Florida's Scoop & Score

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
4:23
PM ET


video

UF's Keanu Neal picked up an Alabama fumble and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown.

Bama's Early 87-Yard TD

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
4:17
PM ET


video

Alabama QB Blake Sims connects with RB Kenyan Drake for an 87-yard touchdown to take the early lead over Florida.

Video: Inside The Drive -- Florida-Alabama

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
11:21
AM ET
video
Alabama coach Nick Saban discusses the key matchups as the Florida Gators visit the Crimson Tide.
video

He translates power to the field and has receivers shaking in their boots

The history of the houndstooth

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
11:02
AM ET


video

Kaylle Hartung talks about the fashion statement that defines a football nation
video

Kaylee Hartung and SEC Nation is live from Tuscaloosa

SEC viewer's guide: Week 4

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
8:00
AM ET
Noon ET

Troy at No. 13 Georgia, SEC Network: Georgia is coming off a 38-35 loss at South Carolina and is looking for a resounding victory here. The last time these teams met (2007), Georgia won 44-34. This Troy team, however, is 0-3 and allowing 40 points per game while averaging only 20.7. Look for the Bulldogs to jump out early in this one.

3:30 p.m. ET

No. 6 Texas A&M at SMU, ABC/ESPN2: The Aggies come in at 3-0 and they’ve been rolling so far this season. SMU has been a mess, 0-2 and with a new coach: June Jones resigned last week; Tom Mason is serving as the interim head coach and is making his debut. Perhaps the Mustangs are fired up and have a renewed energy, but even if they do, the Aggies are in position for a convincing victory. These teams' past three meetings, dating to 2011, have resulted in a 35.3-point average margin of victory for A&M.

[+] EnlargeWill Muschamp, Nick Saban
Gary W. Green/Getty ImagesNick Saban and Alabama own a three-game winning streak over Florida. The teams haven't played since 2011, Will Muschamp's first season.
Florida at No. 3 Alabama, CBS: Few are likely giving the Gators much of a shot here because they were pushed to their limits by Kentucky. How well they operate their no-huddle, up-tempo offense will go a long way in determining how well they fare. Meanwhile, eyes continue to focus on the Alabama quarterback situation with Blake Sims and Jacob Coker, and it will be worth watching to see what develops. The Crimson Tide own a three-game winning streak over Florida.

4 p.m. ET

Indiana at No. 18 Missouri, SEC Network: The Tigers are quietly getting it done and look to close out their nonconference schedule 4-0. If they do, it would be the eighth 4-0 start under Gary Pinkel and seventh in nine seasons. Maty Mauk is coming off a four-touchdown-pass performance and Shane Ray is coming off a two-sack, four-tackles-for-loss performance.

7 p.m. ET

Northern Illinois at Arkansas, ESPNU: A victory would give the Razorbacks as many wins this season (three) as they had in all of 2013. That would be a big step forward for Bret Bielema's crew. Northern Illinois is a quality road team, having won 17 in a row in opponents' home stadiums, including one at Northwestern on Sept. 6. Arkansas brings in a second-best-in-the-nation 362 rushing yards per game.

Mississippi State at No. 8 LSU, ESPN: Saturday nights in Death Valley are always fun -- typically for the Tigers. They're 43-2 under Les Miles in Saturday night games at Tiger Stadium. This is a big "prove-it" game for Mississippi State, a team that's 3-0 and trying to take a big step into SEC West contention. Last year's meeting between these two was competitive until a 28-point fourth quarter by LSU.

7:30 p.m. ET

No. 14 South Carolina at Vanderbilt, SEC Network: The Gamecocks got a huge win versus Georgia and are looking to go to 2-1 in league play with a victory here. South Carolina jumped out to a big lead over Vandy the last time these teams met and it's likely to happen again if the Commodores don't get on track quickly. They've struggled mightily out of the gate and had to rally to beat UMass last week. Patton Robinette will start at QB; will coach Derek Mason stick with him this time?
video

Going into Saturday's SEC matchup, Florida has not won at Alabama in 16 years.

