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Does underdog Florida stand a chance against Alabama?

in Sports/Top Headlines by

Find your old Danny Wuerffel jersey. Heck, he was the MVP of the SEC title game twice, the only man ever to repeat.

Put on your orange-and-blue hat. Kiss your framed photo of Tim Tebow just for luck. Hum “The Boys of Old Florida” one more time. Talk about how Jim McElwain reminds you of Steve Spurrier, only without the fun or the gun.

Now, can you see any way that the Gators win on Saturday?

Any way at all?

According to the analysts, this one seems decided. Alabama is going to score a lot, and Florida is going to score a little. The band is going to play “Sweet Home Alabama” a million and three times. There are going to be a lot of shots of Nick Saban on the sideline.

After all, can you imagine any other realistic outcome?

You look to the betting line. Nope, no help there. Florida is a 17 1/2-point underdog. Heck, the folks at the Alamo were only 13-point underdogs, right? Alabama is the seventh double-digit favorite in the history of the game. The other six have all won.

You look to common opponents. Not a lot of help there. Alabama beat LSU, which beat Florida. Florida beat Ole Miss, which beat Alabama. Both teams beat Tennessee and Georgia.

You look to the stats. Hey, Florida is tied for fifth in total defense. On the other hand, Alabama is second. Here’s something: Alabama is only 48th in offense. But Florida is 102nd.

You look to the awards. Alabama’s Derrick Henry may win the Heisman Trophy. Florida’s Treon Harris looked good in the team photo.

And so this is where it is all supposed to catch up to the Gators, at least the parts that didn’t catch up in last week’s 27-2 loss to FSU. Funny thing. It has been so long since Florida was projected not to matter in the SEC. Those expectations seem to have bypassed the team’s 10-win season.

But don’t forget, the Gators are a pretty good defense, too. Their best chance to win is to control Henry on the early downs and to force a turnover or two in the passing game. If the defense is good enough, and if Florida can play some field position, it is capable of surprising some people.

Vernon Hargreaves, in other words. That’s how Florida wins. If Hargreaves gets two picks and returns one for a touchdown. Jon Bullard. If he makes five tackles for loss.

Otherwise, it may be a bad day to be a Gator.

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Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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