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Q&A: Talking With The Enemy

Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports

With just one day until the SEC Championship game kicks off, I got a chance to talk with Andy Hutchins, the Managing Editor at Alligator Army, an SBNation community for Florida fans. You can follow him on twitter @AndyHutchins. The full question and answer transcript is below.

Q: Before we get to this year’s game, let’s talk Florida-Alabama history. These two teams are meeting in the SEC Title Game for the eighth time in the last 24 seasons. Does the Florida fan base look at this game as a rivalry, especially with what is on the line most of the time?

I don’t look at it as a rivalry, because Florida just doesn’t play Alabama enough; it’s a different version of how Florida-Auburn is sort of a forgotten rivalry from a time when the Gators and Tigers played yearly. It’s a good series, obviously, with the East and West’s most storied programs matching up, but it’s less of a rivalry than Florida-LSU is, and most Florida fans don’t think of that as a primary rivalry, either.

Q: Most people think this is going to be a blowout. The 17-point Vegas line is the second largest in SEC Championship history. What is the mindset of the fan base this week and is there any sort of possible moral victory in defeat, with it being McElwain’s first season?

Is “Don’t die” a fair mindset? The “Awww, here it goes” from the Kenan and Kel intro? Florida fans just don’t want to be “embarrassed” — though what could really embarrass them after a two-point performance on Senior Day against a hated rival is beyond me — and the moral victory is in getting to Atlanta in the first place. This team showing that the East can be won even when Florida’s not at full strength was more than anyone rationally expected of McElwain in his first season, and Florida’s 10 wins are the most for a head coach’s rookie year in Gainesville. We long since passed the point beyond which everything is gravy.

Q: Florida has looked borderline terrible over the last three weeks. What has been the issue for the Gators in November and what will need to be done to fix it before Saturday?

The offense isn’t good because the line isn’t very good and Treon Harris is worse. The only ways to fix it would be for Florida’s redshirting freshmen to shed those redshirts en masse and/or for Harris to suddenly turn into Russell Wilson. Neither is happening, so I’d expect short passes to alleviate some of the pressure on Harris and hopefully open tiny holes for Kelvin Taylor to squeeze through.

Q: Nick Saban compared Treon Harris to former Tide quarterback Blake Sims. Do you see that same comparison and what could Harris do to give the Crimson Tide troubles on Saturday?

Nah, not really. Sims had at least a couple of inches on Harris and could see the field better as a result. I think Sims might have been slightly faster, too. Plus, Florida doesn’t run (or hasn’t run) the read option stuff that could make Harris a danger on the ground. If those plays are suddenly part of Florida’s playbook, or if Harris hits receivers on the run in scramble drill situations, maybe he poses a threat. I doubt he will.

Q: The strength of this Florida team is clearly the defense but it feels like the secondary gets most of the attention. Who are the players that will need to step up in the front seven to be able to stop Derrick Henry and the running game?

On the line, it’s Jonathan Bullard, who can blow up plays with his blend of strength and quickness. In Florida’s emaciated LB corps, it’s Jarrad Davis, who has incredible power at the point of impact and startling closing speed.

Q: Who is the one X-factor for the Gators in this game?

Nick Saban, and whether he takes pity on his former offensive coordinator. Oh, you wanted a serious answer? Demarcus Robinson is the Gators’ best athlete, and could make a big play happen in space, if Harris can get him the ball. That’s a major if.

Q: Let’s do some over/under before we get to predictions. Over/Under 20.5 carries for Kelvin Taylor?

Over. He’s been under that total just twice since October began.

Q: Over/Under 1.5 interceptions for Jake Coker?

Under. Could see one, don’t see two.

Q: Over/Under 225.5 total yards of offense for Florida?

Over, but just barely. Maybe this one goes into garbage time early, though, and Florida moves the ball on Alabama reserves?

Q: So after all that, what is your score prediction for the game on Saturday?

Alabama a lot, Florida a little. Let’s say 31-10.

Caleb Turrentine is a contributor at Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow him on Twitter, @CalebTurrentine.

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