January 23, 2017

Florida Gators

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  Gators huge underdogs in title game

With any last hopes of a College Football Playoff dashed with a 31-13 loss to rival Florida State, Florida is entering its SEC title matchup against No. 1 Alabama as heavy underdogs.

The Gators (8-3) are in the SEC title game for the second straight year in two seasons under head coach Jim McElwain. Florida earned a spot in the title game with a 16-10 upset at LSU on Nov. 19, but followed that up with a disheartening loss to the Seminoles.

The title game is a rematch of last season's SEC title game, which Alabama won 29-15. The Crimson Tide are favored by more than three touchdowns.

"It means a lot to be able to be in this ballgame," McElwain said. "This is one of those weekends where a lot of teams aren't playing. It's an honor to be representing the (SEC) East."

Florida enters the SEC title game beat up, with seven defensive starters sidelines due to various injuries. But it's been Florida's offense that has struggled to gain any momentum behind backup quarterback Austin Appleby. Florida has scored just 29 points over its last two games and failed to score an offensive touchdown last week against FSU.

"We've got to get the ball in our playmaker's hands in space and allow them to be able to make plays," McElwain said. "That's going to be a big focus in practice this week."

It won't be easy against an Alabama defense that ranks first in the SEC in scoring defense (11.4 ppg allowed), total defense (246.8 yards per game allowed) and sacks (41).

"If we go out there and do what we're capable of ... we can have success against this defense," Appleby said