Best thing for the Florida Gators to play in Alabama? They have the chance to take on the tallest tree in the whole forest, taking stock of what they have against a well-stocked roster of well-trained soccer players.
The worst thing for Florida about playing in Alabama is the same.
That’s what all the clichÃ©s are for: the heavyweight fight, the feeling of a big fight, the showdown, the all-in, empty the tank, press the pedal. This is what we have all been waiting for. That would be the best reason for the championship mode siren Florida had on a soccer field during my tenure as manager of the Alligator Army.
And yet I think Florida is going to lose. Maybe play well, maybe perform beautifully, maybe even scare Alabama – but lose.
Florida has two quarterbacks who can do good things – one of which seems like a threat to land their jaws with every snap via inspiration from sheer disbelief – and good players around them. He has great coaches no matter what everyone on Twitter thinks of Todd Grantham or John Hevesy on any given day. He’ll have a seemingly insane crowd on his side for this game, which will turn The Swamp into a scorching, bubbling cauldron of humanity that might give even the well-traveled Alabama band a few moments of doubt.
Alabama are favored by two touchdowns – on the road – for good reason.
Florida has fended off two foes who plan to convince players who would never sniff an Alabama offer to come to their recruiting prowess programs. He made tasty displays of the vanilla offensive against these outclassed teams, but also saw Emory Jones malfunction on several occasions; Anthony Richardson, for all his overflowing potential, is still so inexperienced that playing him extensively against Alabama could be professional misconduct. His defense largely played down big plays and was successful in some situations, but also gave up significant distances and made mistakes that did not prove to be massively debilitating thanks to opposing offenses that went wrong on their own.
Alabama broke Miami – today seen fighting Michigan State – and may have returned from one of the best seasons in college football history as a team half a step slower than last year’s juggernaut.
I’ve written a lot about the difference between hope and faith for fans in this space, and Tim Tebow – understandably – being the only person on ESPN. GameDay College or the SEC network SEC country picking the Gators to win today made me think again. Hope, I think, should be eternal or near for the fans; hope is the cornerstone of why any fan turns on any game any day and roots, because hope doesn’t need rationality to survive. If a team is utterly desperate and their fans are utterly desperate, the whole system has failed.
But faith is hope plus belief, hope plus reasoning or intuition or advice. Faith knows that Tebow would go through defenders or that no one could touch Percy Harvin or that Steve Spurrier wouldn’t let Danny Wuerffel wince at the echo of the whistle twice in six weeks.
Hope is what I will have forever. Faith is what Florida seeks to restore in fans ahead of games like these by achieving parity with the best versions of the best programs – Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio state, Oklahoma – in college football.
Faith is at stake today. Hope is what makes fans roar, no matter what.
I think Florida can do enough to instill some faith. But I am not worried about my hope.
Here are 10 predictions for Florida’s meeting with Alabama:
- Emory Jones will be throwing more passes than Anthony Richardson.
- Richardson will count for several plays over 20 yards.
- Florida won’t gain 200 rushing yards.
- Florida will score more than three offensive touchdowns.
- No Florida receiver will exceed 100 yards on reception.
- The Florida defense will force a three-and-out in the first half.
- Florida will allow more yards per carry than Alabama.
- Florida will not impose more than one turnover in defense.
- Florida will lead at some point in the game.
- Alabama will beat Florida, 38-24.