What you need to know about Saturday’s SEC championship game

Dan Mullen after the Gators' game against the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday, December 5, 2020 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. / UAA Communications photo by Tim Casey
Dan Mullen after the Gators' game against the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday, December 5, 2020 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. / UAA Communications photo by Tim Casey (© 2020 University Athletic Association, All Rights Reserved)

The Florida Gators face off against No. 1 Alabama on Saturday night in the SEC championship game. What you need to know about the game.

No. 1 Alabama (10-0, No. 1 CFP) vs. No. 11 Florida (8-2, No. 7 CFP), Southeastern Conference championship game, Saturday at 8 p.m. (CBS).

Line: Alabama by 17.

Series record: Alabama leads 26-14.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Alabama is trying to secure a return to the College Football Playoff after missing out last season for the first time since the four-team postseason format began in 2014. The Crimson Tide may qualify even with a respectable loss, since no other team in the SEC has fewer than two defeats. Florida likely squandered its chance to get into the playoff with a stunning setback to LSU last weekend, but the Gators are still in position to claim their first SEC title since 2008.

KEY MATCHUP

Alabama's offensive line vs. Florida's front seven. The Gators lead the SEC in sacks and trail only Alabama in tackles for losses. But Florida's blitzing style leaves it vulnerable to big plays, which LSU exploited for several long gains in its 37-34 upset. No one is more explosive than Alabama and dynamic WR DeVonta Smith, who has 83 catches for 1,327 yards and 15 touchdowns, averaging 16.0 yards per reception.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Alabama QB Mac Jones, a Jacksonville native and Bolles School product. The nation’s second-rated passer is the engineer of the Crimson Tide’s run-n-gun offense, escaping the large shadow cast by his predecessors, Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, both now starting in the NFL. Jones took over the starting job in 2019 when Tagovailoa went down with an injury and firmly established his own credentials with three straight 400-yard passing games early this season.

Florida QB Kyle Trask. The senior leads the nation and has already set the school season record for touchdown passes with 40, despite the shortened, SEC-only schedule. He also ranks second nationally in passing yards per game (360.3), one spot ahead of Jones at 345.9. It’s entirely possible that the Heisman Trophy will be decided by which quarterback has the best game in Atlanta.

FACTS & FIGURES

This will be the 10th time the teams have met in the SEC championship game, with Alabama holding a 5-4 edge. ... The Crimson Tide has won its last six meetings against the Gators, three of them for the league title. ... Florida coach Dan Mullen is 0-9 in his career against Alabama’s Nick Saban, but this is the first time the two have met since Mullen left Mississippi State for Gainesville. ... The Tide is going for its 28th SEC championship. No other school has more than 13. ... Alabama is 4-0 in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which opened in 2017. ... The Gators have six players with at three receiving TDs. ... The tight end has been a big weapon in Florida’s passing game with 16 TD receptions. That’s four more than BYU, and no other school has more than nine ... Alabama has been ranked in The Associated Press Top 25 for 211 consecutive weeks, the longest active streak in the country. ... Florida K Evan McPherson is a three-time Lou Groza Award semifinalist who has made 48 of 56 field goal attempts (85.7%) in his college career. .... Alabama K Will Reichard has yet to miss this season. He has made all 11 of his field-goal attempts, along with a 66-of-66 mark on PATs.