Four Quarters: Alabama vs. Florida

Alabama has continued to improve on the way to a 4-0 start out of the gate.  Next, the team must prepare for a showdown with the No. 12 Florida Gators, in ‘The Swamp’.

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is no easy place to play.  The venue has a reputation for loud and rowdy fans.

On top of that, Florida (4-0) will be looking for retribution after a 31-7 loss to the Tide last season.

In his first year, new coach Will Muschamp has quickly transformed the Gators into a team that plays similarly to Alabama.  Because of Florida’s prowess on the ground on both sides of the ball, Alabama will be playing a near mirror image of itself.

Here’s what to watch for during Alabama’s game against the Florida Gators.

Will Muschamp is no stranger to Alabama’s aggressive playing style.  He was an assistant coach under Nick Saban at LSU and for the Miami Dolphins.

Look for Muschamp to run similar plays and packages as those used by Coach Saban.  This includes a relentless rushing attack led by Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps.

Because of the pro-style offense utilized by Muschamp and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, the Gators will have more blocking tight ends on the field and more overall balance compared to what Alabama saw last year against Urban Meyer’s spread formations.

The two running backs have combined for 731 yards and six touchdowns.  As a team, the Gators rank ninth in the nation in rushing yards per game.  These extravagant numbers make Florida potentially the toughest test on the ground for Alabama this season.

Also, expect Florida you utilize screens in the passing game.  Meyer used them effectively in his tenure with the Gators and Muschamp has continued to employ the running backs in the passing game.  This aspect of Florida’s offense will force the Crimson Tide defense to stay aware and make tackles on the edges of the field when the Gators run and throw screens to the outside.

While Florida won’t be throwing deep bombs on a regular basis expect the team to have a nice mix of run and pass.

Alabama’s offense has had no problems staying balanced either.

Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy continue to find success on the ground.  But, Florida will be their toughest test yet.  The Gator’s run defense is allowing 56.5 yards on the ground per game, which ranks fifth in the nation.

AJ McCarron will also need to continue to develop into a more accurate passer for the Crimson Tide.  McCarron is completing 66.3 percent of his passes but has had problems overthrowing receivers all season.

Starting Linebacker C.J. Moseley was injured last week against Arkansas and will not play against Florida.  According to Coach Saban, he will most likely be replaced by multiple players throughout the game depending on the situation.

The potential for a track meet style football game where the team with the most speed is there, but if Alabama’s defense can play to its potential, the Crimson Tide should have no problem competing with the athletic Gators.

Coverage starts at 7 p.m. CT, and will be televised on CBS.


Four Quarters: Alabama vs. Arkansas

It’s finally here. Alabama’s SEC schedule kicks-off this weekend against the Arkansas Razorbacks.

The Crimson Tide has performed well in the first three weeks of the season.  But now, Alabama must shift gears and take on a familiar and dangerous opponent in Tuscaloosa.

Arkansas has improved on both sides of the ball and are led by new starting quarterback Tyler Wilson.  The Crimson Tide will have to be at its very best to win against an Arkansas team that has thrived this season using Bobby Petrino’s spread offense.

Alabama comes off a 35-0 win over North Texas while Arkansas arrives in Tuscaloosa after a 38-28 victory over Troy.  Both teams look to remain undefeated going into this showdown.

The Crimson Tide leads the all-time series with the Razorback 11-8.  Last season, Alabama won 24-20 in Fayetteville, and is 4-0 under Nick Saban

Here are four things to keep in mind while watching Alabama vs. Arkansas.

Don’t expect to see wide receiver Duron Carter play in this game or for the rest of the season.  There is still one transfer paper that the University hasn’t gotten, that would instate Carter to play this season.

According to Coach Saban, Carter may be redshirted as a result.  This would give the 6-4 target two full seasons of play at Alabama.  Carter had 690 yards on 44 receptions and 10 touchdowns for Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College last season.

Alabama will need to utilize a few extra defensive schemes up its sleeve in order to stop that Razorbacks attack.

Alabama’s defense has been exceptional entering the fourth game of the season, ranking third nationally.  According the ESPN Stats & Information, 48 percent of Alabama’s opponents’ drives have ended in three and outs.

Alabama will need to diversify blitz packages to keep quarterback Tyler Wilson on his toes.  Wilson has thrown for 822 yards through three games and has five touchdowns.

Petrino uses a plethora of receiving targets, as 13 different players have caught passes.  Greg Childs is the most notable of the Arkansas receivers, but hasn’t been as effective this year after returning from season ending knee injury in 2010.

Cobi Hamilton, Joe Adams, and Jarius Wright are also highly capable receiving targets.

Running back Ronnie Wingo Jr. is effective out of the backfield and also has seven receptions to go along with three total touchdowns.

Kody Walker will see reps if the Razorbacks make to into the red zone.  The goal line back has five touchdowns on the year.

The Razorbacks will also be a defensive presence more so than in years past.

Watch for Arkansas linebacker Jerico Nelson to have an impact all over the field.  Nelson is a versatile outside linebacker that processes all the skills of an elite run stopper and can also blitz the quarterback.

Nelson is a special player who can also act as a ball hawking safety.  His coverage skills are utilized in nickel defensive packages by the Razorbacks.

According to Coach Petrino, defensive end Jake Bequette is out for the game.  Bequette is considered one of the best ends in the SEC.

Alabama’s special teams’ coverage will have another test this weekend.  Wide receiver Marquel Wade is tenth in the nation on kickoff returns with a 41.7 yard average run back.

The game kicks off at 2:30 p.m. CT, and will be televised on CBS.