CBS Sports doesn’t think Florida-Alabama will be close

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Florida certainly has its hands full this weekend. No. 1 Alabama comes to the Swamp for the first time in 10 years, and the Gators face arguably their toughest regular-season test since coach Dan Mullen took over in 2018.

UF are heavy underdogs in this game, and with its struggles on both sides of the ball, not many are giving it a chance. That includes CBS Sports’ Barrett Sallee, who predicted the Crimson Tide would win on Saturday by a wide margin.

Are you kidding me? Alabama is only laying 15.5 points? That’s just disrespectful. Florida’s offense is a mess and running up against the Alabama defense at the worst possible time. Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young won’t be fazed by the Gators defense. Expect him to hit big play after big play thanks in part to Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s remarkable ability to call blitzes at the worst possible times. Pick: Alabama (-15.5)

Sallee is right that, on paper, this isn’t a very advantageous matchup for the Gators. It’s hard for any team in the country to match up against Alabama, and Florida will need to solve its offensive woes sooner rather than later if it’s going to remain competitive in this one.

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That may not matter if the defense hasn’t taken a major step forward, though. It’s been hard to evaluate through two weeks considering neither FAU nor USF posed much of a challenge offensively. Facing Alabama and the red-hot Bryce Young will be an entirely different beast.

NEXT: The X-Factor

The X-factor in this game could obviously be Anthony Richardson. The redshirt freshman quarterback won’t be starting, Mullen has made that much clear, but barring a massive leap forward from Emory Jones, Richardson is likely the only player who can spark the offense enough to challenge Alabama. Here’s Sallee’s take on the quarterback situation and where the UF offense currently stands.

Florida has several problems heading into its showdown with Alabama. The most pressing one is at quarterback where Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson are still vying for the top spot on the depth chart. Jones has tossed four picks — two each vs. FAU and South Florida — while Richardson is nursing a hamstring injury that popped up as he crossed the goal line on an 80-yard touchdown run against the Bulls.

The question facing coach Dan Mullen is whether he should start the guy who will give the ball to the Tide … or start the guy who could be a superstar but isn’t 100%. The answer might depend on what we haven’t seen the Gators do offensively. Wide receiver Jacob Copeland said this week that the Gators’ playbook has been shrouded in secrecy.

“I feel like camp was the thing that showed everything for us. We’ve seen what we had to see during camp. We came in, everybody is saying this and that about us in the first two games,” he said, “but they haven’t seen everything.”

Will it matter, though? The combination of a dicey quarterback competition and a playbook that hasn’t been fully unleashed is a tricky situation heading into the game against Alabama, a team that can turn a game sideways in a hurry.

There is certainly some merit to the idea that Florida has kept some offensive looks under wraps so far, but that doesn’t necessarily mean things will improve when the playbook opens up. Jones has really struggled with timing and reading the field, and adding more complexity to the system doesn’t seem to be the solution.

UF has a lot to prove in this game, and if it even wants a chance at the upset, it will have to play much, much better than it did in the first two weeks.

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