People wanted a playoff for college football, and they will get their wish starting in 2014. That is, if you don’t count Saturday’s SEC Championship Game as the semi-finals. The winner of the game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs will play the Notre Dame Fighting Irish for the BCS title on January 7th in Miami.
These two teams are more similar than it appears to the casual college football fan. Alabama’s defense is the thing legends are made of. They have 4 shutouts this year, 2 of which have come against SEC opponents. Nick Saban’s defense has only allowed more than 14 points twice. Once was the close 21-17 at LSU, the other being the 29-24 loss to Texas A&M.
That’s not to say Bama’s D doesn’t have their work cut out for them. Georgia’s offense is firing on all cylinders right now, having gone 4 straight games scoring over 35 points. UGA’s offense has failed to score more than 30 points only two times this year, with one being the embarrassing loss to then #6 South Carolina that really kicked the Dawgs in to high gear. Since that loss, Mark Richt has had his team focused on one thing and one thing only; getting to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.
The offensive numbers for these two teams are so similar; you may think that they’re mirror reflections of each other. Both teams revolve around two-man running games, and then throwing the ball down field.
For Alabama, this comes in the form of Eddie Lacy (1,001 yards, 14 TDs) and T.J. Yeldon (847 yards, 10 TDs). Junior QB AJ McCarron (2,507 yards, 25 TDs, 2 INTs) is developing in to the leader Saban and the rest of the folks in Tuscaloosa hoped he would. The Tide will hope to control the clock with the ground game, then let McCarron make the big plays when they need them.
Georgia’s answer is “Gurshall.” Gurshall is the freshman duo of Todd Gurley (1,138 yards, 14 TDs) and Keith Marshall (720 yards, 8 TDs). These two young men earned their nickname because they remind folks in Athens of another amazing freshman performance by a running back, in one Herschel Walker, who led the Dawgs to their last national title as a freshman. Junior QB Aaron Murray (3,201 yards, 30 TDs, 7 INTs) leads the air attack.
The biggest difference between the two offenses is that Georgia doesn’t use its ground game quite like Alabama does. Bama deploys a pro-style ground and pound attack. Georgia uses their passing game to open up the running game.
Alabama’s advantage comes on the defensive side of the ball. The Crimson Tide is allowing only 9.3 points per game, while UGA gives up nearly double that, at 17.7 points per game. Nick Saban will have the Tide ready to roll (see what I did there?) on Saturday. Mark Richt will spend this week reminding Georgia of what happened in last year’s SEC championship game, when they were thoroughly stomped by LSU to the tune of 42-10. The chip on the Bulldogs’ shoulder heading in to this game is something to look out for. If they get rolling, look out.
With so much on the line, don’t think both of these coaches aren’t preparing their teams for the biggest game of their lives. Sure, the big game for the Coaches’ Trophy isn’t until January, but this Saturday, the biggest game in college football is happening.
Georgia is trying to rebound from last year’s embarrassment. Nick Saban is trying to lead his team to back to back BCS titles.
HSH Pick – Alabama 34 – Georgia 27