The SEC isn’t waiting to serve up a top matchup. In the third week of the season, top-ranked Alabama will get tested with a trip to the Swamp to take on No. 11 Florida in a rematch of last season’s SEC Championship Game. Alabama is dealing with some key injuries, while the Gators have to make a choice at quarterback. Let's see the NCAAF odds.
Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Florida Gators
Saturday, September 18, 2021 - 03:30 PM EDT at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
The SEC always seems to deliver top matchups, and it’s not waiting very long to drop off its first package of the 2021 season. In just the third week, we’ll see top-ranked Alabama get a huge test as the Crimson Tide heads to the Swamp to take on the No. 11 Florida Gators.
The Tide has looked business-as-usual unbeatable, dominating Miami in Atlanta to start the season and blowing out an overmatched Mercer team in Week Two. Florida has also looked dominant, blowing out Florida Atlantic at home and South Florida on the road to set up the showdown with Bama.
Alabama is No. 1 in the country and unbeaten, but the Tide is clearly not invincible. Several players have gone down to injury, including both starting outside linebackers. Christopher Allen fractured his foot against Miami and is likely out for the year. Last week, fellow OLB Will Anderson left the game after taking a helmet to the knee against Mercer. The preseason All-American is questionable for this week.
“Checking out his knee,” was the only status update coach Nick Saban gave on Anderson. Alabama also played last week without both starting cornerbacks. Josh Jobe and Jalyn Armour-Davis missed the Mercer game with undisclosed injuries. “We didn’t think their injuries were that serious to start with,” Saban said, “but they were a little bit more serious than what we originally anticipated or thought they would be. They weren’t able to practice all week.”
Whatever was wrong with Jobe and Armour-Davis, they seem to be past it. “I think they should be back,” Saban said. On offense, the new starting quarterback has emerged as a star, but Saban is unhappy with the offense as a whole. “I think Bryce has played well in both games,” he said. “I keep saying this: how did the players around him play? That’s what I think we need to continue to improve on.” The line picked up several penalties, and Saban would like to see more production from the receiving corps.
Who’s the Man?
Florida coach Dan Mullen has a decision to make at quarterback. Redshirt junior Emory Jones has started both games this season and led the Gators to a pair of 20-plus point wins. He went 17-of-27 in the opener, throwing a touchdown pass and rushing for 75 yards. He followed that up last week with a 14-of-22 day for 151 yards, along with 81 yards and a 33-yard touchdown run on the ground.
Emory Jones #5 of the Florida Gators. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images/AFP
So, what’s the problem with an accurate-throwing dual-threat quarterback? The guy behind him is on the depth chart. Redshirt freshman Anthony Richardson has arrived with a splash. “I’m doing the same thing y’all (are) doing, just trying to see what exciting thing he’s going to do,” Jones said of his backup. Against FAU in the opener, Richardson had a 73-yard touchdown run and finished with 160 yards rushing, to go with 40 passing, topping Jones’ total offense yardage for the game in just 15 plays.
Last week, Richardson threw three passes, completing all of them, two for touchdowns, and gaining 152 yards, one more than Jones had in 22 passes. He also rushed four times for 115 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown run. Mullen has denied that there’s a decision to make—Jones is the starter—but it’s tough to keep an explosive talent like Richardson under wraps for much of the game.
He’ll need to perform a delicate balancing act to keep everyone happy. Complicating matters is the fact that Richardson was limping at the end of his 80-yard run. “He kind of had some tightness in his hamstring,” Mullen said. “He’ll do the treatment. We’ll see how he’ll do this week. We expect him to practice.” All the uncertainty will give Alabama a bit extra to prepare for this week.
No one gets rich picking Alabama to lose. The question isn’t whether or not the Tide will win outright, it’s by how much. And the line of more than two touchdowns seems excessive against a Florida team that can put up points in bunches, especially against a Bama defense that’s a little banged up. For your NCAAF picks, look for the Gators to keep it close enough to cover.
NCAAF Pick: (visit our Sportsbook Review)
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.