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Up next for Florida: An even better 'Bama in SEC championship

GAINESVILLE — When No. 15 Florida rolled back home early Sunday morning from Tallahassee, coach Jim McElwain gave his team until it unloaded the bus at 3:45 a.m. to stew over the 18-point defeat at Florida State.

With this week's SEC championship against No. 1 Alabama looming, the Gators couldn't waste any time wallowing.

"There's only been a couple times so far that I've become violently ill watching (Alabama)," McElwain said.

That's because coach Nick Saban has somehow found ways to make the undefeated Crimson Tide juggernaut even better, and the undisputed favorite to win the Jan. 9 national title game at Raymond James Stadium.

McElwain said this might be the best all-around team Saban has assembled at 'Bama — lofty praise, considering four of those teams won national championships, and last year's title team shut down UF in a 29-15 win that wasn't as close as the score suggested.

"Those guys really brought it to us," cornerback Jalen Tabor said. "For the first time ever playing football, I kind of felt like it was a little bit tougher than it normally was."

And the Tide's offense has only gotten more dynamic since then, thanks to dual-threat quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Only seven quarterbacks in the country have more rushing yards than Hurts (840), whose mobility stretches the field and opens up more opportunities for the rest of his explosive teammates. Florida State's Deondre Francois performed similarly last week, helping the Seminoles become the third team to put up more than 30 points against the Gators all season.

The good news for UF is that its banged-up defense rebounded the two previous times. After the collapse at Tennessee and the three-touchdown defeat at Arkansas, the Gators allowed only 13 total points in wins over Vanderbilt and South Carolina.

"I think you could just expect the same thing this week," cornerback Quincy Wilson said.

But neither the Commodores nor the Gamecocks come close to mighty 'Bama.

The Tide's defense might be better, too, even from the one that held UF to 180 yards in Atlanta last December. McElwain said his Alabama film reel includes 86 clips of third-down plays between 7 and 10 yards — an astonishing amount that shows the Tide smothers opponents early in drives.

'Bama didn't just keep its opponents out of the end zone during November; no opponent even advanced past the Tide's 10 this month.

"Alabama's defense is No. 1 in the country for a reason …" quarterback Austin Appleby said. "They have great players, and they execute the plan at a high level."

If the Gators have any hopes of pulling the biggest upset of the season, they'll have to move on from FSU and find a way to do the same.

INJURY UPDATES: Defensive lineman Jordan Sherit (Hillsborough High) will be out this week with a knee injury that will require surgery, depriving the Gators of a redshirt junior with 11 career starts. Linebacker Jarrad Davis (ankle), defensive end Bryan Cox (leg) and center Cam Dillard (leg) will be out again. Offensive lineman Martez Ivey (leg) will be limited again.

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

SEC title game

No. 15 Florida vs. No. 1 Alabama, 4 Saturday, Georgia Dome, Atlanta. TV: Ch. 10

Up next for Florida: An even better 'Bama in SEC championship 11/28/16 [Last modified: Monday, November 28, 2016 6:42pm]
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