Florida vs. Alabama: Pick, prediction, spread, odds, football game time, watch live stream, TV channel

By Adam Silverstein
September 18, 2021
Florida vs. Alabama: Pick, prediction, spread, odds, football game time, watch live stream, TV channel

Image Credit: Michael Nash

The 2021 college football season has already been a whirlwind for the No. 11 Florida Gators, and it only blows stronger Saturday as they welcome the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The most frequent matchup in SEC Championship Game history comes to Gainesville, Florida, for the first time in a decade as the Gators look to shake off their significant struggles against the Tide over the last 12 years.

Suffice to say, Alabama has run roughshod over Florida as of late with seven straight wins in the series dating back to 2009. The Tide have won those games by an average of 21.6 points, capturing four SEC titles over the Gators in that span, including the thrilling, back-and-forth 2020 SEC Championship Game. Aside from the head coaches, both sidelines will look vastly different Saturday. Alabama has a new slew of assistants, including two former NFL head coaches. Both teams have completely reworked offenses, though it appears Bama has a significant edge over Florida in that area entering the game due to its quarterback play.

The Gators are not just struggling at signal caller; they have a legitimate quarterback controversy. Redshirt junior Emory Jones has flashed through his first two career starts, but he’s also thrown four interceptions against lesser competition and shown a lot of concerning traits. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Anthony Richardson has been other-worldly with a season’s worth of highlight plays in just a handful of plays. Richardson, who is nursing a hamstring he strained at the end of an 80-yard touchdown run last week, is questionable for the game after practicing all week.

There’s a ton on the line Saturday in The Swamp as the defending nation champion Tide have College Football Playoff aspirations. As for the Gators? They’re looking for their biggest win under this regime and a rare victory over a top-ranked opponent. (Check the game notes for exactly how rare such wins have been at UF.)

What will go down Saturday afternoon when Florida hosts Alabama? Let’s find out.

Tale of the tape

No. 11 Florida GatorsNo. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide
Head coachDan MullenNick Saban

Injuries and absences

Active: QB Anthony Richardson (hamstring) — Richardson warmed up with the team and did a handspring backflip on the field prior to kickoff.
Questionable (2): CB Elijah Blades (hamstring), OL Jean Delance (knee)
Out (1): LB Ventrell Miller (torn biceps — indefinitely)
Out for season (2): CB Jaydon Hill (knee), DB Kamar Wilcoxson (knee)
Notable inactives (?): To be announced before kickoff

Viewing information

Date: Saturday, Sept. 18 | Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium — Gainesville, Florida [88,548]

TV: CBS (Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson, Jamie Erdahl)
Live stream: CBSSports.com | SiriusXM: 81 | Radio: WRUF, TuneIn
Live updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

Game notes

» Florida trails Alabama 27-14 in the all-time series. Historically, the Crimson Tide have been most dominant in The Swamp with an 8-2 record in the Gators’ own house. Florida has lost seven straight games to Alabama dating back to 2009, including four SEC Championship Game meetings. UF’s average margin of defeat in those games is 21.6 points.
» The Gators are hosting the Tide in The Swamp for the first time since 2011 and just the third time this century.
» This is the first time Florida is hosting the nation’s No. 1 ranked team since 2002. The Gators are 3-12 all-time against No. 1 teams. They have never defeated one in the regular season and are 0-4 against such opponents in The Swamp.
» Alabama is the only SEC team that Mullen has yet to defeat in his head coaching career (0-10, 0-1 UF).
» Under Mullen, Florida is 22-3 when scoring first, 27-2 when leading after the third quarter, 21-0 when allowing 20 points or fewer and 23-0 when outrushing their opponents.
» UF is 7-8 when being outrushed by an opponent and 6-4 in games decided by 10 points or less.
» Florida is 6-8 against ranked opponents (2-2 vs. top five teams, 4-5 vs. top 10 teams) and 23-3 against unranked teams under Mullen. It is also 12-1 against nonconference opponents.
» The Gators have scored 24+ points in 28 of their last 31 games.
» Florida has scored 174 offensive touchdowns in 40 games under Mullen (4.4 per game). It scored 93 in 38 games from 2015-17 (2.5). UF has also scored 50+ points five times under Mullen compared to five times over 101 games from 2010-17.
» The Gators have posted 400+ yards of total offense in 12 consecutive games, the longest such streak since at least 1981. Their 666 yards against South Florida in Week 2 were the most in any game under Mullen.
» UF’s 400 yards rushing in Week 1 vs. FAU are the most in program history under Mullen and the most for any FBS team this season. It also leads the nation with 381.5 yards rushing per game.
» Florida is one of two FBS teams nationally (Alabama) that has not lost to an opponent that finished the season with a losing record since 2004.
» UF has scored in 412 consecutive games, an NCAA record.

Prediction and analysis

Spread: Florida +14 | O/U: 60

In over a decade running this website, it’s been rare to witness the Gators going into a game as double-digit underdogs. Particularly at home. Yet that’s the position Florida finds itself in Saturday as Alabama strolls into The Swamp. And perhaps worst of all for UF, it’s deserved. Though the Crimson Tide have not necessarily faced stiff competition this season, their dominant nature coupled with their tremendous play to this point makes them look like a far better team than the Gators.

The talent disparity is obvious, and most importantly, the quarterback position is an outlier. While Florida has a tremendous talent in Richardson, he enters the game recovering from a strained hamstring with no indication that he will get additional snaps despite outplaying Jones to this point in the season. Meanwhile, Alabama’s Bryce Young is arguably the early leader in the Heisman Trophy race. Defensively, the Tide have completely reloaded, while the Gators continue to fumble around in key moments.

You may have skipped the “game notes” section above just looking for my against-the-spread pick. Scroll back up and read the first four bullets. Seriously, I’ll wait. Back? OK. Florida is not going to win this game. Now that you know it’s not going to win this game, the question is what’s more likely: the Gators running down the field on the Tide and matching up with their opponent on both sides of the ball … or Florida being outmatched by a more talented, cohesive team that is unfazed when it plays games like this on the road?

The Gators do have a chance here if Mullen puts together a helluva game plan, Richardson makes some dynamic plays and Young gets rattled by the toughest crowd he’ll be experiencing in his young career. We saw Florida match Alabama score for score just 10 months ago, but that was a different offense led by a different quarterback with far more playmakers. UF will need to make multiple plays in the passing game to beat Bama, and it has not proven it can do that yet this season. It will also need to be careful with the football, yet Jones has thrown four interceptions in two games against FAU and USF. This is the wrong matchup for the Gators at the wrong time, and it’s going to be extremely difficult to cover. The total is high, but it’s more likely than not it goes over.

2021 records: ATS picks 0-2 | O/U picks 0-2

Odds and ends

» Florida will return to its traditional orange helmets, blue jerseys and white pants after wearing unique uniforms for the first two games of the season.

» Gainesville will serve as the host for “SEC Nation” on SEC Network, the “College GameDay”-style kickoff show featuring Tim Tebow. It’s the Gators’ 19th appearance on the show and the 11th time the program is visiting Gainesville. UF is 9-9 all-time when on “SEC Nation,” including 5-5 at home.

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