An injury to UCLA starting quarterback -- and one of the most valuable players in the country -- Brett Hundley played a role in the Predictalator's first Game of the Week loss of the season, bringing this feature to 2-1 against-the-spread and 2-1 over/under on the season. This week, we feature a cross-divisional matchup in the SEC that could have major college football playoff ramifications, especially if the game is as competitive as we anticipate throughout. While Florida's narrow 36-30 triple OT home win over Kentucky last week likely plays a role in the fact that this spread is more than two touchdowns (and the public is still siding with Alabama more often than not), the Predictalator looks at that game and sees something totally different - OFFENSE! Florida has consistently recruited and played exceptionally well on the defensive side of the ball in the Will Muschamp era as head coach. And yet, the Gators have never even finished in top 100 in total offense in his four year tenure. That appears to have changed significantly, which should put the Tide on upset alert.
Florida currently ranks in the top 20 in the nation in our College Football Power Rankings. Per expectations, the Gators have a top 15 run and pass efficiency defense. More importantly, the Gators are above average in FBS in overall offense, ranking 39th in our strength-of-schedule-adjusted passing efficiency metrics and 47th in running. The schedule has not been daunting, but it is still compelling that junior quarterback Jeff Driskel has opened his season completing 64% of his passes and has a 4:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio with 88 attempts through two games. Driskel's career numbers are mostly in line with his performance thus far, but his critical mistakes have been minimized and he appears to be healthy after dealing with injuries throughout his career to-date. Driskel has also found a true weapon in the passing game in Demarcus Robinson, who has 21 catches for 339 yards in just two contests. Adding balance to the offensive mix, running backs Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor have looked explosive after dealing with injuries last season and in the spring. Health to the skill position players makes this offense look far more formidable than we have seen in years.
Florida finished last year's injury-riddled season just 4-8 straight-up and 3-9 against-the-spread while facing the 19th toughest schedule in the country. The Gators allowed just 21.1 points-per-game despite the tough schedule, yet did not have enough of an offense to remain competitive in the SEC. The elite defense returns nine starters for 2014 and the offense is at its best and healthiest in a long time.
Alabama has no real shortage of depth or talent, yet this team is not as great as what we have come to expect for a Nick Saban squad. The Crimson Tide ranks third overall in our College Football Power Rankings, but is a distant third to Florida State and Oregon. Alabama has a top ten run offense and defense, yet is just 11th in passing efficiency at this point (a down year after four straight top five finishes) and falls far down the list at just 57th against the pass. Even with the young schedule, the fact that the Tide has allowed 6.5 yards-per-pass without an interception and just seven sacks in three games against the nation's 141st ranked schedule-to-date should be worrisome to Saban and the Tide faithful.
The Tide went 11-2 straight-up and just 6-6 against-the-spread last year against the 39th ranked overall schedule. Always a favorite of the public, the Tide has been over-bet recently, losing against-the-spread in five of the team's last six games. Alabama lost six starters from last year's defense (ten starters overall), including both starting safeties and a starting cornerback. It shows. Florida is getting the Tide at the right time as the Gators' offense is playing well and Alabama's young secondary has yet to materialize.
According to 50,000 games played by the Predictalator, Alabama wins on average 67% of the time and by an average score of 30-20. As 14.5 point underdogs keeping the game in Tuscaloosa within ten points, Florida covers the spread 57.4% of the time, which would warrant a $53 wager from a normal $50 player. The total for the week is 52 and is not playable given that it does not cover more than the 52.4% of the time necessary to be profitable when wagering 11 to win 10 (aka -110 odds). There are nine stronger against-the-spread picks and 32 playable totals on Saturday.