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Questioning the Florida-Alabama game for the SEC Championship

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Five things to ponder about Florida’s SEC title game against Alabama on Saturday.

Can the Gators give Alabama a better game than last year?

Unless Florida forces a lot of turnovers, it’s hard to see how. Most agree this Alabama team might be the school’s best, and might be as good as any team who has ever played. Florida, meanwhile, has played almost an identical season as to last year, from the sluggish offense to the spotty quarterbacking. Jordan Scarlett is an admirable back, but can he stand up against the Tide’s defense? Doubtful.

Will Florida be healthier this week?

Maybe. Both linebacker Jarrad Davis and guard Martez Ivey have returned to practice and should play.

Any truth to the rumors about coach Jim McElwain going to Oregon?

Mac says there isn’t. He says flatly that he hasn’t heard from the school (no word on whether his agent has) and that “it must be a slow news day.”

Said McElwain: “Look, I’ve got a heck of a job. In case anybody checked this is the University of Florida. We’re playing in what they call the SEC Championship Game. It really hasn’t crossed my mind.”

Which group of fans should be most disappointed to see the Gators play for the SEC title?

Oh, it’s fairly widespread. Tennessee, in particular, should be crestfallen. This should have been the Vols’ year, especially considering their victory over the Gators. All LSU had to do was move another yard to knock the Gators out. Georgia was one of the most underachieving teams in the league. It wasn’t the perfect season for the Gators, but leaving their opponents’ disappointed is something.

Where must the Gators improve from last year’s game?

Everywhere. For one thing, the Gators rushed for only 15 yards on the afternoon, and this Alabama defense is better. Then-quarterback Treon Harris had a rating of only 6.7 for the day.

Florida needs to start fast. It took a 7-2 lead a year ago, but Alabama is a team that wears its opponents down. The Tide doesn’t run as well as it did last year behind Derrick Henry (Damien Harris is only 72nd in rushing). The Tide’s defense was the only one in America to give up less than 3,000 yards this season. The Tide was first in total defense, first in rushing defense and 11th against the pass. It’ll be hard for the Gators to drive very far.

Alabama is a 24-point favorite. The game is at 4 p.m. in Atlanta.

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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