5 key things for Florida: Gators can make statement win or lose in SEC Championship Game

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images Florida quarterback Austin Appleby GAINESVILLE, Fla. — There are any number of reasons to look at this SEC Championship Game matchup between Florida and Alabama and conclude that it won’t be very competitive.

The top-ranked Crimson Tide (12-0) haven’t lost all season, have won their games by an average margin of 28 points, have only allowed one team to even finish closer than 10 points, have the top-rated defense in the country and one that hasn’t allowed an offensive touchdown since late October.

The No. 15 Gators (8-3), meanwhile, are coming off an uninspiring 31-13 loss at Florida State for their second lopsided defeat in the last four games, they rank 114th out of 128 teams in total offense and have managed just one offensive touchdown the last two weeks.

Also, these teams met in this game last year and the Tide rolled to a 29-15 win while Florida’s offense didn’t score any points until late in the fourth quarter.

Heck, even the CBS broadcast team of Gary Danielson and Verne Lundquist doesn’t expect much in the way of suspense .

The Gators, though, can’t think this way.

If they buy into the Alabama mystique and the majority opinion on this matchup, they’ve already lost.

They also have to realize that they are competing for more than the SEC title on Saturday in Atlanta.

Here are the key story lines as the Gators ready for their toughest challenge yet: 1. Win or lose, Florida has something to prove

Let’s acknowledge it up front — it would be a major stunner for Florida to win this game. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen; it just means that there is a reason Alabama has maintained a perfect record and dominated most everybody in its way.

There’s also a reason the Gators have lost most of their big games this season (at Tennessee, at Arkansas, at Florida State). Their offense is a major issue and at times also manages to undermine the team’s usually strong defense by skewing time of possession and totally stagnating.

That’s why it’s hard to envision the Gators suddenly fixing those woes against the best defense in the country, but again, there is more at stake than just an SEC title this week.

Florida can’t repeat the way it finished the 2015 season, losing its final three games in lopsided fashion to Florida State, Alabama on this same stage and Michigan in a bowl game.The first domino has already tumbled. The rest is still in the team’s control.Coach Jim McElwain wants his players believing they can win Saturday, and he should.But even if they don’t, a competitive showing from the Gators could ease some of the angst within the fan base and provide some momentum heading into whatever bowl game the program draws. Finishing this season on any sort of uptick is significantly important heading into McElwain’s third season. 2. Protect the football Let’s say Florida is going to find a way to win, how does that happen?Well, this is overstating the […]