By Edwin Stanton
There is no doubt Alabama dominates the air with Tua Tagovailoa under center. UA has the No. 2 passing offense in the SEC. But Georgia, with the No. 1 rushing offense in the league, rules the ground attack with D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield supplying the firepower.
The Crimson Tide is allowing just 283 total yards per game, including 169 pass yards thanks to guys like Deionte Thompson in the secondary. Georgia, led by cornerback Deandre Baker, is close behind, allowing just over 300 total yards per game and 128 yards on the ground.
Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship is one of the top kickers in the nation and is 7 of 9 on field goals from 40-plus yards this season. The Bulldogs also boast punt returner Mecole Hardman. Alabama has struggled for consistency in the kicking department but can be dangerous in the return game with Josh Jacobs and Jaylen Waddle.
Former Nick Saban assistants are winless against the Crimson Tide head coach — 0-for-15 to be exact. Kirby Smart can break that streak on Saturday but Saban’s current assistants Michael Locksley and Tosh Lupoi could have something cooked up for Smart and the Bulldogs.
Revenge has always been a powerful motivator. It worked last week for Alabama against Auburn. Georgia would like nothing more than to avenge last year’s national title loss. On top of that, Georgia has a spot in the College Football Playoff riding on this game. The Bulldogs have too much at stake to not be up for this one.
Alabama 35, Georgia 24
Since stumbling to LSU midway through the season Georgia has been playing like one of the top teams in the country. The Crimson Tide has proven it can withstand early trouble (see Auburn) and still make the plays necessary to win. This all comes down to which team has more poise under pressure.
Alabama 45, Georgia 28
It’s no nail-biter this time around. Tua Tagovailoa puts an exclamation point on Alabama’s already stellar season heading into the playoffs. The Bulldogs have no answer.
Alabama 31, Georgia 17
The last two Alabama-Georgia games indoors in Atlanta (domes come and go so quickly there…) have been among The Top 10 Most Exciting/Important Games of the Decade anywhere in college football. This one should be both but might not make it all the way to the final play.
Alabama 35, Georgia 17
Kirby’s crew can hang tough and keep this interesting, particularly if Alabama can’t shake its recent slow starts on offense. Eventually Alabama’s firepower will win out. Georgia’s defense has looked a step below where it was last season. It will have trouble containing Alabama’s offense, same as every other opponent.
Alabama 36, Georgia 21
This is the game that all fans specifically in the South have been waiting for. Alabama will come out on top but it’s going to be a fight.
Alabama 37, Georgia 24
Alabama doesn’t need another first-half doldrum against Georgia because the Bulldogs have been waiting for this rematch since the end of the national championship game. Georgia will battle Alabama until the Tide finally pulls away early in the fourth quarter.
Alabama 38, Georgia 20
A complete Georgia team will give Alabama it’s stiffest test yet. But unless the Bulldogs are able to get pressure on Tua, they won’t be able to stop Alabama from pulling away for an SEC Championship.
Alabama 35, Georgia 20
This game isn’t going to be similar to the national championship overtime showdown. Georgia’s defense won’t be able to keep up with Alabama’s offense. Not with Tua Tagovailoa as the starter rather than the second-half saving grace.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
By Ben Stansell
Tua Tagovailoa, Soph./QB, 6-1/218
Key Stat: Has Alabama single-season record for touchdowns with 36
Buzz: Everyone knows what happened last time Tagovailoa faced Georgia in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. But heading into this year’s matchup, Tagovailoa isn’t a backup. He’s vying for a Heisman Trophy after completing 70.3 percent of his passes for 3,189 yards. He’s accounted for 41 total touchdowns. Tagovailoa will face a Georgia secondary that is allowing just 175.1 passing yards per game.
Henry Ruggs III, Soph./WR, 6-0/183
Key Stat: Tied for second in the SEC with 10 touchdown receptions
Buzz: Ruggs is one of many offensive weapons for Alabama, but he may be the fastest. That speed has helped him average 17.31 yards per reception. Ruggs has 34 receptions for 613 yards this season. If Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker is assigned to guard Jerry Jeudy, it would open the door for Ruggs to have a big performance.
Mack Wilson, Jr./LB, 6-2/239
Key Stat: Has 57 total tackles this season
Buzz: Not only has Wilson established himself as the vocal leader of Alabama’s defense, he’s also showed his versatility. Wilson has made plays all over the field, accumulating 57 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, two interceptions and six quarterback hurries. His ability to help stop Georgia’s ground game will be critical in Alabama’s success.
Jake Fromm, Soph./QB, 6-2/220
Key Stat: Has thrown for 2,236 yards and 24 touchdowns this season
Buzz: After a poor showing in a loss to LSU midway through the season, Fromm has found his groove. In the five games since, he’s completed 77 percent of his passes while throwing 11 touchdowns and just one interception. Georgia’s offense is powered by its rushing attack, but it will need Fromm to provide big plays through the air against Alabama.
Deandre Baker, Sr./CB, 5-11/185
Key Stat: Leads Georgia with nine passes defended
Buzz: Baker has been Georgia’s lockdown corner this season, tasked with keeping opposing offenses’ best receivers under wraps. Along with nine passes defended, Baker has two interceptions and a forced fumble. Baker is a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the country’s top defensive back. He’ll likely be matched up against Biletnikoff finalist Jerry Jeudy on Saturday.
D’Andre Swift, Soph./RB, 5-9/215
Key Stat: Second in the SEC with 6.92 yards per carry
Buzz: Although a nagging injury hampered Swift early this season, he’s fully recovered and has turned into the explosive running back that he showed glimpses of last season. Swift has rushed for more than 100 yards in four of Georgia’s last five games. Overall, he’s totaled 962 yards and nine touchdowns. Containing Swift’s big-play ability will be key to slowing Georgia’s offense.