Gators Open SEC Play With Pivotal Trip to Tuscaloosa
If things go according to script, Florida should be 3–0 heading into a Sept. 20 game at Alabama. Despite entering the season on a seven-game losing streak, home victories against Idaho, Eastern Michigan and Kentucky may have the Gators ranked heading into Bryant-Denny Stadium to face the most storied program in the history of college football.
The Alabama Crimson Tide have won three national titles and are 60–7 over the past five seasons under head coach Nick Saban. Florida coach Will Muschamp served as defensive coordinator under Saban at LSU when the Tigers won the national title in 2003.
Muschamp stated the obvious during SEC Media Days, calling Alabama “an outstanding football team.”
“Everybody knows I got great respect for Nick and his entire staff,” Muschamp said. “I’ve worked with a bunch of them. They recruit extremely well. They develop their players extremely well. We look forward to our trip to Tuscaloosa.”
UF quarterback Jeff Driskel is looking forward to not reliving his last encounter with Alabama three seasons ago.
After starter Jeff Brantley suffered an injury, Driskel entered the game at the start of the second half and found himself in the teeth of one of Saban’s best ‘Bama defenses, perhaps ever. He was sacked twice in a three-play span, finished 2 of 6 passing for 14 yards and left limping away from the 38-10 home loss with an ankle injury.
“Big jokers over there. It was tough. They kind of lit me up a little bit,” Driskel said at SEC Media Days, where a heavy contingent of Alabama beat writers asked about the Sept. 20 rematch. “I was a wide-eyed freshman. Looking back on it, it was a good experience. It welcomed me to the SEC a little bit.”
Three years later, a different Driskel – one who appears more confident while running a different offense – will be welcomed during the Gators’ first road test of 2014. They’re running Kurt Roper’s no-huddle, hurry-up offense, the same kind of offense Saban lobbied all offseason to slow down with rules changes – like adding an extra 10 seconds between snaps.
It will be Driskel’s first time playing at Bryant-Denny Stadium, but it sounds like he was warned about the atmosphere multiple times during media days. It’s the fourth largest stadium in the SEC with a seating capacity of 101,821 and Saban is 30-5 there heading into this season.
“Never been to their stadium. Heard it’s awesome, by the way,’’ Driskel said. “That’s why you come to Florida is to play in big SEC games like that. Couldn’t think of a better way to start the SEC schedule than a win at Alabama on the road.”
Regardless of what happens, the Gators will get a chance to heal up with a bye week before getting into the crux of their SEC schedule with a trip to Tennessee on Oct. 4 and home games against LSU and Missouri on Oct. 11 and Oct. 18, respectively.