Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

As Underdog, Tide a Solid Bet to Put the Bite on Florida

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

As Underdog, Tide a Solid Bet to Put the Bite on Florida

Article excerpt

Although Florida is favored by 6 1/2 points over Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game today, there are several compelling reasons to side with the Crimson Tide. To wit:

Alabama has thrived as an underdog. Since 1984, it is 17-5 against the spread when getting points.

In Gene Stallings' five years as head coach, the Tide is 41-1-1 when it has scored 17 or more points.

In Jay Barker's 36 starts at quarterback, the Tide is 34-1-1. Barker was injured and missed last season's 28-13 SEC title-game loss to Florida.

There also is the matter of Florida's 31-31 tie at Florida State last week, which was as devastating as a loss.

The Gators led 31-3 in the fourth quarter, then fell apart. They probably would have lost if Florida State had opted for a 2-point conversion instead of the 1-point tying kick, or if another minute or two had remained.

Steve Spurrier, Florida's creative-but-obnoxious coach, was at a rare loss for words after watching helplessly as his team caved in.

"It'll be interesting to see how we react against Alabama," he said.

Indeed, it will.

As the Gators attempted to put the pieces back together this week, Alabama sharpened its focus. The Tide hasn't played in two weeks, and is well rested and intent on revenge. It is unbeaten (11-0), ranked third and has an outside shot at the national title.

Alabama obviously doesn't rival Florida State in firepower, but it has a lot going for it, including Sherman Williams' 1,242 rushing yards and a defense that is fifth nationally in points allowed (13.5 per game).

Florida averages 45 points and 315 passing yards a game. Alabama hasn't allowed more than 300 yards passing in its last 58 regular-season games.

Take the points in this one and bank on 'Bama's defense preventing it from becoming a track meet.

Alabama 22, Florida 19.

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