The SEC Championship Game was the last conference game of the regular season, so it deserves a full Five Factors of winning review. It's sort of an odd thing to go over because it both is and isn't ambiguous. It isn't because the Tide was clearly the better team throughout, but it is because it was just a few small tweaks away from either being a far closer game or a far larger blowout.
This review leaves out Alabama's run-out-the-clock drives at the end of each half, and all sacks count as pass plays.
|Team||Runs 10+||Pct.||Passes 20+||Pct.||Explosive Pct.|
Neither defense allowed much in the way of big plays, even though there were a few memorable ones that made it seem like there were more than there actually were.
Florida's offense basically didn't move the ball if not for explosive (or near-explosive) plays. The Gators ran just 45 plays against the Tide. The seven longest were a 23-yard scramble by Harris and pass completions of 46, 46, 18, 18, 17, and 15 yards, respectively. Those plays combined for 183 total yards. The Gators' 38 other plays netted -3 yards. Yikes.
|Team||Run SR||Pass SR||Overall SR||Red Zone SR|
Florida's offense was brutal in the bad way, while Alabama's defense was brutal in the good way. UF never ran a single play from the red zone, while the only other single digit success rate I can recall was the 5% UGA's passing game put up against the Tide.
Meanwhile, UF's defense did a good job at keeping Bama to an average success rate. The red zone SR is an indicator of how the Gator D was able to stymie some drives early, something that kept things from getting too out of hand.
|Team||1Q SR||2Q SR||3Q SR||4Q SR|
Florida ran ten plays in the second quarter and just five in the third. And yet despite the Gator offense giving absolutely no help to the defense whatsoever, it was only a two-score game at 22-7 through three frames. If UF had even a mediocre offense, it could've been in position to win at the end. Maybe.
Efficiency by Player
|Player||Comp. Pct.||Pass Eff.||Yards/Att||Sacks||Pass SR|
It was clear last year even when he was a freshman that Harris wasn't destined to be a top tier SEC quarterback. He's too short, his arm isn't strong enough, he's not fast enough at making decisions, and he's too inaccurate. The Citrus Bowl likely will be the last game he starts at Florida, as even before Will Grier's PED suspension ends, he'll probably get passed up by Oregon State transfer Luke Del Rio. UF will also get four-star commit Feleipe Franks in as an early enrollee in January provided he doesn't flip anywhere, and it's trying to get five-star QB Jacob Eason away from UGA as well (though it's unclear how serious Eason is about changing his mind). I anticipate Harris will end up transferring sooner or later to the FCS level, where he can probably find a place he can excel.
Coker's stats look better than it felt like he did during the game. It's probably because UF's defensive front harassed him a fair amount, but the two sacks aside, he did a pretty great job of dealing with that pressure. His scrambling gave the Gators trouble, and his 32-yard TD pass to ArDarius Stewart came from him stepping up in the pocket to avoid a sack. This wasn't his near-flawless game against Georgia, but it was still one of his best performances of the year.
Harris didn't do these guys any favors with some of his throws, but during that five-play third quarter, two of the plays were drops (Goolsby, Robinson).
Ridley and Stewart were a tremendous 1-2 punch, but no one else made much of a difference outside of Mullaney's great touchdown catch (on an even better throw from Coker). Drake was clearly limited by his cast, while Howard's disappearing act from the past two years continued with his one target being a heinous drop on his part.
You may remember the end of the Iron Bowl review where I played off of Hugh Freeze's advice of not trying to run up the middle on the Tide and found that Auburn did far better on outside than inside runs. Well, the Gators eight inside runs went for 20 yards (2.0 YPC) with a success rate of 0%. That's bad. Their three outside runs went for -4 yards (-1.3 YPC) and, of course, a success rate of 0%. That's worse. Harris had five scrambles on called pass plays for 35 yards, but one of those went for 23 and was the only success run in the game.
This counts as doing a great job at defending Henry (the missing carries you're looking for are tossed out for being in run-out-the-clock drives, remember). Twelve of his runs catalogued here went for no more than a single yard. This is about as good as anyone does against him, but he still ended up with a ton of yards because Lane Kiffin and Nick Saban are content to put an enormous load on his considerable shoulders.
|Team||Avg. Starting Position||Plays in Opp. Territory||Pct. Of Total|
Further evidence in favor of Florida's defense having a great game is this enormous field position edge in Bama's favor not turning into a 30+ point win.
A trip inside the 40 is a drive with a first down at the 40 or closer or a long scoring play from beyond. A red zone trip is a drive with a first down at the 20 or closer.
|Team||Drives||Trips Inside 40||Points||Red Zone Trips||Points|
This is the primary place where Florida's defense gets its credit. It was a bit bend-but-don't-breaky, but it it really only broke twice—Ridley's 55-yard reception between two defenders that set up a short Henry TD run, and Stewart's 32-yard TD grab between three defenders. Otherwise, the Tide had to work hard for what it got. Bama had drives of 13 and 11 plays, respectively, that ended up as field goal attempts, and the 39-yard field it got after Harris's interception also became a field goal attempt.
The teams each turned it over once: Henry fumbled it away in the first half, while Harris tossed a pick in the second. Alabama also got a pair of turnover-like plays in the punt block for a safety and a field goal block.
Florida had two golden opportunities for turnovers slip away early. Coker fumbled while being sacked near midfield on his team's first drive, but he managed to recover it. His next pass after that play, which was from his own 38, went incomplete but should've been picked off. Those were missed chances for Florida to get a try at some easy points.
It doesn't take much to imagine a closer outcome. If Florida had Will Grier in this game rather than Harris, its offense probably would have worked better to some degree. If it had gotten those two early turnover opportunities, it could've gotten some more points to go with Callaway's punt return TD that may have gotten Bama out of its game plan early too.
Even so, I still don't think the Gators would have won because of its offensive line. We've well chronicled this year just how bad of shape Will Muschamp left that unit. One of the key stopgaps was getting two-time FCS All-American Mason Halter as a graduate transfer, and he started all year at right tackle. Well, Alabama abused him all night long, particularly with speed rushers just running right by him. Two true freshman started on the line too. Against Bama's NFL-lite front seven, Florida's offense didn't have much of a shot.
And, of course, it's easy to imagine a larger margin of victory for the Tide. Most obviously, the game ended with the offense four yards away from another touchdown. Beyond that, the one offensive touchdown that the Gators got was a crazy jump ball situation that came after the game was well in hand. Nine times out of ten, that end zone heave gets knocked down or picked.
The game was a reminder of just how far out in front of a team like Florida that Alabama is this year. It also was a reminder of just how good a job Jim McElwain did this year. He had a small margin of error thanks to how thin his team was in many key spots, and he took advantage of all opportunities before that margin vanished in mid-October. Sometimes the difference between a good and bad coaching job is just making things that could go either way to go your way, and McElwain did it. Just getting to the game was an accomplishment, as was covering the 17-point spread with that offense against a squad as good as Alabama is.
The game also confirmed that the Crimson Tide is the class of the conference, but you knew that already.