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The Gators prep for big, bad Bama

Regular season game, let alone SEC openers, don’t get much bigger than Saturday’s clash
Updated: Sep. 13, 2021 at 7:15 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -When a decorated program like Florida refers to a matchup as a big game, you know something special is in the air. Truth is, Saturday’s SEC opener against No. 1 Alabama ranks among the biggest home games in Gator history.

Florida is 2-0 following victories over Florida Atlantic and South Florida and enters the week ranked 11th in the AP poll. The Crimson Tide are coming off an undefeated national championship season, one of six they’ve claimed under head coach Nick Saban.

Alabama will be making its first visit to Gainesville in ten years. However, it’s the first time since 2002 that Florida has welcomed a top-ranked defending champion. You have to go back to Ron Zook’s first season at UF when Miami came to the swamp off a national title and claimed a 41-16 win.

It’s the kind of game that can set a program up for several years, as long as you win.

“If you need me to motivate you to play this game you’re a little messed up,” said Florida head coach Dan Mullen. “This is a big game, it’s why you come to Florida to play in big games. Whatever the result of the game is I’m sure both view it as both teams want to play this game again.”

Last season, the Gators and Crimson Tide met in the SEC title game, a 52-46 Alabama victory that represented the Tide’s closest game all year.

“Losing by those six points was something where you can build encouragement,” said junior wide receiver Jacob Copeland. “Knowing we were that close to beating them last year in the SEC championship. Coming into the season we wanted to see Bama early so if like as long as we execute from here on out I feel like it’ll be great for us.”

“It’s big for us to see where we are as a team,” said senior defensive lineman Zachary Carter. “I think there’s no better way to start off (SEC play). We want to play with the best and compete with the best.”

In 2020, the Gators also met the reigning champion on home soil, and lost to LSU, 37-34.

Mullen said that quarterback Anthony Richardson, who has made a number of explosive plays in the season’s first two games, is expected to practice this week after leaving the win over USF with tightness in his hamstring. Richardson completed all three of his passes versus the Bulls for 152 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 115 yards, including an 80-yard score. Emory Jones, meanwhile, was 14-22 for 151 yards and a touchdown, but did throw two interceptions. Jones added 81 yards on 13 carries, including a 33-yard TD rush.

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