This Saturday, the Florida Gators (8-3) will be taking on the Alabama Crimson Tide (12-0) for the second year in a row down in Atlanta, Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. And once again, the Tide are heavy favorites to walk out of the Georgia Dome with the trophy.
Looking at the matchup, the Gators certainly possess the defense to put up a battle to hang with the Tide. But while the defense has been tremendous for the Gators, their offense has been lackluster to say the least. And come Saturday, Florida will need its offense to come alive if it wants any chance at dethroning Alabama.
Coming into this game, the Gators have failed to score at least 25 or more points in six of their last seven games, and they are coming off of a mere 205-yard performance against Florida State.
Entering the SEC Championship Game, Florida's offense averages 352.7 yards per game, which ranks 114th nationally in total offense. Now, despite possessing an uninspiring unit, the Gators do have a deep running back stable. Jordan Scarlett leads a group of four running backs that average a combined 4.6 yards per carry. Scarlett currently posts a team-best mark of 5.1. However, the Gators' passing game has been the biggest weakness. They are averaging 211.1 yards per game through the air, which ranks 86th in the country.
The Gators' quarterback situation has been in flux all year long. Starting signal caller Luke Del Rio has been injured off and on this season. Del Rio's backup, Austin Appleby has played well, but is coming off a 149-yard performance against the Seminoles in which he completed just 54.3 percent of his passes, and isn't inspiring much confidence either.
During this game against Alabama, Appleby will be Florida's starter, as Del Rio is still banged up. However, if Appleby were to get knocked out of the contest, Del Rio could come in for a few plays. But freshman signal caller Feleipe Franks would likely become the Gators starter.
While the Florida offense has struggled to generate yards and points, they have also struggled on third down. The Gators rank 60th in the country on third down conversions, as they have amassed a conversion rate of just 41.6 percent. That mark is decent, but their struggles in this department have been apparent in their three losses.
Against Tennessee, Florida converted on six of its 16 third downs. Then in their second loss, the Gators were even worse as they only convert on one of their 11 third downs in the loss to Arkansas. But, in Florida's third loss to Florida State, they proved to be even worse. Against the Seminoles, the Gators failed to convert on all 12 of their third down attempts.
Currently, Alabama is playing well on offense. The Tide racked up 500-plus yards against a talented Auburn defense. Alabama is loaded with playmakers on every level of the unit (Calvin Ridley, ArDarius Stewart, Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough, O.J. Howard, etc.) which could result in some trouble for Florida.
Both team possess stout defenses, which means points could be hard to come by on Saturday in Atlanta. Only five teams have scored a touchdown against Alabama this season, and when you add in how the Tide's offense has been rolling as of late, it may give people a reason to believe that they could generate a substantial amount of points even against a defensive unit like the Gators have.
So if the Gators want any sort of chance to knock off Alabama in the SEC Championship, they will need their offense to come alive and to produce their best outing of the year.