Alabama football: 3 matchups the Tide can exploit against Georgia in SEC Championship
Alabama enters the SEC Championship Game in a rare position. The Crimson Tide are undeniably the underdog to a stacked Georgia football team. That doesn’t mean Bama can’t pull off the upset.
In some ways, all of the chips are stacked against Georgia — at least from a psychological standpoint. The Bulldogs are the team that is trying to get over the hump and win an SEC Championship during one of the most dominant runs in college football history. (Or, another, I suppose. The Dawgs did win the SEC in 2017, but they beat Auburn in Atlanta.) Georgia coach Kirby Smart is the coach that is trying to beat his mentor, Alabama coach Nick Saban. Playing for championships is nothing new for Saban or Bama.
Georgia has been beating on the championship door since Smart took the job before the 2016 season. Smart will have to prove he’s worthy of a title against Alabama on Saturday in a game that Georgia should win. The Crimson Tide are the only thing that stands in his way. The game certainly isn’t lacking for drama.
Here are 3 matchups in which Alabama can exploit a Georgia team with very few weaknesses:
Saban vs. Smart
Saban and his team have certainly looked vulnerable this season. The Crimson Tide lost 41-38 in October to Texas A&M, which was led by coach Jimbo Fisher. It was the first time Saban lost to one of his former assistants after a 24-0 run. While that mark is now blemished, there’s a reason that Saban was so good for so long against former assistants. Saban knows their coaching styles and tendencies almost as well as they do. As good as Smart has been in turning Georgia into a national title contender, he’s not Saban and he probably never will be. There’s not a college football coach in the nation better than Saban. In a game in which most matchups seem to favor the Bulldogs, Saban can be the great equalizer.
Saban has outcoached championship coaches on bigger stages before. Notably, against Urban Meyer and the defending champion Florida Gators in the 2009 SEC Championship. Beating the Gators paved the way for Saban to win his 1st national title as Alabama’s coach. That launched the decade-plus of dominance.
Heck, one of his greatest moves came against Smart in the 2017 national championship game. Saban pulled Jalen Hurts, inserted Tua Tagovailoa and “2nd-and-26” was born.
Alabama’s defensive line vs. Georgia’s offensive line
Georgia’s offensive line is certainly not a weakness. The Bulldogs’ front is one of the best in the nation when it comes to running the football and protecting its quarterback, Stetson Bennett. However, Alabama’s defensive front should still be able to pressure Bennett because the Crimson Tide are so incredibly good.
Bama led the SEC this season with 3.58 sacks per game. The Crimson Tide are led by edge rusher Will Anderson Jr., who is one of the best linebacker/defensive ends in recent memory. He may be the best at his position at Alabama since NFL Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas terrorized opposing offenses in the late 1980s. Anderson Jr. also has a knack of showing up when his team needs him the most. In a rare underdog role, that will certainly be the case against Georgia on Saturday.
Bennett vs. Alabama’s secondary
It may sound odd to think that Bama can exploit Bennett considering he is the highest rated passer in the SEC. However, Bennett doesn’t have the elite arm talent that would intimidate most defenses. Saban knows that.
Saban will put Bennett in a position to make throws that he isn’t 100% comfortable with. As good as Bennett has been this season, he’ll face a much tougher challenge than he has all season on one of the biggest stages in college football. The SEC Championship Game has a tendency to bring out the best and worst of players. Bennett will likely be under duress throughout the game. Could he make a mistake against a secondary designed to limit the passing options in which he has relied on? Certainly.