Watch: The progression of Blake Sims

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
3:00
PM ET
video
video
Finally, the game is almost here.

For both Alabama and Florida, it's been a long time coming. The Crimson Tide breezed through the nonconference portion of their schedule to get here. The Gators missed their season-opener, gassed Eastern Michigan and survived Kentucky to reach its trip to Tuscaloosa undefeated and eager to prove that last season was a fluke.

What do we know about both teams so far? Not a lot. But that's what Saturday is for.

To get you prepared, we had SEC writers Jeff Barlis and Alex Scarborough assess the matchup.

Scarborough: Let's start with the pretty boys.

I could tell you Blake Sims is a changed man. I could tell you he's transformed overnight into a quarterback capable of carrying an offense against a good defense like Florida's. But I might be stretching the truth.

[+] EnlargeJeff Driskel
AP Photo/John RaouxThe challenge for Florida will be to keep Alabama's defensive line off Jeff Driskel.
Sims' numbers are impeccable -- 75 percent completion percentage, 215 passing yards per game, six total touchdowns, one interception -- but that's just the top layer. Dig deeper and you'll see that of Sims' 646 total yards passing, 454 of which has gone to one receiver. And that one receiver, Amari Cooper, has racked up 245 of those yards after the catch.

So what happens when Vernon Hargreaves III takes away those quick passes that have been so effective? What happens when Dante Fowler rushes off the edge? What happens when Sims gets in the weeds?

Frankly, I don't know.

But I do know this: I trust him more than I do Jeff Driskel.

Barlis: There's no doubt Driskel's performance against Kentucky undermined some of the optimism that had grown for him and for the Gators. He failed to recognize obvious blitzers, didn't run the ball when he needed to, didn't give his receivers a chance at catching the deep ball, and hesitated to hit an open Demarcus Robinson for a touchdown on what could have been a crushing mistake in overtime.

Driskel's numbers -- 25-of-43 passing for 295 yards, three touchdowns and an interception -- weren't bad, though, and he deserves credit for some key plays that helped Florida stave off a colossal upset.

I don't think anyone is expecting Driskel to brilliantly engineer an upset of his own this Saturday, but he can't afford the kind of big mistakes that have plagued him in the past. He just needs to be efficient, manage the game and give his team a chance.

It's not all on Driskel's shoulders. I think one of the biggest matchups of this game will be in the trenches when Florida has the ball. The Gators' offensive line has been a sore spot, particularly in pass protection, for the last couple of years.

Starting left tackle D.J. Humphries (ankle) is out, and while senior right tackle Chaz Green is a capable fill-in, his understudy is Roderick Johnson, a redshirt freshman making his second start in the third game of his career. He's never seen anything like the No. 3 Tide and it's stable of defensive linemen.

Scarborough: That's an interesting point. Alabama's D-line has been solid so far, but hasn't lived up to the preseason hype yet. A'Shawn Robinson, the All-SEC tackle/end, has no sacks and only half a tackle for loss. He's got help rushing the passer with Ryan Anderson, Xavier Dickson and Jonathan Allen, but that group can't allow Driskel time in the pocket.

If that happens, watch out for Alabama's secondary. Nick Perry will miss the first half after being ejected for targeting, and Jarrick Williams isn't likely to play after fracturing his foot a few weeks ago. Those are two of the Tide's most veteran DBs.

Landon Collins is as solid as they come at safety, but he'll need help. Eddie Jackson's return has been a boon, but pay attention to rookie Tony Brown, whom Nick Saban said will play a lot on Saturday.

Still, my biggest question mark for Alabama isn't on defense. Setting aside Sims' play at quarterback, who is going to step up besides Cooper? O.J. Howard hasn't caught a pass all season and Christion Jones has dropped a few passes himself.

While there are a lot of talented tailbacks to turn to, I'll be interested to see how Alabama's receivers and Florida's defensive backs match up.

