The rematch is on and it’s taking place in a familiar spot, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday at 4 P.M. ET. This time, it’s for the SEC Championship, but that doesn’t mean the stakes aren’t just as high. Vegas opened the line up for this one at a pricey -12.5 for Tide backers and the line has only increased to 13.5 today. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if that is up to two touchdowns by game time tomorrow, and honestly, that would be the most competitive game of Alabama’s season by far.
The Tide have absolutely steamrolled the widely regarded best conference in all of football, the SEC West, with their closest game coming against Texas A&M, 45-23. Alabama hasn’t had the toughest road to this point but have made mince meat out of their most revered competition. Tua suffers a knee injury while playing a stingy Mississippi State defense; no problem the Alabama defense won’t allow a point (24-0). The always competitive Iron Bowl; Tua had six touchdowns for the Tigers (52-31). A Saturday night in Death Valley against the #4 team in the country; how about a 29-point blowout (29-0).
There has been no task proven to even compare to the dominance of the Crimson Tide in 2018 led by the Heisman Trophy favorite Tua Tagovailoa and the best wide-receiving core in the nation, and don’t forget about their defense. If there’s a weakness, no team has found it yet and they are beginning to run out of opportunities.
But the Tide haven’t seen anything quite like Georgia yet.
This has been a matchup Georgia has been waiting for and expecting since the remarkable end to last year’s National Championship game. On the way, the Dawgs were mostly perfect, clobbering teams in similar fashion to Alabama nearly every week. There was that one game Dawg fans would like to forget that took place in Baton Rouge. LSU not only beat Georgia; they stunned them from the opening whistle in a 36-16 victory. It was a loss that really questioned the legitimacy of the Georgia football team.
Despite all their talent, this is still an extremely young an inexperienced group. You can’t count on your hands the amount of valuable pieces Georgia loss from last year’s team. The 2018 Georgia team wasn’t going to be defined by that one miserable day in Death Valley. Their fate would be determined by how they responded to it.
And they have answered every question since.
The Dawgs were tested again just two weeks later against a feisty Florida Gators team. Fromm led the Bulldogs to a 19-point win behind his three touchdown passes. A week later, Georgia had to travel to Kentucky to play for the SEC East and eliminated the Wildcats before the third quarter ended. Rivals Auburn and Georgia Tech stood in their way to end the season, but neither was a match for a Georgia team that had clearly regained their swagger.
The Bulldogs will head into Atlanta with a similar approach offensively as the did a year ago. They have to establish their running game with their outstanding running back duo of D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield. These two may not be Chubb and Michel yet, but their damn close. The difference between Georgia now and when they lost to LSU has been their major improvements across the offensive line. That has allowed these backs to run wild. Nobody is going to run all over Alabama for sixty minutes, but Georgia has to establish a running game early and stick with it in order to keep Tua and the Crimson Tide offense off the field.
Speaking of that offense, they have been nearly unstoppable in all phases this year. In reality, it starts up front with the meat and potatoes. Alabama has the best offensive line in the country and they have flexed their muscles all year long in both the running and the passing game. There are several times where Damien Harris and this band of Alabama running backs are not even touched until five yards passed the line of scrimmage, but where they are at their best is protecting the quarterback.
If you look at the tape from any Alabama game this year, it doesn’t take long to see Tua has all day to throw on nearly every drop back. Teams not only can’t sack Tua, they can’t even get to him in 5-10 seconds. That’s a recipe for disaster when Alabama has pro prospects all along their receiving core and a quarterback that is as accurate as we have ever seen in college football. Georgia is going to have to find a way to pressure Tua, or they are going to find themselves another victim to the Alabama 50-piece.
That’s not fantastic news for the Dawgs, as they haven’t had success sacking the quarterback this season. On the year, they rank T-101st in sacks with a measly 20, compare that to Alabama who ranks 5th with 40. Georgia’s defense is a young group that has progressed as the season has gone on, but they are in for a whole different type of animal on Saturday.
Which means, if Georgia wants to win, they are going to have to score a lot of points. Obviously, the run game must be clicking, but regardless, Jake Fromm is going to have to have the game of his life. The sophomore quarterback has clearly taken strides since last year, and responded fantastically since an ugly performance against LSU, when a lot of Georgia fans began calling for Justin Fields. For the season, Fromm’s thrown for 2,236 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Not exactly Tua numbers, but he has the capability to make the tight throws that are going to be required to win this football games. He’s just going to have to be perfect.
That’s really all it comes down to. Can Georgia be perfect?
The Dawgs are the first team Alabama has played with the talent on the field to get the job done. But in order for that to happen, Kirby Smart and the rest of the Georgia coaching staff must have the best gameplan of their lives, the offensive line has to be effective in both the run game and pass protection, the defensive line has to have their best performance, Jake Fromm will need to throw at least 3 touchdown passes, and they still might need a blocked punt or a couple missed field goals to win.
For Alabama, this is business as usual. If they play anywhere near what they are capable of, they should be able to walk away with a win. Although, it may be closer than many think.
Alabama 38, Georgia 28