Normally, I am skeptical when the media anoints a great offense team over a great defense team, as they seem to be doing this week in picking Florida. I haven't read too much about the game, but I've yet to see anyone picking Alabama to win outright. There is too much attention given to Percy Harvin's ankle and not enough to Florida missing two defensive tackles against a power running team.
That said, the way that a defensive team normally wins a game against an offensive team - turn the game into a street fight that is decided by turnovers and special teams - won't work against Florida. Florida doesn't turn the ball over, they have the best returner in college football, they have a more reliable kicker, and they block a ton of kicks. I'd feel much better about the odds of Tebow going all game without a turnover than I would John Parker Wilson doing the same. Finally, Bama doesn't have the depth that Saban is ultimately going to create, so even if they keep the game tight for three quarters, they won't have an advantage in the end game.
Here are a few things that I'll be especially interested in tomorrow:
1. What does Alabama do if they fall behind early? The constant "Florida is faster and better" patter from the media (and I'll admit that I've taken the same position) is a powerful motivating factor for Alabama, but it can also be a problem if Florida does look faster and better initially.
2. Does Florida use its wider line splits and if so, what effect does that have on Terrence Cody's role in the game?
3. What do Alabama's first ten runs net? If there is a script for Alabama winning this game, it starts with the Tide offensive line dominating Florida's defensive front and the interior linemen consistently getting a helmet on Brandon Spikes.
4. Does Alabama get anything out of a receiver other than Julio Jones? The obvious defense to deploy against Alabama is eight in the box with the safety shading towards Jones. Has Bama been saving up something for Marquis Maze for this game?
5. How do the Alabama safeties tackle? Florida has been so good on offense this year because it has three skill players - Harvin, Demps, and Rainey - who turn small gains into huge gains. Bama will not let them run free as much as other defenses have, but when they get to the second level, tackling will be critical. Bama has excellent safeties, so they might be able to corral the quarks in ways that other teams have not.
6. Does Bama throw a series of new blitzes at Florida in an effort to confuse the Florida offensive line? Saban has had weeks to dream up new ways to attack the Gators. Miami had some defensive success against Florida after Randy Shannon spent the summer preparing for the game. This Florida offense is better than the Florida offense from September because the line has gelled and the Gators have found tailbacks. Do Bama's new blitzes out of the 3-4 put pressure on Tebow?