Alabama vs Florida
When: 4:00 PM ET, Saturday, December 3, 2016
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
ATLANTA – (Wire Service Preview) – Top-ranked Alabama has such a cushion in the College Football Playoff rankings that it will qualify for the four-team national championship competition even if it should lose to No. 16 Florida in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game at Atlanta. Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban grows irate at such a suggestion and is fully focused on guiding the squad to its third consecutive conference crown.
Alabama, which has won 24 consecutive games, is the only undefeated team from a major conference and is considered a shoo-in to be part of the playoff but Saban got testy when he fielded a question about being in regardless of the outcome. “That’s certainly not the mindset that we want on our team,” Saban told reporters at a press conference. “This is a big game for us. It’s an opportunity to win the SEC championship, which to me is a very, very significant accomplishment. We hold that in very high esteem, having the ability to do that, having the opportunity to do it, having the ability to play for it.” It would certainly rate as a huge upset if the Gators were to win the game and coach Jim McElwain – a former Alabama offensive coordinator – understands the history of the matchup. “These are two storied programs that year-in and year-out expect to be in Atlanta,” McElwain told reporters. “Part of that is a mindset and an understanding, and the players who come to these schools have the expectation to always play that extra game in December, and this year is no different.”
TV: 4 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Alabama -24
ABOUT ALABAMA (12-0, 8-0 SEC): Senior defensive end Jonathan Allen (seven sacks, two fumble return touchdowns) is the only defensive player among the five Walter Camp Player of the Year finalists and he is leader of a defense that ranks first nationally in scoring defense (11.4 points per game), total defense (246.8 yards per game) and rushing defense (68.7). Sophomore Marlon Humphrey (leg) is ailing but Saban feels he will recover in time to play, and the cornerback is a standout in a secondary that is receiving superb play from sophomore strong safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (team-high four interceptions). Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts paces the offense by accounting for 32 total touchdowns (20 passing, 12 rushing) while passing for 2,425 yards and rushing for 840.
ABOUT FLORIDA (8-3, 6-2): The Gators rank fifth in scoring defense (14.6) and sixth in total defense (291.9) but will be without six starters, including standouts such as senior linebacker Jarrad Davis (ankle), junior linebacker Alex Anzalone (arm), junior defensive end Jordan Sherit (knee) and senior safety Marcus Maye (arm). Sophomore quarterback Luke Del Rio (shoulder) will be available only in an emergency so senior Austin Appleby (964 yards, six touchdowns, two interceptions) will again be under center for an offense averaging just 16.3 points in his last three starts. Sophomore running back Jordan Scarlett has rushed for 778 yards and six touchdowns, while junior cornerback Teez Tabor has a team-best four interceptions.
1. This is the ninth time Alabama and Florida square off in the SEC title game – both teams won four of the previous matchups.
2. Crimson Tide senior OLBs Ryan Anderson (team-best 16 1/2) and Tim Williams (15) have combined for 31 1/2 tackles for losses.
3. Gators sophomore WR Antonio Callaway leads the squad with 43 receptions and 603 yards but the second of his two receiving scores came on Sept. 10.