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SEC showdown in Swamp: Top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide take on No. 11 Florida Gators

Sep 11, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) during warm ups at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 11, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) during warm ups at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Florida fans are clamoring for coach Dan Mullen to ditch the training wheels and turn to talented redshirt freshman quarterback Anthony Richardson as the starter Saturday when No. 1 Alabama arrives at The Swamp.

The coach of the 11th-ranked Gators made it clear he isn’t checking the suggestion box at this time.

“I’ll be honest with you, I don’t listen to too many suggestions,” Mullen said. “If you’re in our staff meeting, I’m going to listen to your suggestion. But I don’t run down to Shands Hospital and say, ‘Boy, I really think you should do that procedure this way.’

“I think those guys probably got that under control, you know? So they’re the people, the experts who are doing it.”

Translation: Mullen plans to stay the course, starting Emory Jones for the third straight game over Richardson. Even though Jones tossed two interceptions in Florida’s wins over Florida Atlantic and South Florida, he is still the man for the Gators.

Mullen is 0-10 in his career against Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, including a wild 52-46 setback last December in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

Chief among the reasons Mullen isn’t making a shift: Jones’ superior grasp of the offense. Mullen specifically cited a play Richardson made against Florida Atlantic as a reason why Jones continues to get most of the snaps.

Florida Gators not making quarterback change for Alabama Crimson Tide game

florida gators vs alabama crimson tide preview
Florida Gators quarterback Emory Jones (5) looks down field for a receiver during the second game of the season against the USF Bulls at Raymond James Stadium, in Tampa Fla. Sept. 11, 2021. Flgai 09112021 Ufvs Usf Action44

“He drops back, misses a protection check, then misses the ‘hot’ throw, then misses the primary read and then scrambles around and runs someone over,” Mullen said. “And everyone thinks, ‘What a spectacular play!'”

Richardson has made enough spectacular plays, particularly on the ground, to lead the SEC in rushing with 275 yards – on just 11 carries. He is just 6 of 11 in the air as compared to Jones’ 31 of 49, and is battling a nagging hamstring injury to boot.

At Alabama, there are no such quarterback concerns.

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young in Heisman conversation

Sep 4, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) passes against the Miami Hurricanes during the first high at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 4, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) passes against the Miami Hurricanes during the first high at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Freshman quarterback Bryce Young hit 19 of 27 passes for 227 yards and three scores last week in a 48-14 rout of FCS opponent Mercer. He has emerged as the betting favorite for the Heisman Trophy.

Young already is the first quarterback in program history – a history that only includes the likes of Joe Namath, Ken Stabler, Tua Tagovailoa, etc. – to toss seven touchdown passes in his first two starts.

Not that everything ran smoothly Saturday, in Saban’s view. The offense ended its first two drives with punts and the secondary was beaten for a pair of touchdown passes in the second half, although it was 35-0 by the time Mercer found the end zone.

“We probably didn’t play to the standard that we like to play to,” Saban said. “I think it is probably attributed to how you prepare, how you practice, the things that you do because that’s when you create habits. Practice fast, play fast and that’s when good things happen.”

Alabama leads the all-time series 27-14, winning the last seven matchups. This will be the Crimson Tide’s first trip to Gainesville since Oct. 1, 2011.

–Field Level Media