Alabama vs Florida Prediction, Against the Spread Pick and Latest Odds
Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Florida Gators
Spread: Alabama -15.5
Game time: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Alabama vs Florida Prediction
In Week 1, I looked at a nearly three-touchdown spread in Alabama’s opener against Miami, and I outsmarted myself into picking the Hurricanes to cover against the No. 1 team in the nation. I justified it to myself a few different ways: Maybe Alabama’s new starting quarterback, Bryce Young, would turn out to be not quite ready for primetime. Maybe the offense would take a minute to gel under a new coordinator, Bill O’Brien, after Steve Sarkisian left for Texas. Maybe Young would have a hard time getting on the same page with (or picking out) his favorite targets after the Tide lost Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, fellow wideout Jaylen Waddle, and star runner Najee Harris to the first round of the NFL Draft. Maybe something would go wrong.
It didn’t, and Alabama covered easily in a 44-13 win. I am done advising anyone to bet against the Tide under just about any feasible circumstance in which they’re playing a non-top-five team. That’s not to say I’ll always bet on the Tide –– I might just stay away in certain circumstances –– but I won’t doubt this 2021 team’s talent ever again. And while oddsmakers will eventually set spreads so big that the Tide can’t cover them against other SEC teams, I don’t think that will happen in Week 3. Laying just over two touchdowns for their visit to Gainesville to play Florida, I feel good about the prospects for Bama covering again.
The Tide should score plenty. Florida’s defense does not’ appear to be bad, but at 23rd in Bill Connelly’s SP+, it looks more “good'' than “elite.” As we should have all figured out by now, “good” is not going to do it against a modern Nick Saban offense. The Tide should score into the high 30s or low 40s as a default expectation, and that bakes in the possibility that they’ll let their foot off the gas late in the game. (That was the case against Miami, when Bama’s yards per play dropped from 6.9 to 6 and their scoring output from 27 to 17 after halftime.) If for some reason Bama is pressed to keep scoring, it can play that way, too.
The Florida defense should not be a big obstacle. The Gators just let up 20 points to USF, which has one of the worst offenses in FBS. Most of them came in garbage time after UF took a 35-3 lead, but there’s a level of dominance the Gators would’ve had to display, from start to finish, to make me feel comfortable that they would keep Alabama somewhere well below 40. I didn’t see that. USF’s offense was made to look bad but not all-around putrid. How will Bama’s look? I fear that Florida fans are going to get an unpleasant answer to that question.
The Gators’ offense can probably find some points, somewhere. But I don’t think it will be able to keep up with a spread of just over two touchdowns. The Gators’ passing game behind QB Emory Jones does not look promising. It posted a net negative in expected points added (a metric that estimates how each play affects a team’s likely scoring output, based on down, distance, and field position) on their passing plays against USF’s lousy defense. That doesn’t augur well against Bama’s star-studded pass rush and secondary. Jones’ backup, true freshman Anthony Richardson, has been incredible off the bench in two games so far. But if Jones can’t throw efficiently on the Tide (and I’m not sure he can), then Dan Mullen would need to lean on a true freshman in his first month of collegiate action to do something serious against a Nick Saban defense. That feels like an unfair and ridiculous ask.
The Tide haven’t visited Gainesville since 2011, as the SEC’s divisional structure has limited their regular season games against Florida. The Swamp will be loud, and I can buy that home-field advantage is worth more in this setting than the typical three-point adjustment oddsmakers might apply. It’ll be the stiffest test Bama’s new contributors have faced yet.
But it’s easy to go broke by betting that Bama will buckle at the first sign of trouble for players who haven’t experienced it yet. I expect them to stay poised and win by 17 or 20.
Alabama vs Florida Against the Spread Pick
Pick: Alabama -15.5 @ -110