The 25th Anniversary addition of the SEC title game was weird to say the least. The Florida Gators who could score on no one took their first drive down the throat of the nations best defense that had not allowed a touchdown since October. Florida unlike the rest of the teams we have played recently determined that they just had to throw the ball come hell or high water and their quarterback though not particular accomplished did manage to string together some nice throws with some weird formation shifts and get the score. Alabama adjusted and soon turned their high risk game plan on it’s head taking three quick interceptions one of which ended in a pick six. Florida only got one more score in the game thanks to Alabama losing it’s third leading tackler for the year in Shawn Dion Hamilton. His replacement Rashaan Evans is great against the run game but not so good at knowing the pass coverage. His blown coverage led to the second touchdown but pretty soon Alabama just put their foot down with the run game and crushed the life out of Florida.
The Hamilton injury is going to require adjustments. Alabama has not faced many eliete passing games this season and they are about to face the best of the best in the playoffs. Evans is one of the most athletic linebackers we have so if they can get him in the right posisitons he can be effective but their is a reason he was second string. With some extra practice some may wonder if they would see some of freshman Lyndell Wilson in this game who brings an unholy amount of pain when he arrives at a ball carrier. Sophmore Keith Holcombe is a smart, nasty player who may also get a chance to play here.
Questions remain as to wether offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will be with the team for the playoff run should he take another job. There are also questions about the availability of backup quarterback Cooper Bateman who will be a senior transfer next season. Not only would that leave only David Cornwell as the backup quarterback, who has never thrown a college pass, but he is the place kicker holder as well. If you don’t understand how critical this is, just imagine losing a national championship because you can’t kick an extra point. I can’t fathom a player EVER leaving two games short of a national title. I just can’t. but we have learned this year allready that players don’t always show the loyalty that you would expect. I hope this is not the case for Bateman. We will find out in the coming weeks how all this will pan out.
First up is Washington. Washington is a solid team with a high powered offense. Because Alabama’s run defense is probably going to shut down their running game I’m going to focus on their passing offense which is ranked 24th nationally. They fall in between Ole Miss and Arkansas in passing ability statistically. This doesn’t give me warm fuzzy feelings since Ole Miss passed for 421 yards and Arkansas passed for 400. The most yardage their quarterback Jake Browning has had in a top 20 game is 292 yards against Washington State.
They have some wide recivers who are going to be a bear to deal with, especially John Ross who is extremely fast and has over a thousand yards receiving. The problem Washington has is that their quarterbacks accuracy drops dramatically if you force him out of the pocket. They don’t necessarily have to sack him, just move him from his spot. Alabama could negate their biggest advantage if they can get quick penetration off the edge. The two other quarterbacks we played and had issues with were very good when on the move, Ross is not.
Defensively Washington rates out pretty good in total defense but they have not played the best schedule. Their run defense isn’t bad but Alabama has already crushed better run defenses already so I expect Alabama will run on them when the decide to. Their biggest strength is the secondary where they have perhaps four players who will be in the NFL. Alabama will want to be cautious here with a freshman quarterback going against some seasoned west coast talent. Alabama might want to consider taking the brakes off the running game and just let them hammer Washington a little more than normal. I would hate to see Hurts tossing picks to these defensive backs.
Washington is notorious for scoring on first drives. They almost always thow some weird stuff out there that is new. Don’t be surprised to see Alabama fall behind early in this game. The question is can they stand toe to toe with Alabama for four quarters?