Take Five Breakdown: Florida-Alabama Preview

Sep 17, 2021 | 0 comments

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Dan Mullen’s Florida football squad takes on the No. 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday afternoon in the Swamp. 

Inside the Gators has the very latest on the match-up in this Game Week Breakdown.

Allen Barney spoke with Nick Kelly of the Tuscaloosa News in order to break down the Tide with his answers to five burning questions as well as previewing five Alabama players Gator fans should keep an eye on this weekend.

Five Alabama Crimson Tide players to keep an eye on

1) Bryce Young, Quarterback, Sophomore

  • The Skinny: Young has stepped into the QB1 role for the #1 team in the country and has looked like a seasoned veteran the first two weeks, albeit against less-talented teams. Young was the top quarterback prospect in his recruiting class and has shown great command of the offense with a high football IQ. This will be Young’s first road start and the Swamp will be a hostile environment. The big story for Young will be if he can handle the crowd noise and not get rattled.

2) Evan Neal, Left Tackle, Junior

  • The Skinny: Neal earned Freshman All-American honors as a left guard in 2019 before moving to right tackle last season and now is manning the left tackle position. Neal has big shoes to fill in replacing 1st round pick Alex Leatherwood. The Gator front seven will be the first real challenge for Neal this season as he protects Young's blindside. According to Nick Kelly of Tuscaloosa News, Neal is one of the most athletic players on the team and carries his 350-pound frame very well.

3) Josh Jobe, Cornerback, Senior

  • The Skinny: Jobe entered the starting lineup in 2020 and started opposite of first-round pick Patrick Surtain Jr. He more than held his own with 55 tackles and 11 pass breakups. Jobe has become the leader of the secondary and has a knack for always being near the ball. Based on depth charts, Jobe will be primarily responsible for covering Jacob Copeland.

4) Jase McClellan, Running back, Sophomore

  • The Skinny: One of the hallmarks of a Nick Saban-led Alabama team is they always have a stable of capable ball-carriers who can take over a game. McClellan is sometimes forgotten about because Brian Robinson is a veteran starter and Trey Sanders carries the blue-chip hype, but McClellan could be the most versatile of them. He scored a touchdown in three different ways last week against Mercer (rushing, receiving, and a punt block). Runningbacks are asked to do more in this era compared to the past and McClellan can hurt an opponent in multiple ways.

Henry To’oto’o, Linebacker, Junior (Transfer from Tennessee)

  • The Skinny: To’oto’o came over from Knoxville as one of the biggest names in the transfer portal. His impact has been felt in just two games with 13 tackles against Miami and Mercer. With Will Anderson’s status up in the air for the game, To’oto’o can be the leader of the front seven and expose himself to the world on national television. His speed and ability to consistently make tackles will be in full effect Saturday.

Five Fast Facts

  • This will be the 42nd matchup between Alabama and Florida. Alabama leads the series 27-14 and has won seven in a row which include three SEC Championship games in 2015, 2016 and 2020. The Tide are 11-2 all-time at the Swamp with the only two losses coming in 1991 and 2006.
  • The Crimson Tide carry a 31-game win streak against SEC East teams, their last loss against an SEC East team was South Carolina on Oct. 9, 2010 while Steve Spurrier was the coach. Dan Mullen was in his first year as the head for Mississippi State the last time Alabama lost to an SEC East team.
  • Nick Saban is 13-1 in SEC road openers during his tenure at Alabama and is 67-17 against AP top 25 teams since the start of the 2008 season. During his time as head coach of LSU and Alabama, Saban has a record of 9-4 against the Gators and 7-1 as the Alabama head coach.
  • Gator Head Coach Dan Mullen is 0-10 against Alabama in his head coaching career with the first nine losses coming at Mississippi State.
  • The Alabama defense has allowed the fewest number of rushing touchdowns since 2007 with 114 with the next team on the list at 134. Bryce Young set the school record for most touchdown passes by a first-time starting quarterback with four against Miami. Mac Jones and Joe Namath previously held the record with three.

Five Game Day Storylines

How will Bryce Young handle his first road start in a hostile environment?

  • As previously stated above, this will be the toughest test to date for Young as his first two starts were at a neutral site and at home. Can the 90,000+ Florida fans get to Young’s head and force him to make mistakes? It will be difficult for the offense to communicate with crowd noise, but a couple of big plays early can quiet the crowd and allow Young to get into a rhythm. According to Nick Kelly, Young is ahead of most quarterbacks at this point in his career mentally.

Will the Alabama defense force the Gators to rely on the passing game?

  • This will be a battle of two strengths as the Gators one of the best run offenses in the country through the first two weeks of the season. The previous data shows that Alabama under Saban is stout against the run game and they force teams to rely on passing to move the ball downfield. The front seven is littered with veteran stars such as To’oto’o, Justin Eboigbe, DJ Dale, Phidarian Mathis, and Christian Harris.

Who steps up if Will Anderson is not able to play against Florida?

  • Will Anderson is the star of the Alabama defense but is battling a leg injury suffered against Mercer. According to Nick Kelly, if Anderson can’t go, expect Chris Braswell (Sophomore) and Dallas Turner (Freshman) to play the snaps at the Jack Linebacker position. The depth and collection of talent is the calling card of Alabama but the younger players being able to step up and replace Anderson will be the key question for the Tide defense.

What will the running back rotation look like for the Tide?

  • Brian Robinson is the starter but expect Jase McClellan, Trey Sanders, and Roydell Williams to all rotate in and get carries to keep all four fresh and wear down the Gators' front seven. The Gators will have to use more than just Zach Carter, Daquan Newkirk, Antonio Valentino, and Gervon Dexter on the line if they want to stop the Tide run game. The first two game were perfect opportunities for the backup players such as Princely Umanmielen, Dante Zanders, Antwuan Powell, and Desmond Watson.

Will the media hype get to the heads of the Alabama players?

  • Media and fans outside of Gainesville are expecting an easy win for the Tide on Saturday. Logical people know that teams coached by Saban usually are not looking ahead or feel like the game is over because they showed up. With the long winning streak against the Gators and beating them in the 2020 SEC Championship game, there is a small chance that the Tide roster including younger players have the mindset it will be guaranteed win. It will be interesting to see if the Tide get up by a couple of touchdowns early and if the players will take their foot of the gas. This scenario will probably not happen but it is always a thought in a rivalry that has become one-sided over the past decade.

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