Three things to know as Alabama football goes for another SEC championship vs. Florida

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

Alabama can claim its 11th win over a conference foe in the same season and an SEC championship with a win over Florida in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday.

Here are three things to know going into the Crimson Tide’s SEC Championship Game against the Gators.

Great pass rushes vs. great pass protection

Alabama and Florida are first and second in the SEC in sacks, Florida with 31 and Alabama 27. Both are in the top 20 nationally. Both also have offensive lines and quarterbacks that have avoided sacks better than most in the SEC, ranking tied for second in the SEC with 14 sacks allowed each.

The teams have gone about their effective pass rushes in different ways. Alabama has been reliant on a core of Christian Barmore, Christopher Allen and Will Anderson Jr. combining for 16 of the team’s 27 sacks. Meanwhile, Florida has 31 sacks while no individual has more than four.

Sacks were particularly crucial in Florida’s most recent game, an upset loss to LSU, when the Gators allowed four sacks for a loss of 34 yards.

Long-ball kickers

The Crimson Tide and the Gators both have kickers who can make long-range field goals, should they be needed. Florida’s Evan McPherson made two 50-yard field goals in one game, kicks of 51 and 53 yards against Georgia. McPherson had the distance required on a 51-yard attempt that could have tied the game against LSU, but it drifted wide left.

Alabama’s Will Reichard — the only kicker in the SEC yet to miss a field goal, making all 11 — made his lone such attempt this season, a 52-yarder on the final play of the first half against Georgia.

Records in the making

In a game that projects to feature a good bit of scoring – BetMGM set the over/under at 74 1/2 – multiple Alabama offensive players find themselves on the brink of history.

Running back Najee Harris will break Alabama’s career rushing touchdowns record with his next score, a record currently shared by two Heisman Trophy winners, Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry. He is also within 130 yards of Henry’s school record for career rushing yards.

Meanwhile, wide receiver DeVonta Smith is 28 yards away from breaking Amari Cooper’s school record for career receiving yards and two touchdowns away from breaking his record for single-season receiving touchdowns. If he breaks Cooper’s record Saturday, Smith will also find himself four touchdowns away from setting a new SEC record for single-season receiving touchdowns.

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Two touchdowns are also all Smith needs to break into the top 15 in FBS history in career receiving touchdowns, becoming one of just 16 players to amass 40 in a career.

Quarterback Mac Jones will crack the top five in school history for single-season passing touchdowns with his next touchdown toss, and needs just three to crack the top three in school history. 

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson