2020 SEC Championship Preview:Alabama Looks to Continue West’s Dominance

by | Dec 16, 2020 | College Football, General | 0 comments

The College Football world experienced shock on Saturday night when Heisman hopeful Kyle Trask and Florida fell to LSU, 37-34. The devastation of losing at home as a 24-point favorite was compounded by thrown foot attire.

Whatever possessed Marco Wilson to heave Kole Taylor’s Clete 20 yards downfield, erasing a third-down stop, thus leading to the game-winning 57-yard FG, will haunt Florida fans forever. Wilson’s unsportsmanlike penalty prevented the Gators from gaining possession and setting up a potential game-winning drive. In one of the most bone-headed decisions ever to invade conscious thought, the Gators National Championship dreams went up in smoke.

In Defense of Marco Wilson

Florida’s inability to convert red zone opportunities, something they thrived at all season, cost them dearly against LSU.

In their first nine games, the Gators converted 96 percent (43-45, FG or TD) of their visits in the red zone. Against LSU, they equaled their season total with two failed possessions (6-8), including Trask’s only red-zone turnover of the season, a tip drill landing in the hands of a kneeling Jay Ward, balancing on the sideline.

Speaking of turnovers, we find the second reason the Tigers pulled the upset. Trask committed only four turnovers (3 INT, 1 Fumble) in his first nine games. His three turnovers against LSU, including his third pick-six of the season (Eli Ricks joined Eric Stokes and Jarvis Ware) led to 10 points for the Tigers.

While such an outcome eliminates some drama concerning College Football Playoff implications, Saturday’s matchup still presents excitement.

Marco Wilson’s brainfart, eliminated Florida from any realistic chance to qualify for the College Football Playoffs.

SEC Championship – #11Florida (8-2) vs #1Alabama (10-0), 8 PM EST

Matchup By the Numbers

SEC Championship Game
2020 Season Stats
AlabamaFlorida
W-L10-08-2
PPG49.541.2
PPG All.16.826.3
PPG Diff.32.625.4
Yards PG537.8513.5
Yards PG All.340.1384.9
Yards PG Diff.197.7128.6

Familiar Foes

Alabama and Florida have dominated this game. Both will be making their 13th appearance and meeting for the 10th time to decide the Conference champion. The Gators seem to be magnetic toward Alabama when winning the East. This marks the fifth straight championship game appearance Florida’s opponent is Alabama.

Most Meetings
SEC Championship History
MeetingsResults
Alabama-Florida10Alabama, 5-4
LSU-Georgia4LSU, 3-1
Alabama-Georgia2Alabama, 2-0
Arkansas-Florida2Florida, 2-0
Auburn-Tennessee2Tennessee, 2-0
LSU-Tennessee2LSU, 2-0

Alabama owns a current six-game win streak against Florida, with three of those victories coming in the SEC Championship Game. Florida’s last win against the Tide was in the 2008 SEC Championship.

Nick Saban is making his tenth appearance in the SEC Championship (his eighth with Alabama). He is 8-1 in his previous nine appearances (2-0 w/LSU, 6-1 w/Bama). This is the fifth time Saban will coach against the Gators in the SEC Championship Game. Overall, Saban is 8-4 against Florida, including 3-1 in the Championship Game. Dan Mullen is the third different coach in Florida’s SEC Championship Game history to oppose Saban. He is winless in nine games against Alabama.

Most Division Titles Won
Head Coaches, SEC
Nick Saban>>10
Steve Spurrier8
Philip Fulmer5
Mark Richt5
>>LSU (2), Alabama (8)

Saban is looking to win his ninth SEC Championship. He is the only coach to win titles at two different programs (LSU in 2001, 03)

Each program has represented their respective division well, ranking 1-2 in SEC Championships. Overall, Alabama is 8-4 in SEC Championship Games while Florida is 7-5. Among their previous nine meetings includes the inaugural SEC Championship in 1992 at Legion Field.

Most Division Titles, Best W-L
SEC Championship Game
Division TitlesW-L
Alabama138-4
Florida137-5
Georgia83-5
LSU65-1
Auburn63-3

NUMBER 1

2020 marks the third consecutive season and ninth time since 2008 to feature the number 1 ranked team. From 1992-2007 only the 1998 Tennessee Volunteers entered first in the nation (#1 ranked team is 7-2 overall, winning six straight).

