Alabama completed a 13-0 regular season on Saturday and will go wire-to-wire as the No. 1-ranked team in the Amway Coaches Poll.
The Crimson Tide blasted No. 16 Florida, a 24-point underdog, 54-16 in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta, capturing their fifth conference crown under Nick Saban.
Alabama, which has won 25 consecutive games, will almost certainly remain No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings when they are released Sunday — where the Tide have been in each of this season’s rankings. And once again, Alabama will be part of the Playoff, as it has been for the first two years.
That will send Alabama back to Atlanta for the Peach Bowl and a national semifinal.
“You don’t always get what you want in life, but you mostly get what you deserve,” said Alabama’s Nick Saban, who has five national titles and is one away from tying Bear Bryant for the most by any coach. “These guys have done fantastic job all year long to win 13 games and the SEC.”
If there is any nitpicking to be done, it’s that Alabama was sluggish and a bit sloppy at times, especially on offense. The Tide even trailed 7-0 after a first-quarter Florida touchdown.
The defense stepped up after that, however, with three first-half interceptions.
One of them was returned for a touchdown by Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Tide also scored on a blocked punt.
In the second half, Alabama started slowly again on offense and the defense allowed a Florida drive inside the 5 yard line. But the Crimson Tide stuffed the Gators on two plays from inside the 2, then drove the length of the field to extend the lead to 40-16 with 3:32 left in the third quarter.
Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts was only 11-for-20 passing for 138 yards and a touchdown, but that combined with a strong running game (234 yards on 38 carries), was enough.
INJURY: Alabama linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton will likely miss the Playoff with a knee injury. Hamilton hurt his right knee at the end of the first half. He was on crutches after the game, and coach Nick Saban said Hamilton is “probably out for the year.”
Scoring summary and key plays from Alabama’s 54-16 win over Florida on Saturday in the SEC championship game at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome:
FLORIDA: Antonio Callaway 5 pass from Austin Appleby (Eddy Pineiro kick). Time: 9:51. Drive: 10 plays, 64 yards in 5:09. Key play:Appleby and Callaway hooked up for a 17-yard gain early in the drive to convert a third-and-13.
FLORIDA 7, ALABAMA 0.
ALABAMA: FG Adam Griffith 31. Time: 6:58. Drive: 4 plays, minus-1 yard in 0:58. Key play: Shaun Hamilton improved on his interception return from last week against Auburn. Hamilton went 40 yards on his latest interception to the Florida 12.
FLORIDA 7, ALABAMA 3.
ALABAMA: Minkah Fitzpatrick 44 interception return (Griffith kick). Time: 5:06. Drive: no drive. Key play: It was Fitzpatrick’s second touchdown of the season.
ALABAMA 10, FLORIDA 7.
ALABAMA: Josh Jacobs 27 blocked punt return (kick blocked). Time: 1:42. Drive:no drive. Key play: It was Jacobs’ fourth touchdown of the season.
ALABAMA 16, FLORIDA 7.
FLORIDA: David Reese 98 conversion return. Time: 1:42. Drive: no drive. Key play: The last time an Alabama opponent returned an extra point for a conversion was Northern Illinois’ Kevin Woods in September 2003.
ALABAMA 16, FLORIDA 9.
ALABAMA: Gehrig Dieter 6 pass from Jalen Hurts (Griffith kick). Time: 11:55. Drive:7 plays, 88 yards in 2:58. Key play: Calvin Ridley took a screen pass from Hurts and went 52 yards to the Florida 9.
ALABAMA 23, FLORIDA 9.
ALABAMA: FG Griffith 25. Time: 6:27. Drive: 7 plays, 36 yards in 2:01. Key play:Trevon Diggs’ 47-yard punt return gave Alabama the ball at Florida’s 43.
ALABAMA 26, FLORIDA 9.
ALABAMA: Jacobs 6 run (Griffith kick). Time: 3:47. Drive: 5 plays, 62 yards in 1:43. Key plays: O.J. Howard caught Hurts passes for 32 and 9 yards on the two plays before the TD.
ALABAMA 33, FLORIDA 9.
FLORIDA: DeAndre Goolsby 25 pass from Appleby (Pineiro kick). Time: 0:19. Drive:10 plays, 92 yards in 3:23. Key plays: Appleby was 6-for-7 passing for 90 yards on the drive.
ALABAMA 33, FLORIDA 16.
ALABAMA: Bo Scarbrough 2 run (Griffith kick). Time: 3:32. Drive: 8 plays, 98 yards in 3:16. Key plays: To set up the drive, Alabama held Florida after the Gators had first-and-goal at the Tide 2.
ALABAMA 40, FLORIDA 16.
ALABAMA: Scarbrough 1 run (Griffith kick). Time: 9:15. Drive: 15 plays, 91 yards in 7:34. Key play: Damien Harris broke a 21-yard run to the Florida 30.
ALABAMA 47, FLORIDA 16.
ALABAMA: Derrick Gore 10 run (Andy Pappanastos kick). Time: 9:48. Drive: 4 plays, 21 yards in 2:24. Key play: Diggs had another lengthy punt return, this one a 36-yarder to the Florida 21.
ALABAMA 54, FLORIDA 16.
Source: USA TODAY Sports