Alabama football vs. Florida Gators: Scouting report, score prediction
Alabama football has nothing short of a challenging environment awaiting in the first conference matchup of the season.
The top-ranked Crimson Tide is set to face its first SEC opponent on the road; Alabama will square off with No. 9 Florida at 2:30 p.m. CT on Saturday in Gainesville.
It’s Alabama’s first trip to the place known as The Swamp in a decade.
“Going to The Swamp is always something a kid dreams of while playing in the SEC,” said safety Jordan Battle, who grew up in Florida. “The Swamp is probably one of the greatest stadiums in history. It’s going to be fun playing there.”
Here’s what you need to know about the Gators heading into a pivotal matchup for the Crimson Tide:
Battling two quarterbacks in a quarterback battle
Who Alabama faces at quarterback and when will be interesting to track. Florida coach Dan Mullen said Emory Jones remains the starter, but the coach also said UF will continue to use two quarterbacks, with redshirt freshman Anthony Richardson joining Jones.
“Both quarterbacks, using the two-quarterback system, are very capable passers as well as making plays with their feet,” Nick Saban said Monday, “whether it’s quarterback runs, play-action passes, whatever.”
Richardson has made the most of his playing time; he threw three passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns against South Florida. Richardson also ran four times for 115 yards.
Richardson is recovering from a hamstring injury but practiced this week.
Jones also has two touchdown passes, but he’s thrown 49 total passes and those two touchdowns came over the course of two games. Jones also has thrown four interceptions over that span. Richardson hasn’t thrown any passes to the opposing team, but he only has 11 attempts.
Offensive player to watch: WR Jacob Copeland
Long passes were a problem at times for Alabama while defending Florida in the 2020 SEC Championship Game. The Crimson Tide will want to slow down a guy such as Jacob Copeland to ensure that doesn’t happen again.
Against South Florida, Copeland caught not one but two deep passes that resulted in touchdowns. One went for 75 and another for 41.
“They've just got good players,” Saban said. “Their offensive line is improved and better this year, playing better in my opinion. That's why they're like second in the nation in rushing, which is going to be a real challenge for us, and then not allowing big plays when you're trying to stop the run.”
Defensive player to watch: CB Kaiir Elam
Alabama receivers will likely have their hands full whenever they’re matched up with junior cornerback Kaiir Elam. He’s one of the best in the SEC, and he received recognition coming into the year as an AP All-America second-team selection.
He’s already off to a solid start with his first interception of the season coming against South Florida.
In 2020, Elam tallied 39 total tackles, two interceptions, 11 pass breakups and one fumble recovery. Those efforts earned him a spot on the coaches All-SEC first team and the AP All-SEC second team.
Whether he’s across from John Metchie III, Jameson Williams or another receiver, keep an eye on the junior cornerback.
Score prediction: Alabama 34, Florida 23
Nick Saban’s dissatisfaction with his team before and after the Mercer game is well-documented. The Crimson Tide takes that to heart and responds with a strong performance on the road against the Gators.
Richardson ends up being the more effective quarterback against Alabama, but the Crimson Tide scores enough points to make the two-quarterback situation less relevant.
Contact Alabama football reporter Nick Kelly: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly