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ALABAMA VS FLORIDA

SEC FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

12/6/08

If ever there was a game we wanted to play, long before there was ever a line posted, it would be this one, and the play, before digging into the match up, would be Alabama. Heck, we'd probably like Bama +3 here never mind 10. As we have stated on several occasions, when you back an underdog in college football, you should be expecting that team to win the game straight up. You should never be backing dogs with the hopes that they can "hang within a number". That's a losing approach. When you're backing a team that's a 10 point dog that you feel can win a game outright, that's pretty strong folks.

If you had told me in August, that there would be an SEC title game where one team would be 12-0 and the other would be 11-1, and that I could take the 12-0 team at +10, my only question at the time would be, where can I backup the Brinks truck? I guess my only other question would be, Can I bring TWO brinks trucks?

Being undefeated in college football is one heck of an accomplishment in any conference. Being undefeated in the SEC is exceptional. Though we would be the first to acknowledge that the SEC was down a notch this year when compared to years past. Having said all that, it's important to note that you don't HAVE to wager on every big game. There's no law that says you can't just sit back and enjoy a big game for what it is, without any stake on the outcome.

Truth is, as crazy at the 10 point line may seem to some folks, a strong case can be made for either side in this game. So let's take a look at each side here.

Making a case for Alabama :

Not hard to do. The damn team is undefeated. If they had won every game by 1 point, on last second field goals, you could make a case for them. They simply know how to win. In the end, all that matters is the W. But this team has done more than just squeak by. They have dominated. Who could forget when they went into Athens and destroyed a highly touted Georgia team? Obliterated them really. Alabama gets it done where all football teams should, on the lines. Good offensive and defensive lines have a way of making the skill position players look like all stars. Good offensive lines make stars out of running backs and Quarterbacks. Good defensive lines make stars out of safety's and linebackers. Good lines make coaches look like geniuses. Everything on a good football team starts up front. Look at the Giants in the NFL.

Florida has some problems on their defensive line. Not the best week for problems. Due to injuries the Gators will be working with a 4-5 player rotation up front instead of the preferred 10. If there are consequences to pay for that, they'll show up late in the game after the Alabama offensive line wears them down. Fact is, if Alabama's offensive line can in fact dominate Saturday, then they'll control this game from start to finish and will have one heck of a shot to win it in the end. They'll pound the ball which will open up the passing game a bit.

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Defensively Alabama has held everyone except LSU and Ole Miss to under 100 yards rushing while Florida has allowed 7 teams to rush for more than 100 yards. So there's little doubt that we'll see Alabama try to establish the run and more than likely succeed. It's simply x's and o's but that's the case for Alabama. Win the battle at the line of scrimmage and everything else will fall into place.

Making a case for Florida :

The one thing that can throw a monkey wrench into Alabama's plans is a fast start by the Gators. If the Gators hang a couple of quick TD's on the board then the Bama game plan goes out the window. So much for pounding the ball and controlling the game. Making Alabama play from behind is exactly what Florida wants here. If any team in the nation is capable of a fast start, it's the Gators of course. They have one blemish on their record. A home loss to Ole Miss. We can't explain that. No one else has been able to come close all year. They have scored 42 or more points in 7 straight games. They have won by 28 or more in each of the past 7 games. Other than their loss to Ole Miss, their closest game all year was a 23 point win over Miami. Alabama on the other hand, was lucky to squeak by Kentucky and Ole Miss, both at  home, and was damn lucky to get by LSU with an overtime win back in early November. Again, Florida isn't just winning. They are rolling teams.

What perhaps was the key to making us back off from making a large play on Alabama was when we broke the game down using common opponents. What better way to gauge the talent of two teams than to see what they were able to do against the exact same level of competition. In this case we have 6 common opponents which is considerable. Of course there are flaws to this approach. The most glaring being that not all games were played in the same locations. Bama may have played one team on the road while Florida played them at home. But it's a good gauge nonetheless. Has been for the close to 30 years I have been doing this, so I can only assume it will continue to be.

