30 September 2011
The Alabama football team wrapped up its week of practice for the Flordia Gators on Thursday. Bama will have a brief walk through before flying to Ocala on Friday.
Here's what you need to know:
C.J. Mosley will not play. Coach Saban had been playing things pretty close to the vest all week, but he finally announced during "Hey Coach!" on Thursday night that C.J. will miss the game due to the elbow injury that forced him out of last Saturday's game against Arkansas.
Nico Johnson is the guy directly behind C.J. on the depth chart, but given Bama's use of multiple personnel packages, he isn't likely to play much in the same role that C.J. has been used in. In fact, last Saturday we saw Trey DePriest play some in that role in the nickel defense. When Bama went to the dime, Dont'a Hightower moved back to the middle and Adrian Hubbard replaced Hightower on the outside. Florida has a unique set of skill players, so Bama will likely go with something a little different than putting a 260 lb. guy in the middle this weekend. Vinnie Sunseri took some reps with the middle linebackers on Monday, and that could give us some idea as to how Bama will play things.
No update was given on the health of Eddie Lacy, which means he is probably set to go. He sprained a toe against Arkansas, and was limited a bit during Monday and Tuesday's practices. He was running full speed on Wednesday, so he should be fine to fill his normal role as "battering ram #2" for the Tide offense. If he is a bit banged up, we will likely see a combination of Jalston Fowler and Christion Jones taking the extra snaps. We will also likely just see more of Trent Richardson.
Otherwise the Tide is in pretty good shape health wise. It's not simply a matter of dealing with the first SEC road test of the season.
Florida is strong on defense. Any team coached by Will Muschamp is going to be strong on that side of the ball, but the Gators are especially strong on the defensive front. Bama will have to have consistent play from its offensive line in order to give Trent some lanes to run in. The Gators are 5th in the nation against the run, and that's not a fluke. Their defensive line is possibly the best in the country. For good measure, they also lead the SEC in sacks.
The good news for Bama is that the Florida offense, while explosive, is still in transition mode. Florida is trying to make the change to a pro-style offense, complete with Charlie Weiss as its coordinator. Florida does have incredible players at the skill positions, but the offensive line is still made up of players that were recruited and conditioned to play in the spread offense. Guys like Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps will make enough plays over the course of the season to keep Florida very competitive. But in a game against a big, tough defense that also has the speed to contain the skill position players, Florida simply isn't built right to succeed.
And Bama has that exact type of defense. The loss of Mosley is a big one. He is an extremely versatile linebacker, and Bama will have to quickly identifty how to replace him. Rainey and Demps are two of the ten fastest guys in college football, so a mistake on one play can resulte in an easy six points. When playing in a hostile environment like "The Swamp", you can not afford to give up one of those big plays early.
If Bama can avoid that, and play the type of ball control game that it wants, things should go similarly to how they went at Penn State. Florida is far more talented and capable on offense than Penn State (who isn't?), but the Gators simply lack the personnel to match up with Bama's defense at this point in their transition from Urban spread to Weiss pro-style. If Florida is able to hit a big play early to get a quick touchdown, this will be a boxing match. If not, look for Bama to keep the Gators at arm's length and win by two touchdowns.