Barlis: I will, too. These are two of the best run defenses in the SEC if not the country. Although both teams are inexperienced in the defensive backfield, neither passing game has more than one scary playmaker -- Cooper for the Tide, and Robinson for the Gators.

It appears both defenses will be in a similar situation -- apply consistent pressure on the quarterback or else a vulnerable secondary could be exposed. Florida's D-line was strong in the first half against UK but fatigued in the second when Patrick Towles went off. That made the mistakes by young DBs even more glaring.

I say the matchup the matters most on Saturday is Florida's defensive line against Alabama's offensive line. The Gators desperately need someone other than Dante Fowler Jr. to emerge, but I'm not sure this is the game for that to happen. Bama has an outstanding line that has keyed a deadly efficient offense. The Tide have just two three-and-outs in 32 possessions this season.

The bottom line in what could very well be a defensive struggle is that both teams prefer to run the ball but probably won't be able to dominate the game that way. It'll be up to the passing attacks.

I'm not sure Florida is quite ready to play with enough tempo to affect Alabama's defense. So whichever line keeps its quarterback the cleanest will win this game, and it will be closer than many folks think.

SEC's top recruiting visits 

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
10:00
AM ET
video
There are once again some big games around the SEC this weekend. The Florida at Alabama game should draw many top recruits, as will the LSU-Mississippi State game. There will be many recruits taking unofficial visits and even a few taking official visits. Here is a closer look at some top expected visitors.

UA jersey tour: TE Hale Hentges

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
8:55
AM ET
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- ESPN 300 tight end and Alabama commitment Hale Hentges said receiving his Under Armour All-America jersey on Thursday wasn’t an individual honor. He believed it was an honor for everybody in the Helias High School community who pushed him to get to this point.

"It feels amazing to spend this moment with my friends, family and everybody here at this school because they’ve done so much for me,” Hentges, the nation’s second-ranked tight end and No. 2 player in Missouri, said. “It's great to give something back to them. It's a blessing.

“Helias is very different than other high schools. It is so much more tight-knit. It is really a community. Our teachers and coaches expect so much more from us, and they expect greatness from us every day. They've really challenged us, and I wouldn’t have gotten to this point without everybody at this school urging me on every day.”

Hentges is one of two Missouri players selected to play in the Under Armour Game, and while the Show Me State doesn’t have the same reputation for top-end talent like California, Florida or Texas, he and good friend Alex Ofodile of Columbia Rock Bridge plan on showing everybody there is top talent in the middle of the country.

 “Missouri always gets overlooked, even with some of the great players in Kansas City and St. Louis, it's not known as a football state,” Hentges said. “For us to get down there to the Under Armour Game and showcase our talent and hopefully open some eyes would be great. Maybe something like this helps get some recruits some exposure and coaches will say 'Hey, there are good kids in Missouri, let's go look there.'”

Coaches from all over the country did discover Hengtes, though. He was one of the nation’s most heavily-courted prospects -- receiving more than 30 scholarships from schools coast-to-coast -- before he committed to Alabama in late May. While Hentges admitted there was a lot of pressure to stay close to home and play for Missouri, the school down the road, he knew when he got the offer from the Crimson Tide, it was going to be tough to turn down.

“I was talking to Coach [Nick] Saban on the phone, and I couldn't believe it,” Hentges said. “Here I was talking to Coach Saban. He's the closest thing to God and Alabama, and here he is talking to me on the phone. He offered me a scholarship. I was in shock the rest of the day."

Once he did visit Tuscaloosa, Hentges knew it was the right place for him, and he wanted to become a part of what is being called one of the best recruiting classes in the last decade.

“Coach Saban expects a lot out of you,” Hentges said. “He's very business-like. I think everybody can see that on the field, but the amount of love and care that he gives to his players, people do not see that. I see that. Off the field, he'll tell you 'Whatever is wrong, come and talk to me about it.' Things like that are not shown by the media. He really is a father to his players. He holds them accountable, which I think is the greatest love. It really clicks with what I'm used to here at Helias.”

