With UF’s first two victories of the year coming against lesser opposition, the Gators have matched up against a pair of unheralded coaches in Florida State flop Willie Taggart and the 1-10 Jeff Scott.
Florida won’t be as fortunate Saturday as Nick Saban will stroll onto the opposing sideline, and the UF locker room has emphasized their respect for the most successful coach in college football history ahead of their blockbuster matchup this weekend.
“It’s Nick Saban,” wide receiver Jacob Copeland said. “He’s going to come out there, and he’s going to make sure he has the right players out there on the field at the right time. So, I feel like he’s going to come out there and try to execute well.”
Saban’s dominance starts on the recruiting trail, where the seven-time national champion has hauled in a top-three class in nine of the last ten seasons. The allure of Alabama blue-blood brand helps his recruiting, but Saban’s unparalleled success comes from his remarkably personable approach with his targets
“It’s Nick Saban you talking to at all times,” Copeland, a former Alabama target, said. “You can go to school, visit him and you chilling with him, like kicking it with him, like good vibes type deal.”
Alabama boasts elite, NFL-level talent across the field as a result, but former Alabama targets Copeland and Zachary Carter recall a distinct message of discipline and hard-nosed football that they claim translates onto the field and makes the Crimson Tide exceptionally difficult to play.
“They’re just a well-coached team, man,” Carter said. “You know, kudos to Alabama, they’ve always been a disciplined team since I’ve been watching college football.”
The Crimson Tide have dominated the entire college football landscape over the last ten seasons, but the Gators have been particularly disappointing over the last decade. Since 2009, the Gators lost six straight games by at least two touchdowns before last season’s 52-46 defeat in the SEC Championships.
It would be easy for Florida’s long odds and woeful history against the Tide to discourage the UF roster, but they instead developed a healthy underdog streak.
“Since I’ve been here, we’ve been underdogs in a lot of games since I’ve been here,” Carter said. “And we’re pretty much underdogs every year, it seems like. And I know guys have a chip on their shoulders regardless.”
If anything, Alabama and Saban’s prestige, along with their constant torment of Florida football, has evoked an energetic and dogged atmosphere in the Gators locker room ahead of Saturday’s matchup.
“It’s always fun,” Mullen said. “This is a great opportunity for us to go challenge against the number one team in the country, and see where we’re at right now as a team this year.”