SEC Big Picture: Alabama-Florida matchup looks inevitable, but Ole Miss is still lurking
A matchup between Alabama and Florida in the SEC Championship game seems inevitable. Florida has already wrapped up the East Division. Alabama seems intent on wrapping up the West Division.
While those teams figure to meet in Atlanta, there are still questions about the potential matchup. Here are some things we have learned about the Tide and Gators, and who else could end up in Atlanta:
Alabama is very good, but beatable
Alabama’s resume will be thoroughly inspected by the College Football Playoff committee if it wins its remaining games. Why wait until then?
Look at ‘Bama’s recent wins. In its last three games, the Crimson Tide had to hold on for a 19-14 win over Tennessee, then beat LSU 30-16 and Mississippi State 31-6.
Tennessee is just 6-4 and 3-3 in the SEC. LSU got hammered by Arkansas 31-14 on Saturday. Mississippi State is 7-3 and 3-3 in the SEC. As for Alabama’s lone loss, that came against Ole Miss, which lost to Memphis.
There’s no question that Alabama is very good and likely the best team in the SEC. However, the Crimson Tide are not the unmatched juggernaut they have been in recent years. They can be beaten.
There’s reason to believe Alabama is beatable on a bad day. That’s what Florida is hoping for.
A week of rest should help Ole Miss
Remember, Ole Miss can still win the West Division if the Crimson Tide stumble and the Rebels win out. Ole Miss has LSU and Mississippi State remaining, so doing so will be a challenge. If the Rebels can put themselves in that position, all Oxford eyes will be on the Iron Bowl when Auburn hosts Alabama in the season finale. The Crimson Tide look like the better team, but much stranger things have happened in that series.
LSU has lost two physical games against Alabama and Arkansas. Surely, its confidence has wavered. Ole Miss needs to take advantage of that Saturday. Then, it needs to beat Mississippi State on Nov. 28.
The Rebels proved they were a formidable foe by beating Alabama in September. Sure, the Rebels had luck on their side, but they still won. It actually did happen.
If Ole Miss can come back rejuvenated and inspired after a bye week, it can put pressure on the Tide to beat Auburn in the regular-season finale. Otherwise, Ole Miss’ win over Alabama will be remembered as a fluke, and potentially Alabama’s one slip-up en route to an SEC title.
Florida may be good enough to beat Alabama
Bear with me for a moment.
The old adage says defense wins championships. Well, Florida has the fifth-best defense in the nation. Sure, Alabama is fourth best, but the Gators, who would be heavy underdogs in a potential SEC Championship game matchup, are just looking for a glimmer of hope. A defensive battle is their best chance. The Gators have the defense to be in that position.
Moreover, Florida coach Jim McElwain has found a way to generate points when outmatched this entire season. His offense is extremely limited but did just enough in the past two weeks to earn wins over Vanderbilt and South Carolina.
That’s the optimistic viewpoint. Here is the pessimistic and probably more realistic stance. Alabama has known Florida would be in the SEC Championship game since the Gators beat Vanderbilt on Nov. 7. Surely, ‘Bama’s coaches are looking ahead and preparing for Florida even if they’d never admit it.
Projected SEC Championship game:
Alabama (9-1, 6-1 SEC West) vs. Florida (9-1, 7-1 SEC East)
The Crimson Tide would have to stumble to open the door for another SEC West team to make it to Atlanta. That seems unlikely but the Iron Bowl is always unpredictable. That gives Ole Miss hope. If Alabama clinches the West, the question is “Can Florida hang with ‘Bama?” The Gators have the defense, but points will come at a premium.