(18) Florida Gators vs (2) Alabama Crimson Tide (-17.5, 40 o/u)
When the first set of College Football Playoff rankings came out this year, many disputed whether a one-loss Alabama team should have been in the top-four, ahead of undefeateds like Baylor, TCU, and Michigan State. But the Selection Committee has proved prophetic as the Crimson Tide (11-1, 7-1 SEC) have rattled off four straight wins since then while the crop of unbeatens has been whittled to just two (no. 1 Clemson and no. 4 Iowa). This weekend, Nick Saban’s crew will look to secure their spot in the all important top-four when they face the East Division champion Florida Gators (10-2, 7-1 SEC) in the SEC title game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta (4:00 PM Eastern).
Alabama has an impressive four wins over ranked opponents this year. Three of those teams – Georgia, Texas A&M, and Mississippi State – have since fallen outside the top-25 (leaving just LSU). But there’s no denying the impressive nature of Alabama’s current nine-game win-streak, which has seen them rout Georgia (38-10), Mississippi State (31-6), and the Aggies (41-23) all on the road.
The Tide also took care of business against the Auburn Tigers in the Iron Bowl last week, behind tailback and Heisman Trophy frontrunner Derrick Henry, who ran for 271 yards and a score.
Henry will be the main focus for the Gators’ stalwart defense this weekend.
“He can make a difference in any ballgame. He’s definitely a difference maker. We’ve got our work cut out for trying to jump on his back and slow him down,” Gators coach Jim McElwain said.
Florida suffered just its second loss of the season last weekend, 27-2 to Florida State. The Gators defense played decently, holding the Noles to just 304 total yards, but the offense was non-existent, mustering only 262 yards of its own and failing to get near the end zone all game. Against an Alabama defense that surrenders a paltry 14.3 PPG, Florida QB Treon Harris could be in for another long day.
In all likelihood, the Gators will have to win the turnover battle – and set the offense up with some short fields – if they’re going to knock off Bama. That’s not out of the realm of possibility; Florida has 25 takeaways on the year (compared to 23 for the Tide). But the Tide have only turned the ball over twice in the last three games, and Henry is excellent at protecting the rock.
In the trends, Alabama has dominated the head-to-head of late, going 8-1 ATS in their last nine against the Gators. The Tide are also 4-1 ATS in their last five conference games. The spread is a massive 17.5 at the moment, but this looks like a very bad matchup for Florida, who will struggle to put any points on the board.
Pick: Alabama -17.5.
(Photo credit: arctic_whirlwind (flickr) “opening kickoff” [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/legalcode].):
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