Alabama & Florida Common Opponents: Conclusion

As a part of SEC Championship Game week, we've been taking a look at Alabama's and Florida's common opponents in alphabetical order. Here are the posts for each: Arkansas, FIU, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

It's been three days and now eight posts, and where do we stand? The tally of better performances came out in Florida's favor 4-3, but the tiebreaker in the Gators' favor is FIU. I said it then and I'll say it again now: FIU is not a real measuring stick for these teams. In that sense, the two of them tied the better performance competition 3-3.

Here's a look at the combined stats of the teams against all common opponents. The FIU results are left out, leaving the six SEC opponents the Tide and Gators shared.

Alabama Florida Difference
Points For 160 153 BAMA +7
Points Allowed 61 76 BAMA -15
Passing Yards 1119 963 BAMA +156
Rushing Yards 1166 1288 UF +122
Total Yards 2285 2251 BAMA +34
Passing All. 1095 837 UF -258
Rushing All. 545 555 BAMA -10
Total Defense 1640 1392 UF -248
Turnover Margin +5 -1 BAMA +6

Across the six games, Alabama outscored Florida by a touchdown while allowing about two touchdowns fewer. Alabama accrued many more passing yards, but Florida gained a lot more rushing yards than Alabama did. Florida's passing defense was much, much tighter, while rushing defense was roughly even. Alabama was also much better in taking care of the ball.

When you look at these numbers in a per game light though, the differences are much less pronounced. Alabama scored 1.17 more points and allowed 2.5 fewer points per game. Alabama got 26 more passing yards a game, but Florida rushed for 20.33 more yards per game. The largest difference, Florida's edge in passing defense, comes out to a noticeable 43 yards per game average, while Bama's rush defense edge comes out to only 1.67 yards per game. The decided turnover advantage Alabama has is just +1 per game.

So after all that, is the conclusion that these teams are basically even? For the most part, yes. Is there nothing to pull out of this 72 hour study? No.

The total offense numbers are essentially a wash, as are the point totals since they're about a field goal per game apart. Let's set those aside.

The interesting thing is the defense and turnovers. Florida has a big advantage in pass defense, largely thanks to having a secondary with at least four future NFL players in it (Joe Haden, Janoris Jenkins, Major Wright, and Will Hill). Some of that can be attributed to the pass rush too, but that's taken a hit with Carlos Dunlap's suspension. I don't think the loss of Dunlap will take Florida's advantage away entirely because as I said, UF is stacked in the backfield.

The other big one is the turnovers. Over all games, Bama is +15 (25 gained, 10 lost) in the turnover department, while Florida is just +8 (23 gained, 15 lost). Based on the common opponents and the overall season as a whole, it's reasonable to expect the Crimson Tide to have the turnover advantage in this game.

When you've got two teams that are as closely matched as these two, turnovers are critical. If they can bridge the gap between a great team and a merely good one (see: Florida-Ole Miss 2008, Florida-Arkansas 2009, etc), they can be a decisive factor between teams on an even level.

If Florida's pass defense can be as smothering as usual, it will force Alabama to have to run to win. Running to win probably suits Nick Saban fine, but Florida's run defense is on par with Alabama's (which is to say, it's really good). If UF can make Bama a one dimensional team, then it bodes very well. On the other hand, that advantage in pass coverage can be nullified with the Tide's superior play in regards to turnovers.

It should be a classic on Saturday, and this year's common opponents have given us two storylines to watch: Florida's pass defense, and Alabma's turnover prowess.

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