Alabama isn’t scheduled to play Georgia this season, but prognosticators are already pointing to a possible showdown in the SEC Championship Game.
The Crimson Tide, which hosts Tennessee on Saturday, is 7-0 overall, 4-0 in league play. Georgia, which is idle this week, has an identical record. Alabama is ranked No. 1, while the Bulldogs are No. 3.
Vanderbilt has lost to both teams – 59-0 to Alabama and 45-14 to Georgia – so coach Derek Mason might have a handle on how they stack up at this point. He was asked on Wednesday’s weekly SEC football coaches teleconference.
“Having played both teams, Alabama’s the better team,” he said. “… I think the difference is in the secondary. … Alabama’s just a purely dominant defense right now.”
Georgia, he said, is on a similar path to Alabama’s under Kirby Smart, a longtime Nick Saban assistant at UA who is in his second year as head coach of the Bulldogs.
“Georgia is being built like Alabama,” he said.
Saban has high praise for the job Smart is doing.
“They have probably one of the best teams in our league right now, they’re playing great on both sides of the ball. They play together, they’re confident in what they’re doing, they look very, very well-coached on both sides of the ball, so I think he’s done a fabulous job. No question about it.”
Rating John Kelly
Saban also spoke well of Tennessee running back John Kelly, who is second in the league in rushing at 92 yards per game.
“I think he’s a really dynamic player, probably the best running back we’ve played against all year long, and I think he’s one of the best running backs in the SEC,” Saban said. “I think they do a great job of utilizing him not only as a runner, but he’s also an outstanding receiver as well and is probably the most productive player that we’ve seen to this point, especially at his position.”
Alabama is 11th in the SEC in passing at 182.3 yards per game. Saban wants improvement, but said that’s not just about quarterback Jalen Hurts.
“That hasn’t been one of the things that we’ve done great,” the coach said, “but it’s not really just the quarterback. It’s the protection, it’s the route-runners, it’s the whole team developing that kind of continuity and togetherness that allows them to gain confidence in doing things the right way.”