Saturday, December 19, 2020, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia. 8:10 p.m. ET
Crimson Tide vs. Gators Betting Preview: Crimson Tide (-17), Gators (+17)
Alabama’s Mac Jones enters the Southeastern Conference Championship Game as a strong Heisman Trophy contender despite a low-key performance (208 yards passing, no scores) in a 52-3 rout at Arkansas last week,
Jones’ numbers this season are video-game quality: 3,321 yards passing, 76.4 completion percentage, 27 touchdowns, three interceptions. They are a major reason for the overwhelming success of the No. 1 Crimson Tide (10-0, 10-0 SEC), whose closest game has been a 63-48 win at Ole Miss.
They have averaged nearly 50 points a game (49.5) while holding their opponents to under 17 (16.8).
While a cynic might say that throwing to the likes of DeVonta Smith and John Metchie — and handing off to Najee Harris — could make any quarterback productive, the fact is that the Tua Tagovailoa-led offense from last year has skipped zero beats with Jones running it.
The moniker “game manager” has been used to describe Jones, and he doesn’t disagree with it.
“Nothing is really offensive about it,” he told al.com. “I mean, I try to manage the game. It’s kind of my job to do that. Honestly, I have a lot of great players around me, so that’s my job – to get them the ball.”
Smith (83 catches, 1,327 yards, 15 touchdowns) and Metchie (40-720-6) have more than made up for the absence of big-play threat Jaylen Waddle, who was averaging 140 yards per game before suffering a season-ending injury while returning the opening kickoff Oct. 24 at Tennessee.
The Tide enters the title game averaging 49.5 points and 537.8 yards per game, No. 3 and No. 5 in the nation, respectively.
Harris has averaged 108.4 yards a game rushing with 22 touchdowns. He also has 27 receptions for 249 yards.
Marco Wilson’s thrown shoe was as much metaphor as cause.
Florida’s hopes of qualifying for the College Football Playoff were in peril before the defensive back heaved opposing tight end Kole Taylor’s footwear 20 yards downfield to celebrate a third-down stop late last week against heavy underdog LSU.
The ensuing 15-yard penalty kept alive a drive that ended in a 57-yard field goal with 23 seconds left and snapped a 34-34 tie. When the Gators’ Evan McPherson’s 51-yard field-goal attempt sailed wide as time expired, so had the Gators’ chances of playing for a national title with the 37-34 loss.
Without the national title in sight, the No. 7 Gators (8-2, 8-2 SEC) have to match up with top-ranked Alabama (10-0, 10-0 SEC) for the conference crown.
While keyboard jockeys and social media warriors heaped blame on Wilson, his teammates saw turnovers and shaky defense as the deciding factors in the loss. Florida offset 609 yards of offense with three crucial turnovers, including a pick-six, and gave up 418 yards to a team using its backup quarterback.
“Turning the ball over that many times, it’s hard to win games,” Florida quarterback Kyle Trask said. “I take full responsibility. I just got to play cleaner. It’s not the way you want to go out as your last home game in the Swamp.”
For the Gators to have a chance at beating the Crimson Tide, Trask will have to eliminate the turnovers and play perhaps his best game. He threw his 40th touchdown pass of the season in his 10th game last week to surpass Danny Wuerffel’s single-season school record for touchdown passes.
Trask, who passed for an average of 377..7 yards a game, will have Kyle Pitts, perhaps the nation’s top tight end, back as a target this week. Pitts sat out the LSU game with an undisclosed injury. He has 36 catches for 641 yards and a team-high 11 touchdowns in his seven appearances.
Crimson Tide vs. Gators Betting Pick for December 19, 2020
Two recent scores against a common opponent bear heavily in the Tide’s favor. The Tide romped past LSU 55-17 in Tiger Stadium just a week before LSU beat Florida 37-34 in Gainesville.
Crimson Tide vs. Gators Betting Pick:
Crimson Tide 48, Gators 31
Crimson Tide vs. Gators Best Bet for December 19, 2020
The Tide is coming off a pair of 50-point performances in wins over LSU (55-17) and Arkansas (52-3) the last two weeks, giving them five games with at least 52 points. The Gators have shown they can score as well with 42.2 per game scoring average, but they also have given up some big numbers, like 41 in a loss at Texas A&M and 35 in a win over Arkansas in addition to the 37 surrendered last week to a freshman LSU quarterback.
Crimson Tide vs. Gators Best Bet: OVER 74.5