The No. 11 Florida Gators are hosting the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday in perhaps one of the most hostile environments in the country, The Swamp. Known for its loud and boisterous crowd, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium will be packed with fans, roughly 90,000 strong, the third sellout of Dan Mullen's tenure as the Florida head coach.
Entering The Swamp is one of the most decorated and celebrated programs in the country in Alabama, creating a blend of power across both aisles, making for one of the best matchups in the country, and certainly, on the Florida schedule, Georgia included.
Heading into the matchup, plenty of talk has already been made, not only about the type of program Alabama is but the contest has been given an incredible point spread, with the Crimson Tide slated to be 15.5-point favorites.
For Florida players, they haven't paid much attention to the spread, but certainly, they know what type of team is heading into The Swamp this Saturday, and won't sugar coat just how good of a program Alabama is.
"They earned that," Gators running back Dameon Pierce said frankly when asked about the hype that Alabama has received.
"They’re the No. 1 team in the country, they have a great head coach. They have a great football team, great defense, great offense, they’re a well-running team, they deserve the hype that they're getting, they deserve all— you know every comment that's been made is based on Alabama being a great team, which they are."
Alabama is a great team, the program has won six national titles since 2009, including three in the past six years alone (2015, 2017, 2020). The defending National Champions deserve every bit of credit being sent their way, and Florida's challenge on Saturday will be great.
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As for the Gators being a 15.5-point underdog, Pierce feels as though that's the oddsmakers being kind of nice. It is Alabama, after all.
“This is my first time hearing that," Pierce began. "15 points? Against Bama? They being nice, aint they? They being nice ain’t they?”
Perhaps they are being nice, but even as a joke, the sentiment is true: Most teams aren't favored at all against Alabama, and 15 points is a pretty close spread, considering.
Some players, like Florida pass rusher Brenton Cox, understand the importance but stressed that the mindset heading into Saturday will be like going up against any other SEC opponent.
“I mean the whole SEC to me is a tough conference," Cox said when asked about the gap in competition between Alabama and the rest of the SEC. "I don't see a big gap. I don't know what to say to that one. The whole SEC is a tough conference, from the sorriest team to the best team, so that’s all I’ve got for you.”
A victory over Alabama would mean plenty to Florida. Of course, they'd cement themselves as one of the top programs in the nation, but it would also be the first time Mullen has defeated the Crimson Tide as an SEC head coach, and it will be the first time over the past seven matchups that Florida has secured the victory.
Still, Cox believes a victory over Alabama would be just that, a victory over the Crimson Tide, and a good start to the SEC matchups Florida will have this year.
“We just trying to get over that hump. Each year, you prepare for them. Either it’s the end of the year or the beginning of the year like this game," said Cox.
"We just trying to get over the hump. They’re a good team, we’re a good team. I mean, if we were to win, I don't think it would be a shocker. If they were the winning, I don't think it'd be a shocker because like I said, it’s the SEC. You never know.”
Linebacker Ty'Ron Hopper feels the same way, the opportunity is big, and anytime you can win a game against a rival SEC opponent, it means everything to the program. Anytime you can win any game it's a major opportunity.
“This is a huge opportunity, but I mean, we want to beat everybody," said Hopper. "So, I mean, yeah. It’s a great opportunity and all, but we want to win every game. We’re approaching every game the same, so yeah.”
Come Saturday, the entire nation will get a look at what Florida has to offer. A victory over the best team in college football will shock the masses, especially those who feel like the 15.5-point spread is justified. For the Florida players, they'll be ready, or as ready as they can be.
To start off the season 1-0 in the SEC by defeating the Crimson Tide? As Pierce said on Tuesday, "Ooh, no better way, baby."
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