When we look at yards per point using only common opponents we get the following results. Alabama is 11.6 on offense and 16.8 on defense for an overall +5.2. Florida is a 9.4 on offense and a 24 on defense for a +14.7. When we subtract Alabama's 5.2 from Florida's 14.7 we get a difference of 9.5........what was the line on this game again? Oh, yeah, 9.5. Hmmmm. Yards per point under the right circumstances is a great tool for determining what a fair line on a game should be. In this case, the ypp line suggests Vegas has it right. Which suggests we stay away from the game.

Just to illustrate what those numbers mean, Florida's 9.4 on offense means they score 1 point for every 9.4 yards gained. 9.4 is phenomenal. It's virtually impossible to have a number better than that. Alabama's number on offense is pretty damn good as well. Just not as good as Florida's. Those numbers suggest both teams were able to move the ball and make use of those yards against the exact same defenses. Likewise on the defensive side of the ball. Florida's number of 24 is spectacular. You really can't do much better than that. Alabama's number of 16.8 is good. Not great. Just good. So against the exact same competition, Florida was able to have a little more success offensively and quite a bit more success defensively in keeping their opponents out of the end zone and making them work for every point. The average points for and against in these games tells the same story. Bama outscored these teams 31-18 while Florida outscored them 44-13.

The SEC is down this year. In years past we have seen Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, LSU, South Carolina, Auburn and even Kentucky all in the top 20 at the same time. This year we got mediocrity in the SEC. Even Georgia, a 9-3 team, proved not to be that great when you look at their losses. We bring this up because when you look at the resume of both of these teams, they seem much less impressive when you look at the teams they have beaten. There really isn't a win on either teams schedule that you can look at and say wow. It just wasn't the same brutal SEC we have been used to seeing. It's not either of these teams faults. They did what they had to do with the schedules they had. But it does cause us to use caution especially where Alabama is concerned. When you take a look for example, at how Alabama was lucky to get past LSU, and then take a look and see how Florida rolled over LSU....albeit at home, it's enough to make us take a step back.

Lastly, we have been keeping some basic, simply power ratings for college football for many years. These raw numbers are used just to get a general idea of the difference between two teams. We don't rely on them as much as we used to and mostly use them to take shots at opening lines we perceive as off. These power ratings favor Florida by 13.

So we have made a case for both sides and have thrown around some numbers in the process. Now for the million dollar question. What do we think will actually happen on Saturday afternoon on in to Saturday evening? Well, we think Alabama will find a way to win this game. We think they have the edge where it counts the most and that's on BOTH lines. We think the key advantage will be Alabama's offensive line over Florida's D-Line and expect that to really become evident midway thru the 3rd quarter where we expect the "tide" to turn. Pun intended. Alabama has shown the ability to not only win close defensive battles but have also proven they can put points on the board. One need only look at the Georgia game in Athens that was over by halftime to illustrate that point.

The added motivation of being ranked #1 yet being a 10 point dog only helps the Alabama cause. It's an automatic motivator. Every player on the field is aware of the pointspread. Like it or not, it puts added pressure on teams. There was a quote from a Florida receiver this week in the papers. He suggested he was surprised they were such a large favorite over a 12-0 team. Expect Saban to use the spread as a motivator all week long.

This game is on par to an AFC or NFC Championship game. This is, in affect, what everyone wants. A college playoff game. The winner goes on to College Footballs version of the Super Bowl. The fact that we can make an easy case for both sides, along with the fact that the yards per point numbers against common opponents suggest the line is accurate, and our own power ratings suggest Florida should win by 13, all suggest that this game from our perspective, is best watched from the sidelines without a stake in the outcome. Are we going to take our own advice and stay away here? Of course not! We're going to make a small play on Alabama here based strictly on our belief that they have the better lines and will find a way to spring the upset. 2* Alabama +10

** Note there were plenty of 10's available when the lines were first posted however as of this writing it's all 9.5. We'd expect to see more 10's before game time. If not, open an account at Skybook and take advantage of their Free Half Point offer !!!!!

 

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