When did you know you were going to be a good football player?
“I thought I always wanted to play basketball. When I got to high school, I opened up some eyes going into the summer before my freshman year. I was able to make it on summer. We had a defensive line coach, Lorenzo Williams, [who] played at Mizzou and Brandon Coleman, who was a backup quarterback at MU. They said 'Hey, this kid is really good.' They knew what it took because they played in college. They said 'We have to give this kid exposure.' We just started sending my tape out, and schools like it. That made me realize maybe this football thing is for me.”

 What type of tight end are you?
“I can stretch the field really well, and with my basketball background, I feel like I can high point the ball really well. Rebdounds. Boxout. I still want to be as tenacious as possible in the run game. I want to be a threat in the passing game, but then again be a glorified tackle.

Is there a player you really pattern your game after?
“I really like Jason Witten. I feel like he just does everything right. He gets it done in the running game. He gets it done in the passing game. He doesn't have blazing speed, but he gets the job done. I feel like I'm really comparable to him.”

Was the recruiting process overwhelming?
“It did get a little overwhelming. The spring of my junior year before I made the decision, I was getting 10 or 12 calls every day. That was so daunting. It was like 'Oh, man, I'm finally home, but I have three hours of phone calls to do now.' That was extremely daunting. Fortunately, we were able to hit the road and finally figure out what I wanted to do. Once that part was over with, it calmed down a whole lot.”

SEC morning links

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
8:00
AM ET
1. A lot has been made of the matchup of Amari Cooper and Vernon Hargreaves III, and rightfully so. But there's a piece to the puzzle that seems to have gone overlooked in the buildup to Alabama-Florida this week: the play of the offensive line. This is the SEC after all, and there's a good chance the game comes down to who controls the line of scrimmage best. If Blake Sims and Jeff Driskel aren't protected, it won't matter how well they throw the football. Florida center Max Garcia said the line plans to combat Alabama's defensive front, "with heart." Though the Gator o-line lacks depth, it's full of experience with all five starters being upperclassmen. On the other side is Alabama, which has a true freshman starting at left tackle in Cam Robinson. He could be the key to the game. Though the former five-star prospect has played well this season, he hasn't played in a game of this magnitude yet, and he hasn't seen a group of edge rushers like Dante Fowler and Jonathan Bullard yet. If there was ever a game not to make a rookie mistake, it will be Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

2. Jalen Hurd got a nice pick-me-up after Tennessee lost on the road at Oklahoma. The former four-star recruit turned promising freshman tailback checked his phone after the 34-10 loss and saw a notification on Twitter. And look at who it was. No, Faux Pelini didn't strike again. Instead, it was former Ohio State and NFL star Eddie George showing Hurd some love on the twittersphere. George, like a lot of us, saw in Hurd a potential star. Time will tell how Hurd's career turns out, but for now he can revel in the praise of an idol. "That just makes me happy," Hurd said.



3. For the first time in a long time, South Carolina doesn't have a two-quarterback system to worry about. In fact, we might not even know who Dylan Thompson's backup is at this point. It might be Pharoh Cooper, if you look at the number snaps taken in games. On the depth chart, Connor Mitch and Perry Orth are both listed as No. 2. It's a matter of semantics, of course, but the larger point might be the fact that there isn't even a whiff of a QB controversy in Columbia. When's the last time we could say that? Spurrier hasn't been the least bit tempted to pull Thompson from the game, and it's a testament to how well the veteran quarterback has played. So far, Thompson has made his four-year wait worth it. The redshirt senior has thrown eight touchdowns and three interceptions, and is averaging just over 300 yards passing per game. If he keeps this up, he might soon be in the conversation of the SEC's best quarterbacks. His 82.1 QBR rating ranks fourth in the league.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Florida's Fumble-Recovery Touchdown
UF's Keanu Neal picked up an Alabama fumble and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown.
VIDEO PLAYLIST video

SEC SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 9/20
Thursday, 9/18