TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama football team worked in shells for an hour and 15 minutes on the Thomas-Drew Practice Fields Monday afternoon.
Alabama began a new week of practice after taking down rival Auburn, 29-13, in last weekend’s Iron Bowl to close out the regular season. The Crimson Tide now turns its focus to this Saturday’s 2015 Southeastern Conference Championship Game against Florida. The SEC Western Division champs square off with the Gators, winners of the East, at 3 p.m. CT on CBS with Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson in the booth and Allie LaForce working the sidelines.
The Gators enter the postseason matchup with a 10-2 overall record and a 7-1 mark in league play to earn the conference’s Eastern Division title. Most recently, Florida suffered a non-conference loss to in-state rival Florida State by a score of 27-2 on Saturday. First year head coach and former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain leads the Gators.
Saturday’s matchup will be the 39th time in the series, with the Crimson Tide owning the all-time advantage, 24-14 (25-14 actual). In the most recent matchup, Alabama defeated Florida in Tuscaloosa, 42-21, during the 2014 regular season. Blake Sims threw for 445 yards and four touchdowns, 10 of which went to Amari Cooper for 201 yards and two scores, to help lead UA to a victory.
The SEC Championship Game will mark the eighth time in the conference’s history and third in the past 10 years that the two teams will face off. The Crimson Tide (10) and Gators (11) lead the league for the most conference championship game appearances and have met the most of any opponent in the game’s history that dates back to 1992 when the two teams met for the inaugural game. Alabama came out on top, 28-21, with Antonio Langham earning MVP honors for the Tide.
Head Coach Nick Saban
“Just a quick comment about the last game. Not necessarily our best consistency and execution when it comes to just how we play each play in and play out on offense, defense and special teams. But the players really competed well in the game, overcame a lot of adversity, hung in there and kept grinding to come out with the win.
“It’s always great to have SEC Players of the week – Derrick Henry and Adam Griffith. Both guys are very deserving. Our players of the week were Derrick Henry, Ryan Kelly and ArDarius Stewart on offense; Reuben Foster, Marlon Humphrey and Jonathan Allen on defense; and on special teams Adam Griffith and Keith Holcombe.
“I don’t really have any updates or anything new on injuries, but this is a great opportunity for our team to get to play in the SEC Championship Game. This is something that we still feel is very, very important and something that’s a significant accomplishment because of the quality of our league, including winning our division and getting an opportunity to play against a really good Florida team. This is a talented team that’s extremely well-coached. Jim McElwain has done an outstanding job there. They’ve won 10 games this year, and they’re probably the best overall team that we’ve played against all year long. They’re a great defensive team – probably the highest-ranked defensive team we’ve faced all year long from a national standpoint. They also do a great job of taking care of the ball and getting turnovers; they have a very positive turnover ratio. Very talented players on offense, their quarterback Treon Harris is a dual-threat kind of guy that can make plays passing or with his feet and reminds me a lot of Blake (Sims) in terms of his style of play. Kelvin Taylor is an outstanding running back, probably as good as we’ve played against all year. They have some very talented receivers and good skill guys that can make big plays, and this is one of the most talented special teams. They’ve struggled a little bit on field goals this year, but other than that they have one of the highest net punt averages in the country. They have a great punt return guy – kickoff returns have been very good for them – so this team is really, really good on special teams. This is an outstanding team we’re playing, and they wouldn’t be in the SEC Championship Game if they weren’t. I think anybody out there that thinks this is not going to be a real challenge and a real test for our team – well I don’t know what you’re thinking is. I really don’t get it.”