It's a packed house in The Swamp today as the No. 11 Florida Gators take on the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide. It will be the third sold-out crowd under head coach Dan Mullen and the first since the team's 2019 matchup against the Auburn Tigers.
While there have been high expectations for the game today, especially following the team's defeat in the SEC Championship game last season. Florida entered the day as 15.5-point underdogs to the Crimson Tide, something that shouldn't have been a surprise entering the week against the defending national champs.
To start the contest, the Crimson Tide looked competent with a nice 75-yard touchdown drive, going up 7-0 early. The crowd would also get involved early with three penalties from Alabama on both offense and defense, collectively, caused by the noise.
Offensively, Florida executed a very nice first drive, with quarterback Emory Jones connecting on three out of five of his passes for 31 yards. Florida also would run the football for 34 yards. It led to just a field goal, however, putting Florida in a must-score position early in the contest.
With Florida settling for just a field goal on its opening drive, Alabama would make them pay with a 26-yard touchdown toss from Crimson Tide freshman QB Bryce Young to tight end Jaheel Billingsley.
The Gators have not defeated the Crimson Tide since 2008 in the SEC Championship Game, in fact, Alabama hasn't lost an SEC East matchup in 31 consecutive bouts. The odds are certainly stacked against the home team today as it works to reset the bar for the season, advancing to 3-0, and 1-0 against SEC competition.
Florida entered the week relatively healthy, though they would lose one of its leaders on defense in linebacker Ventrell Miller who was reported by the Orlando Sentinal as being out for the season after receiving surgery on his biceps.
Florida also had questions at quarterback as backup redshirt freshman Anthony Richardson entered the week with a hamstring injury following the team's victory over South Florida last week. Prior to the contest, Gators head coach Dan Mullen told CBS Sports Richardson would play only in an emergency situation.
The true turning point of the first quarter would come with just 3:12 remaining in the first quarter. The Gators, down 14-3 needed a play, but a sailed toss from Jones would lead to the first turnover of the day, giving the Crimson Tide an interception in favorable territory.
With the momentum and the lead, Alabama would construct a great drive against the Florida defense, getting the ball in space multiple times and finally connecting in the flats with running back Brian Robinson on a pass from Young for a touchdown.
The Gators would miss a tackle, which would be the third of the day on a one-on-one situation in the flat. Down early, 21-3 with little to go in the first quarter, Florida simply let the game get away from them offensively.
While Florida did allow plenty of points early in the matchup, the defense, particularly its secondary, played a sound first half, not allowing very many chunk-plays to the Crimson Tide offense.
With 6:34 remaining in the first half, Florida was able to show some signs of life. Following a pass interference call on Alabama during the Gators' 4th-and-6 attempt, the Gators would score on a 26-yard run by running back Malik Davis. The extra point would be missed, giving Alabama a 21-9 lead.
The Gators are simply not the better team, or at least weren't during the first half of play. While they were able to settle down during the second quarter, Alabama was still able to hold off the Florida offense for most of the contest.
Surprisingly, Florida finished the first half with more yards (200) than the Crimson Tide (175). Efficiency was the difference there.
Jones would finish the first half completing 9 out of 16 of his passes for 98 yards and an interception. Young would have 145 yards and three passing touchdowns on 13 out of 21 completions. The Crimson Tide would also run the football 10 times for 30 yards, while Florida had 21 carries for 102 yards.