ATLANTA, Ga. – The 25th edition of the Southeastern Championship Game ended with the scoreboard leaning heavily towards the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Tide routed the University of Florida by a score of 54-16 to claim its third straight and 26th overall SEC title.
Alabama came into the game as heavy betting favorites. Most knew it would be an up-hill battle for the Gators, especially considering the amount of players that could not suit up because of injuries.
Even if Florida was 100% healthy, this game still may not have been close.
Florida simply did not have the formula to beat a Nick Saban-coached team. In years past, we have seen what it takes to knock off the Tide. It’s not a backup, pocket passer nor a heavy run game. It has been the hot-handed, dual-threat quarterback playing the game of his life, which Florida just did not have.
The game did, however, start off promising for Florida. The Gators received the opening kickoff and put together an impressive 10-play drive that would end with a pitch and catch from quarterback Austin Appleby to star receiver Antonio Callaway for seven points.
That score broke the Alabama defense’s 17-quarter streak of not giving up a touchdown.
It was time for the Tide to make Florida pay for the crime it committed.
Over the next three Florida possessions, Saban’s squad would get back to what it has been known for this season: forcing turnovers and non-offensive touchdowns.
Interceptions on back-to-back drives by Alabama’s defense led to 10 points. One of those interceptions was taken back 44 yards by Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick for his second pick-six of the season.
The next possession would be just as ugly for the Gators.
A blocked punt by the Tide was taken to the house by running back Joshua Jacobs giving Alabama its 14th non-offensive touchdown of the season.
Much like those possessions, the rest of contest would feature a dominant performance by the Alabama defense.
Florida, which has heavily relied on the run this season, would be shut down. In fact, the Gators finished the game without a single rushing yard and got shutout in the second half.
The Tide’s dominant defensive performance was anchored by linebacker and SEC Championship Game MVP Reuben Foster. Foster posted 11 tackles (nine which were solo), two sacks, and 2.5 tackles for loss. Foster seemed to be everywhere on the field Saturday afternoon.
Once the Tide defense gave its offense some breathing room, the Tide would not look back.
Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts was not much of a factor but he was what Bama needed in this game.
He was a game manager.
Hurts threw for a modest 138 yards and one TD, but more importantly avoided making mistakes like he had done in recent weeks.
The Tide relied on the running game for this win, especially in the second half. The majority of the carries were put on the shoulders of Bo Scarbrough. He finished the game as the leading rusher, but the rushing attack was a committee effort much like most of the season.
Alabama kept fresh legs behind Hurts all night. Six different players carried the rock for Bama for a combined 234 yards and four touchdowns. As the game went on, the Tide relied more and more on the run game and eventually wore down the beat-up Florida defense.
Things just did not add up for a Florida victory. Injuries, turnovers, bad special teams, zero rushing yards, and just above average quarterback play left the score board looking like many thought it would. Florida simply did not have the horses to keep up.
Alabama, however, would not leave the game unscathed. The Alabama defense took a major blow when linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton left the game with a knee injury. After the game, Saban said Hamilton will most likely miss the rest of the season. According to a family source, Hamilton is set to have a MRI done Sunday, Dec. 4. Hamilton’s injury could be costly considering the upcoming playoff run.
This game did not feature the fireworks and excitement that it usually does when these two teams face-off. There was no Tebow, Langham, or Mark Ingram. But once again, the winner of the SEC will have a chance to win a National Championship.
With the win over Florida, Alabama secured its spot as the number one seed in the College Football Playoff, and will be heavily favored regardless of the opponent.
The Tide’s next game will be in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve versus Washington.
Many have seen that popular insurance commercial featuring a gator ‘reaching’ for the check at the dinner table. The announcer says something to the effect: “If you have gator hands, you don’t reach for the check.” For Florida, it was a matter of: “When you have gator hands, and you can’t reach the SEC Championship (for the second year in a row).”
Jeremy Law for SylacaugaNews.com | © 2016, SylacaugaNews.com/Marble City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.