#1 Ranked Team
SEC Championship Results
2019#1 LSU 37#4 Georgia 10
2018#1 Alabama 35#4 Georgia 28
2016#1 Alabama 54#15 Florida 16
2014#1 Alabama 42#14 Missouri 13
2011#1 LSU 42#12 Georgia 10
2010#1 Auburn 56#19 South Carolina 17
2009#2 Alabama 32#1 Florida 13
2008#2 Florida 31#1 Alabama 20
1998#1 Tennessee 24#23 Mississippi State 14
>>2020 Alabama ranked #1

.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the SEC played a 10-game conference only schedule in 2020. The Gators and Tide played eight common opponents this season. Florida’s two losses against Texas A&M and LSU were by six total points, both decided on last-second FGs. Despite those two losses, they managed a 14.3 PPG differential in those eight games. Perhaps it’s not fair to compare anyone to Alabama, but the Tide went undefeated against those same eight opponents, with a winning margin of 25.7.

Stats vs 8 Common Opp.
2020 Season
FloridaAlabama
W-L6-2>>8-0>>
PPG Diff.14.3>>25.7>>
>>Alabama beat LSU (38 pts) & Texas A&M (28 Pts)

For the first time since adding Texas A&M and Missouri in 2012, both teams played more than two opponents from the opposite division. The East against West matchups stayed one-sided concerning results this season, keeping with the trend since 2012 (Texas A&M at Tennessee and Missouri at Mississippi State also play Saturday, completing the 28-game schedule between divisions).

SEC, East vs West
Head to Head, Since 2012
Regular SeasonWinsLossesWin Pct.
East5187.381
West8751.625
Conference ChampionshipWinsLossesWin Pct.
East17.125
West71.875
>>West won 17 of 26 matchups in 2020

Common Opponents Affect Success

Alabama and Florida are polar opposites comparing team success against the other division. Despite the drastic difference (undefeated Alabama, 9-11 Florida), success is determined by the “common opponent” when understanding why a team’s won-loss record isn’t better.

Best W-L, East vs West
SEC, Since 2012
Regular SeasonPostseason
Alabama20-06-0
LSU16-42-0
Texas A&M15-4
Georgia14-61-5
Mississippi St.11-80-0
Missouri11-80-2
Ole Miss11-9
Auburn10-101-1
Florida9-110-2
South Carolina6-140-1
Vanderbilt5-15
Arkansas5-15
Kentucky5-15
Tennessee2-17

Each team schedules two games against the other division. Only one of those games rotates, as each team faces their common opponent every season to complete the two games. Alabama’s common opponent is Tennessee, while Florida’s is LSU. That helps explain – a little bit – why Florida hasn’t faired better against the West.

Kyle Trask set numerous team records with his fantastic 2020 season.

Breaking Down the Florida Gators

Kyle Trask set Florida Gators single-season records for TD Passes (40), Passing Yards PG (371.1), Completion Percentage (70.2), and Passing Efficiency (187.9). His 40 TD passes through 10 games ranks first in SEC history, two more than 2019 Heisman Trophy Winner Joe Burrow, and fifth in FBS history.

Most Passing TD, First 10 Games
SEC History
TDSeason
Kyle Trask, Florida402020
Joe Burrow, LSU382019
Drew Lock, Missouri352017
Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama332019

Florida’s potent passing attack ranked first in the nation, averaging 386.4 yards per game. Trask does an excellent job spreading the ball. His favorite receiver is another Kyle, Pitts, who’s 11 TD receptions ranks fourth in FBS and first among TE.

WR Jacob Copeland (22 touches, 443 Yards From Scrimmage) is the Gators big-play threat. Copeland’s 20.3 YPT ties him with Jaylen Waddle for the highest in the SEC. Kadarius Toney leads Florida in receptions (62) and receiving yards (831). Toney (9 TD) and Pitts are the only FBS teammates with 9 TD receptions. Florida is also the only FBS team with six players totaling 20 catches, 3 TD, and 225 receiving yards.

Most Passing YPG, Single-Season
Florida Gators History
Pass YPGYear
Kyle Trask371.12020
Rex Grossman354.12001
Danny Wuerffel301.81996
Danny Wuerffel296.91995
Shane Matthews284.51991

Kyle Pitts 11 receiving TD is the fourth-most in FBS in 2020.

The 2020 season ranks among the best in team history for the Gators offense. Their 41.6 PPG places 7th highest. Their 513.5 Total Yards PG sits third, behind 1995 (534.4) and 2001 (527.5), while their 386.4 Passing YPG trails only 2001 (405.2). Their offense wasted few red zone opportunities, scoring a TD on just under 70 percent of their 53 red zone attempts.

Highest Percentage of Red Zone TD
2020 Season
Pct.TD-Att.
UAB.71923-32
Wake Forest.71127-38
Florida.69837-53
Georgia State.69723-33
Oklahoma.68635-51

Florida’s defense struggled early, but the return of Kyree Campbell saw the group improve in every category. Campbell missed the first three games before returning against Missouri. The Gators defense allowed ten fewer PPG, 158 YPG, and 31 Rush YPG in their final seven games.

