Alabama Crimson Tide (12-0 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs. Florida Gators (8-2 SU, 4-5-1 ATS)
College Football Week 14
SEC Championship Game
Date/Time: Saturday, December 3, 2016 at 4PM EST
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: ALA -24/FLA +24
Over/Under Total: 40
In the SEC Championship Game, the unbeaten and top-ranked defending champion Alabama Crimson Tide take on the Florida Gators at the Georgia Dome. The 12-0 Crimson Tide are looking to defend their CFP title and only Florida stands in their way, though they could lose this game and still get in. Don't look for 'Bama to be thinking that way, as they look to notch up the conference title against the team they beat last season, 29-15, in this very spot. Florida was the champion of the far-lesser East Division again this season, where they went 6-2 in conference and 8-3 overall. The number is pretty big, but Alabama has shown themselves to be adept at covering big numbers this season and look to do so again on Saturday.
Florida doesn't exactly hit this spot with a head of steam after a 31-13 loss to in-state rivals FSU on Saturday. A few weeks before that, they lost by 21 to Arkansas, with a loss to Tennessee being their other setback on the season. They have scored wins over Georgia and LSU, among others this season. An 8-3 season isn't really bad for this team and they did what they had to do to get to this spot. But make no mistake, they're really up against it this week. Last season's game was competitive for a while, with Alabama struggling in spots on offense. But it was 29-7 late in the last quarter, before Florida added a late TD with a two-pointer to perhaps make it look a little closer than it really was.
Florida relies heavily on defense and flexes the 6th-ranked unit in the nation. They have been one of the toughest teams in the country to throw against and they've given up just over 14 points a game on average. Seven times this season, they have given up ten or fewer points. It's a defense that has outscored opposing offenses this season on occasion. And they have a bunch of different guys who have a knack at getting after the QB. In the secondary, Teez Tabor has been a key playmaker, but they have a lot of guys that make plays. It's just disconcerting that they were in such bad form in the game leading into this, with Florida State having things a little too easy against this bunch on Saturday.
If only Florida had a solid offense, the defense could really be special. Alas, with 59 combined points of scoring in their last 4 games, the offense has been pretty lukewarm and isn't getting much better. After losing Luke Del Rio after a promising start to the season, they put the offense in the hands of Austin Appleby. He hasn't been bad, but it's not a very exciting group. Their aerial flair is minimal, led by Antonio Callaway. No receiver on this team has more than two touchdowns. Their run-game isn't much better with Jordan Scarlett leading the team with 778 yards and 6 scores. There are no real playmakers on this offense and they're averaging 24 points a game. It's a part of the team that looks to be getting worse. At the same time, when a team is 8-3 with such little offensive production, they deserve a hard look. After all, they're doing something right.
Alabama was pretty thorough in a 30-12 win over Auburn on Saturday. Counting on a letdown here could be a miscalculation. Look for Saban and Company to be gunning for a win even if they don't necessarily need it. There have been times where they didn't need to be at their best, but they usually were or close to it, as they're 8-4 ATS record would attest, even as they've missed covering the last two games.
The 'Bama defense is the top-ranked group in the country. They are first in total yards allowed, rushing defense, and points allowed with a scant 11.4 points per game. And when it comes to making plays, the Tide defense is among the best in the nation, as well. It's not easy to forecast the Florida offense thriving against this bunch. Not many teams can get after the passer like Alabama can. And they can score points with the best of them. Tim Williams gets after the passer, as does Ryan Anderson and Jonathan Allen. They lost a key piece of personnel a few weeks ago with playmaking Eddie Jackson suffering a leg injury. But they are so deep on defense and special teams that they're able to bridge gaps like that.
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The 'Bama offense averages nearly 40 points a game and has gotten a great first season of starts from QB Jalen Hurts, with 2425 yards passing and 20 TDs. He has also run for 840 yards on the ground with 12 touchdowns. Their rushing-attack is among the best and deepest in the country, With Hurts, they also have a trio of backs that have made nice contributions with Damien Harris, Joshua Jacobs, and Bo Scarsborough. Through the air, Hurts connects nicely with Calvin Ridley, ArDarius Stewart, and TE OJ Howard. There is a lot of room on this offense for a lot of players to succeed, with the Tide able to put up points in a variety of ways—offense, defense, and special teams.
This is a toughie, with the spread likely to come into play. And it's a tough spread, with a case able to be made for either team ATS. Florida has a good enough defense and kept 'Bama close for enough of the game last season to warrant a hard look. And Alabama could be caught looking ahead a bit this week, which might be a problem with such a jumbo-sized point spread. The Alabama offense is not likely to thrive against this group, but they will score points. Can Florida hit the scoreboard even a few times against this defense? It's going to be close, but I like Florida to cover the big number,
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Florida Gators plus 24 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Crimson Tide vs. Gators game by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!