Marcus Spears: Dawgs have closed the talent gap on Tide
ATLANTA – Alabama is the nation’s top-ranked team and a 13.5 favorite over Georgia in Saturday’s SEC Championship.
However, when it comes to the talent level on the field for both teams, SEC Network analyst Marcus Spears believes the margin in actual talent level is a lot smaller than that.
“It’s the smallest gap in the country, other than Clemson,” Spears told reporters Friday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. “That being said, the problem is, are you afforded the opportunity to make mistakes, and are the guys good enough to overcome them? Usually, when you play Alabama, that’s not the case. But we all know Kirby has recruited in that vein, and like last year, I thought across the board they were as talented as Alabama was.”
Spears isn’t counting the Bulldogs (12-1) out of Saturday’s game, either.
Although he acknowledges both teams are different than the ones who faced off last January at Mercedes-Benz, Spears doesn’t buy into the notion that Georgia, as some have suggested, has little chance against the undefeated Crimson Tide (12-0).
“If Georgia has what it takes for three and a half, four hours, whatever it is, they can win,” Spears said. “Now it’s hard, because Bama is good, but for everybody who tagged me (social media) that you (Georgia) walk into the stadium with no chance—I just don’t buy that narrative of football.”
Georgia comes in with a five-game winning streak. The reason? According to Spears, it's the simple fact the Bulldogs got back to being themselves.
“They’ve got back to what their identity is, their M.O., and their best player is healthy now,” Spears said. “We talked about how the Jimmys and Joes make the difference. D’Andre Swift is a different player. He’s an equalizer in a lot of situations. The fact he’s healthy—the fact they could be getting Ben Cleveland back and healthy on the offensive line—is a big difference.”
Spears noted that if the Bulldogs are able to run the football, their chances will vastly increase.
“I was looking at an interesting stat the other day when I was in New York. Every time Georgia rushes for more than 150 the last two years, they win. Last year in the national championship, they rushed for 133,” Spears said. “That’s what they do, and once they do that, everything else is better. (Jake) Fromm is better when they run the ball with play action, and you’re able to dictate what you want defenses to do as well.”
Spears believes Georgia has definitely improved, and the stats would appear to bear him out. The Bulldogs have won their last five contests by an average of 23.2 points.
Although that average is padded by a 39-point victory over UMass, what Georgia did in dismantling Florida, Kentucky, Auburn, and Georgia Tech was quite impressive.
“If you don’t get better by this point in the season, you get smacked, because you’re playing the best team in the conference on the other side,” Spears said. “I think Georgia played a lot better and I think they’ve got a chance.”
Spears believes the Bulldogs can indeed run the ball.
“Bama has had some issues with one-back runs when they remove linebackers out of the box and bring the nickel/corner in. There are formulas for every team to try and find a weakness, where you can try to expose and exploit it. I think what Georgia does in the run game exposes what Alabama doesn’t defend well the most,” Spears said.
“Look, I’m not trying to build this up. I think Alabama is the better team, but with that being said, when scheme, coaching, and all that comes into play, you’re looking at two staffs who really have it figured out.”