No.2 Alabama has dominated the SEC under head coach Nick Saban, and the team has a good chance to win yet another conference title. The Crimson Tide face No.18 Florida on Saturday at the Georgia Dome, playing in the SEC Championship Game for the fifth time in eight seasons.
Alabama is 3-1 in recent SEC title game appearances, losing only to Florida. The Gators beat the Crimson Tide in the 2008 conference championship game, though Alabama returned the favor the next year. Alabama is the first team since Florida in 2009 to have a chance at claiming back-to-back SEC championships, and no team has done it since Tennessee in 1998.
Florida’s 7-1 conference record is the same as Alabama’s, and they only have one more loss on the season. But the Crimson Tide have played a much tougher schedule, facing six teams that were ranked at the time of their matchups. Florida has only met with three ranked teams, and they lost two of those contests.
Derrick Henry is the leading candidate to win the 2015 Heisman Trophy, and he has a chance to make history on Saturday. Henry has rushed for 1,797 yards this season, and he’s in striking distance of Herschel Walker’s SEC record of 1,891 rushing yards in a season. Considering the running back has rushed for over 200 yards in four of his last six games, he seems likely to become the new record-holder. Henry has rushed for more than 94 yards in 10 of Alabama’s 12 games.
The Crimson Tide’s success has correlated directly with Henry’s performance in each game. When Henry has carried the ball at least 15 times and rushed for more than 145 yards, Alabama is 6-0 with an average margin of victory of nearly 20 points. In the four games that Henry ran the ball at least 15 times for less than 145 yards, Alabama has one loss and their two smallest margins of victory.
Treon Harris, who has been the lone quarterback with freshman Will Grier suspended, might be the most important player in Saturday’s game. If the Gators are going to pull off the upset, the sophomore may need to step up for an offense that has struggled. Since assuming the role of primary quarterback, Harris has managed to throw 160 yards or more in just two-of-six games, and has been intercepted four times in the past four games.
Gators leading rusher Kelvin Taylor has played his best in recent weeks, posting four of his five 100-yard performances in the last five games. But that hasn’t done much to jump-start the Gators’ offense, which has had trouble without a real threat in the passing game. After averaging 32.2 points per game in the first half of the season, Florida is scoring just 18.3 points per contest.
The SEC Championship Game is the only major conference title game that is scheduled to start in the afternoon. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. ET on CBS, and CBSSports.com will have a live stream online.