As a part of SEC Championship Game week, we're taking a look at Alabama's and Florida's common opponents in alphabetical order. Now up: Kentucky.
|3rd Down Def.||4-13||3-16|
First, I just have to say poor Kentucky. The Wildcats had to play these two teams in back-to-back weeks. Someone who works on the SEC scheduling must not like UK.
Anyway, Alabama played the Wildcats a week after dispatching Arkansas with ease, but this one wasn't quite as much of a cakewalk as the game against the Hogs was. Kentucky hung in there for most of the first half, with Lones Seiber kicking a field goal as the first period expired to pull within a point at 7-6. The score remained there for the next 14:20 on the game clock, but Alabama scored 14 points in the half's final 40 seconds on a TD pass and a fumble return. Five minutes into the second half Alabama had scored another 14, and that was that for UK.
Florida was just coming off of its tough game with Tennessee, and the Gators were ticked off about hearing how they had not beaten the Vols by enough. Thanks in part to that, they actually one-upped their 28-0 first quarter in 2008's game by scoring 31 unanswered in the first 15 minutes. The Gators pretty much coasted after that, content to let the defense win the season's first road game. This one will always be remembered, though, as the game where Tim Tebow got a concussion.
It's quite telling that Alabama got 24 of its 38 points on short fields (38 yards or less from the end zone) thanks to turnovers or on the fumble return. Rich Brooks is a good defensive mind who knows how to stop pro-style defenses, and with Greg McElroy starting his October implosion, the Tide had just two sustained scoring drives. The 'Cats weren't a great matchup for Alabama in that respect. That Bama was able to run away with this one is a testament to the strength of the defense as it didn't just stifle UK for most of the game, but it set the table for the offense on several occasions.
Florida got a couple easy scores too, one on a 38 yard field after a punt and one on a blocked punt recovered in the end zone, but the Gators also had four scoring drives of 58 yards or longer. In this one, they played to their offensive strength—running option with their talented running backs and Tebow—more than any other game. As a result, the offense looked better in this one than against all other BCS conference foes. Tebow and John Brantley combined for 16 pass attempts versus 52 rushes on the ground. Five different Gators had five or more carries, and all but one (Chris Rainey at 4.0) had at least 6.5 yards per carry.
It seems somewhat futile comparing these two teams based on their performances against a 7-5 outfit, but four of the teams' seven common opponents were 7-5 squads with only LSU a better team. Both division champs ended up winning handily and for different reasons, but when one of them rolls up a 31-0 first quarter lead while the other was mired at 7-6 after the same span, it's fairly simple to call this one.
Better performance: Florida.