Alabama offense vs. Georgia defense
Alabama has shown that it can beat a team in a variety of ways, and in two straight games versus LSU, they have put the ball in the capable hands of quarterback AJ McCarron. Georgia, however, has had its struggles with the power run this season. The Bulldogs have improved in the last five games defensively, but expect Alabama to try and pound it at the Georgia defense early and often. If it is successful, it could be a long game as it sets up the play-action and starts to wear the UGA defense down. If it isn't successful, Georgia will still be worn down to an extent and the Tide can return to that part of the game plan at a later time. It wouldn't surprise us at all to see Alabama come out and throw it on first down, and it isn't as if we believe the run is there if and when they want it. The game, however, will likely come down to who can control the line of scrimmage and this would be an early opportunity for Alabama to come in and take it. When the Tide goes to its passing game, expect a great deal of attention to be paid to Jarvis Jones either with a chip from a running back or tight end, double-teams, or by sliding the protection his way.
Alabama defense vs. Georgia offense
Georgia has heard all week that it can't hang with Alabama, but Alabama's defense has heard the same thing about not being able to get consistent pressure. What Kirby Smart and the Alabama defense are able to do week-in-and-week-out is because of talent, physicality, and execution. We don't expect that to change. Expect, however, some creative blitz packages and some overloads to help pressure Aaron Murray. Like most quarterbacks, Murray can be rattled and struggles when pressured. Alabama's best chance is to rely on its front seven to stop the run, but to have that entire front seven ready and available to create pressure. If Alabama is successful and able to get pressure and stop the run, Georgia will have to adjust. At that point it becomes a cat and mouse game. If Georgia has success against that plan, then Alabama could be in some serious trouble and may have to rely on a secondary that has been vulnerable at times to slow down the Bulldog passing attack.
Georgia defense vs. Alabama offense
The Alabama offensive line has shown at times this year that it is susceptible to edge pressure. Jarvis Jones and Jordan Jenkins have shown that they can create edge pressure. Expect Georgia to be aggressive early and often with the that kind of pressure both out of the base package and the nickel package. The Bulldogs have been able to create big plays with Damian Swann off the edge, and Todd Grantham knows that as much as Alabama needs to pressure Murray, Georgia needs to pressure McCarron. Against the run, Georgia is going to be a lot like Alabama and try to take it on with their front seven. The Tide's receivers aren't as deep and experienced as Georgia's, so you could see Shawn Williams creep up into the box and create some man-to-man situations for Alabama on the outside in order to make sure the run game can be thwarted. As the game wears on, what Alabama is able to do will dictate what Georgia does defensively. If Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon are successful on the ground, Georgia will have to leave Williams down in the box to stop the run. If Georgia is handling the run well, Grantham can start to mix up coverages more and try and force McCarron into some mistakes, but he doesn't make many.
Georgia offense vs. Alabama defense
This game plan is the toughest to predict because it is impossible to know which Georgia offensive line will show up. At times, the Georgia front five has struggled, been out of sync, and gotten pushed around. At other times, it has gone against very good to great competition and showed that it can more than hold its own against big time talent. With a BCS National Championship birth at stake, we have to at least expect that the Georgia offensive line will bring it's "A" game. Expect Georgia to come out and establish the run. Alabama is the best in the SEC at stopping the run, but LSU and Texas A&M had some success between the tackles with offensive line's that were likely more talented, but with less talent at the running back position. Expect the Georgia offense to lean on Todd Gurley and, to a lesser extent, Keith Marshall, to win on early downs and create second and third downs that are manageable. If Georgia is successful, it could help get the offense in rhythm and set up the play-action pass. If Georgia isn't successful, it will have to rely on the defense early in the game until the passing game can get going. In the end, we expect that passing game to be what really does the damage for the Bulldogs, but the run will play a role at some point. Alabama has been stingy, but not invincible against the run so opportunities, however limited, will likely arise.
This game hasn't gotten any "Game of the Century" billing, and I'm not sure it deserves it. It is, however, a match up of two of the biggest, fastest, and most talented teams in college football. Alabama is on the top of the mountain while Georgia is climbing as hard as it can to get there. This won't be decided with home-field or who has the loudest fans. It won't be decided by who has the most talent. I don't buy the fact that Georgia has more talent than Alabama no more than I buy the idea that any coach or team in college football is immune to being beat when they put their best foot forward. This game will come down to who wants it more and who can control that want enough to make fewer mistakes than the other team. The team that wants it more is usually the team that needs it more, and that is Georgia. But can the Bulldogs control that want, that need, enough to limit mistakes? We all know Alabama doesn't make many of them. There is little to no history between the personnel on these two teams. Other than a few fifth year seniors, no player was on the team back when the two last played in 2008. Emotions will be running high, and while the Bulldogs are the more mistake prone team of the two, they are now in their second game on this stage. That will mean something. Alabama is Alabama, though, and getting their best shot is as close to a guarantee as one can get in the college game. There are three things that need to be said. The first is that Georgia's best game can, but is in no way certain to, beat Alabama's best game. The second is that when you look at both sides of the ball, Alabama has been more consistent and has a champion's pedigree, but Georgia has more playmakers. Lastly, Georgia is, without a doubt, playing its best football of the season, but is Alabama? In the end, Georgia will want it more because it needs it more. The Bulldogs will control that want enough to limit mistakes, and make enough plays to come out on top. Georgia 21 Alabama 17.
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