The Tide crushed No. 15 Florida 54-16 in the Georgia Dome on Saturday afternoon to collect the SEC title for the third year in a row and lock in their spot as the top seed for the 2016 College Football Playoff.
The game got off to a strange start as Florida marched down the field on the opening drive for a touchdown to take an early 7-0 lead.
Alabama’s offense failed to gain positive yards in the first quarter, finishing the quarter with -7 yards. However, a pair of interceptions (including a pick-six by Minkah Fitzpatrick) and a blocked punt for a touchdown gave the Tide a 16-9 lead going to the second quarter-Florida picked up two points by blocking an extra point and returning it for a score.
Alabama took a 33-16 lead into halftime, and in the third quarter, it looked like the Gators would pull to within one score again with a great drive that put them in a third-and-goal situation on the 1-yard line.
Alabama’s defense stuffed Florida on the next two plays to force a turnover on downs and then promptly marched the ball 98 yards down the field to take a 40-16 lead and crush any hopes the Gators still had of an upset.
Two more late touchdowns, including one by fourth string walk-on running back Derrick Gore, gave Alabama 54 points, the second most in SEC Championship Game history (2010 Auburn).
The win makes Alabama the only undefeated Power Five team in the nation, and also cements the Tide as the only SEC team with fewer than four losses on the season.
The 54-16 win is Alabama’s fifth win by 38 or more points on the season (USC, Tennessee, Kent State, Mississippi State and Florida). It was also the second time this season that Alabama scored in all three phases of the game (Tennessee).
It was a perfect summation of the Alabama season. When the offense looked bad in the first quarter, the defense and special teams picked them up to lead to 16 points.
Eventually, Alabama’s offense found its stride and wore down the Florida defense with the rushing attack, finishing with 234 yards on the ground.
Alabama’s defense did exactly what it’s done all season, which is create turnovers and points while dominating the opponent’s efforts in the running game. Florida finished the game with more turnovers (three) than rushing yards (0).
The Gators had success through the air with 267 yards and a pair of touchdown passes from Austin Appleby, but Alabama’s pass defense also hauled in three interceptions.
This was a game where early on Alabama looked vulnerable, and yet the Tide never trailed at the end of any quarter and won 54-16.