If anyone outside the Georgia locker room in Williams-Brice on October 6 thought we would be in a national semifinal, I would have said at the time they were crazy, but that’s exactly where find ourselves. A win on the floor of the Georgia Dome will send the Bulldog Nation to heights we haven’t seen since the day sugar fell from the sky in Auburn. This game has all of the ingredients of a classic with athletes all over the field on both sides and two coaches who have similar styles and very dissimilar personalities. Let’s get to the preview.
When Alabama Has the Ball
Alabama is who they are. They are an offense that likes to run downhill with skilled running backs behind a dominant offensive line to set up a passing game that can be deadly efficient. They have balance in that they can run most any play in most down and distance with the confidence they can keep the sticks moving. While the Alabama defense gets most of the media’s accolades, the Tide’s offense won the LSU game with a late drive and almost bailed out the Bama defense against Texas A&M.
I do believe the key to a Georgia win is whether or not we can control the Alabama running game. If we can, we may be able to put enough pressure on A.J. McCarron to force mistakes and turnovers. If we can’t, I see this game going the way of many of the games we played against Tennessee in the 90’s where they play keep away, grind out points and the clock, and keep their defense fresh. We must win on 1st down consistently and keep Alabama from being able to use their play-action passing game to hit potentially big plays against the Georgia defense. Finally, we have to tackle well because Lacy and Yeldon are hard to bring down especially in one-on-one situations where the hole opens and it will be the Alabama tailback against a Georgia inside linebacker.
When Georgia Has the Ball
The Alabama defense statistically is the nation’s best allowing only 230 yards and fewer than 10 points per game. While the front 7 is talented, they don’t have the dominant pass rusher that we have seen from the Tide the last few years. Their linebackers run to the ball, make a lot of tackles, and rarely get caught out of position. The secondary is skilled but has clearly had issues following the loss of multiple 1st rounders in the NFL draft last year. Anyone who thinks we’re going to be able to ring up yards and points by the bunches against this group probably drank a big glass of red Kool-Aid before the game.
The key to a Georgia win is the play of the offensive line. I wrote before the season that I would reserve judgment on the line until after the South Carolina game. We know how that game turned out, but this line has gotten steadily better since that night in Columbia. This line finds itself against another talented and well coached defensive line in a high stakes game. If the front 5 can protect Aaron Murray, we will get opportunities to make plays on offense both running and passing. No disrespect to Johnny Football, but Alabama will see the best total quarterback they will see all season in Aaron Murray with his ability to run the Georgia offense, manage the game, and get the ball to his playmakers.
What Will Happen
I think these two teams are evenly matched with similar styles and level of talent across the board. Without a rash of turnovers by one side, I don’t see either team winning by more than 12 points in a hard-fought game. I think this game comes down to a turnover or a big special teams play by either side. While I believe that we can win, I just think Alabama makes one more play at the end of the day. I hope someone can send me a really good recipe for crow on Saturday night with a trip to Miami thrown in for good measure.
Final Score: Alabama 24, Georgia 17