totally defined the game. It was the game, really. So, last week Florida was ripped apart by a running back, and now they are up against a better running back. Hard to be optimistic about that - or about how Florida will do in this game as a result.
There are a couple of coaching storylines here that are worth a mention. First, Florida coach Jim McElwain was offensive coordinator for Nick Saban at Alabama from 2008 to 2011. The two know each other's secrets, and neither will have any interest in losing to the other. Second, Kirby Smart, who has been defensive coordinator for Saban since 2008 and worked with McElwain, has reportedly been named head coach at Georgia, though it won't likely be made official until Sunday. That can't help but be a distraction leading into this game and beyond.
Florida vs. Alabama Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with the Tide favored by a massive margin - 17.5 points. That line has moved around a bit but is back to 17.5 as I write. Nearly three-quarters of all bets have been on Alabama so far, so the lack of massive changes makes it unlikely that we will see a big shift going forward without a major development. The total sits at 40.
Alabama is 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings between these squads. The home team is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings. Alabama is 6-0 ATS in their last six games against teams with a winning record. Florida has gone "under" the total in their last five games.
SEC Championship Game Picks: Florida vs. Alabama Predictions
I want to be contrary. It's my favorite thing to do as a bettor. I just can't here, though. Henry is going to have a really massive day. Alabama has dramatically more experience in big games than Florida has had in the last five years. They have much more depth of talent, too, and their coaching staff is much more experienced at this level. The spread doesn't make me very happy, and I don't see massive amounts of value here, but I just can't justify anything other than taking the much better team and going for it. Alabama is the clear pick.
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