The return of Kyree Campbell paid huge dividends for the Gators defense.

Florida Gators
2020 Defensive Stats
1st 3 GamesLast 7 Games>>
PPG33.323.2
Yards PG495337
Rush YPG164133
Rush YPC4.13.7
TO PG11.5
Sacks PG2.63.3
Rush TD56
>>Kyree Campbell Returned

How Dominant is Alabama?

Explaining how the Crimson Tide have dominated the best conference in College Football since the arrival of Nick Saban defies logic. The numbers are incredible. Alabama is 99-15 in conference play under Saban, giving them 19 more wins than their closest opponent (Georgia, 80).

Conference Play, Since 2007
Nick Saban at Alabama
DivisionW-LPctDivision TitlesSEC ChampionshipsNational Championships
1. AlabamaWest99-150.868865
2. GeorgiaEast80-330.708510
3. LSUWest76-370.673332
4. FloridaEast76-380.667511
5. Texas A&M>>West41-310.569000
>>Joined Conference in 2012

Saban’s teams dominate the East division, winning 30 consecutive games and 40 of 43 overall by an average of 21 PPG since joining Alabama. The last time Alabama lost to an East opponent was October 9, 2010, which will equal 3,724 days on Saturday. Former Gators Head Coach Steve Spurrier led his South Carolina Gamecocks to a 35-21 victory over #1 Alabama.

Alabama vs SEC East
Under Nick Saban (Since 2007)
Current Win Streak30 games
W-L40-3>>
PPG Diff.21.2
>>6-1 in SEC Championship Games, 1-0 in National Championship

Record-Setting Offense

Starting with Tua’s sophomore season in 2018, Alabama’s offense kicked into another gear. Alabama’s PPG, YPG, and ability to score from anywhere on the field at any time, has tortured defenses.

Their offense averaged over 46 PPG, 515 Yards PG scored an unthinkable 62 TD from scrimmage 30 yards or longer while posting a point differential of 27.3 – and this is against the best conference in FBS.

Alabama Offense
SEC Play, Since 2018
PPG46.6
PPG Diff.27.3
Yards PG514.9
TD from scrimmage, 30+ Yds62

QB Mac Jones leads this explosive offense, setting school records for PPG (49.5), Yards PG (537.8), Yards Per Play (7.9), and Passing Yards PG (347.8). Jones figures to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, setting an SEC record for completion percentage (.764), while leading the nation in passer efficiency (203.9) – 2nd best in SEC history trailing only Tua last season (206.9).

Mac Jones
2020 Season
SEC RankFBS Rank
Pass YPG345.92nd3rd
TD/INT27-32nd5th
Completion Pct..7641st1st
Yards Per Att.11.71st1st
Passer Efficiency203.61st1st

Mac Jones performance in 2020 could see become the first QB in team history to win the Heisman Trophy.

Jones often is overlooked compared to his predecessors Tua and Jalen Hurts, both current starters in the NFL, and winners of a National Championship (both played in 2). Through their first 14 games, Jones outperforms both, throwing for more yards, TD, and a higher completion percentage.

Alabama QB
First 14 Games of Career
Mac JonesTua TagovailoaJalen Hurts
W-L13-114-014-0
Passing Yds4,4933,6712,662
Passing Yds PG320.1262.2190.1
TD-INT40-541-421-8
Comp. Pct.75.169.563.1

Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith are also Heisman contenders. Harris shares the FBS lead for most TD with 22. DeVonta Smith leads the nation in receiving yards (1,327) while making 2-3 plays a game that leave you mesmerized.

Smith and Metchie III are explosive players that torment defences with their speed.

Defense Back on Track

After a down year in 2019 and a slow start in 2020, Alabama’s defense is back enforcing their will. Through four games, opponents averaged just under 29 PPG while running 150 YPG and totaling 460 YPG.

Over their last six games, Alabama allowed under 90 rushing yards PG, less than 265 total yards per game, and held opponents to only 4 TD and 8.3 PPG.

Alabama Defense
2020 Season
1st 4 GamesLast 6 Games
PPG28.88.3
TD All.144
Total YPG458.3261.3
Rush YPG149.388.3
Rush YPC42.7

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Everett Kelly is a former two-time Emmy Award winning writer/researchere from ESPN. Mark retired in 2008 due to the onset of long-term side effects from cancer treatment (chemotherapy, radiation and bone marrow transplant). This led to Mark’s current health problems (Crohn’s Disease. Lymphedema and Hemochromotosis). To help support Mark in his battle, click on these links (Paypal, and Patreon).

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