GAINESVILLE, Fla. (CBSMiami.com) – The Florida Gators are the lone remaining unbeaten school in the Sunshine State; but Saturday, the Gators will face their toughest test this season when the second-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide come to town.
The game, which can be seen exclusively on CBS4 at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, will match-up two former members of the Miami Dolphins coaching staff on opposite sides of the field. Former Dolphins coach Nick Saban will coach the Tide against his former pupil, UF head coach Will Muschamp.
“Will’s doing a really, really good job. He did a great job for me for a long time,” Saban said. “This will be a real challenging game for us, in all phases, but we want to focus on controlling the things that we control and what we do.”
For the Gators, their foremost responsibility in the game will be to stop Alabama running back Trent Richardson. The Heisman Trophy caliber running back is off to a stellar start in limited action so far this season.
Richardson is 19th in the country in terms of rushing, averaging 110.3 yards per game on the ground. But the most impressive stat Richardson has is his average of nearly seven yards per carry. He’s also rushed for eight touchdowns through just four games.
But Florida isn’t a slouch in the run defense game. The Gators carry a top five ranking in rushing defense, allowing just 56.5 yards per game. The Gators are only giving up two yards per carry and haven’t allowed any team to run the ball in for a touchdown this season.
“It’s going to come down to tackling,” Gators coach Will Muschamp said. “They’ve got really good, hard-nosed guys that are tough players. It’s going to come down to some one-on-ones where you have to tackle well in the open field. It’s certainly the best running team we’ve faced, there’s no question.”
Call it the irresistible force meeting the immovable object when Alabama tries to run the football. That will turn the attention to the passing game of both teams.
When Alabama has the football, it will have the 65th ranked passing attack in the country to throw at the Gators. Alabama is averaging 225 yards per game through the air and Tide quarterbacks have thrown as many touchdowns as they have interceptions.
The Gators will counter with a solid passing defense only surrendering 175 yards through the air. UF’s pass defense has also intercepted four passes on the young season and is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete just 52 percent of their throws.
When Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis decides to throw the football, he may have a really tough time. Florida has the 79th ranked offense in the country to matchup against another one of Saban’s suffocating defenses at Alabama.
The Crimson Tide is ranked fourth in the country in passing defense, allowing just 138 yards passing this season. Even more impressive is the fact that the Tide’s defense is allowing just 3.5 yards per completion in 2011.
Alabama’s scoring defense is ranked second in the country, with the Tide allowing just 8 points per game. UF is ranked just behind Bama, allowing just 9 points per game.
Still, Weis said he has a plan for the Tide.
“They’re going to get the kitchen sink,” Weis said. “You guys have been writing about holding things back. Well, you won’t have to worry about that this week. They’re going to get plenty.”
Saturday’s game will be the first true test for either team. Both squads are solid on both sides of the football. It will come down to the turnover war and Florida’s ability to get any type of passing game going.
The biggest thing Florida will have going for them is home-field advantage. The Swamp will be rocking as the Tide and Gators do battle. Historically, Alabama has had UF’s number. Most recently, Alabama closed the door on Tim Tebow’s SEC career with a loss.
The game will air exclusively on CBS4 at 8:00 p.m.
(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)