The SEC Championship game usually has National Championship implications, and this year is no exception. In what amounts to a National semi-final, second ranked Alabama will tangle with third ranked Georgia, for the right to meet Notre Dame in the National Championship game on January 7.
Georgia enters the game as one of the hottest team in all of college football, winning their last 6 games, which included key wins over Florida and Georgia Tech. Alabama were shocked when Texas A&M defeated them in Tuscaloosa, but the Tide have recovered winning their last 2 games, while teams ahead of them in the BCS like Oregon and Kansas State suffered defeats.
While Georgia is playing well, they do have a reputation under coach Mark Richt, to fall apart in the big game. Quarterback Aaron Murray has been roundly criticized during his college career, of choking in key moments. Murray will have to shed that reputation, if Georgia are to head to Miami in January. Despite this, Murray has had an outstanding season for the ‘Dawgs, completing 66.6% of his pass attempts for 3,201 yards, 30 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. However, in last year’s SEC Championship game against LSU, Murray had an awful day, completing 16 out of 40 passes for 163 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 costly interceptions. Murray was also sacked 4 times in that game. If Georgia are to win this game, Murray will have to be at his best, against the number one defence in the country.
One thing that could benefit Murray is a strong running game. Georgia averaged 190 yards on the ground per game, which took a ton of pressure off Murray. Freshman running back Todd Gurley was more than an adequate replacement for the suspended Isaiah Crowell. Gurley rushed for 1,138 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, and will be called upon to gain tough yards against a stingy Alabama defence. Another freshman, Keith Marshall also had a fine season. Marshall rushed for 720 yards and 8 touchdowns this season. The question is, can these two freshman withstand the physicality the Alabama D will bring, and can they handle the big stage that is the SEC title game?
Some targets in the passing game should be noted as well. Tavarres King had a quality season. The senior receiver caught 34 passes for 704 yards and 8 touchdowns. Sophomore Malcolm Mitchell had 36 receptions for 532 yards and 4 touchdowns. Sophomore Michael Bennett snagged 24 passes for 345 yards and 4 touchdowns. These receivers will need to find open spots in the secondary and put pressure on the Alabama defence.
Georgia’s defence is lead by linebacker Jarvis Jones. The junior who will most likely come out early to make himself eligible in the NFL draft, has had a brilliant season, recording 10.5 sacks and being a fearsome presence all over the field. Jones is expected to be a top 5 pick in the NFL draft, and will be a welcome addition to any NFL team, looking for defensive help.
Safety Bacarri Rambo leads the ‘Dawgs with 3 interceptions, and will be called upon to force a turnover or two against the Tide. Rambo brings a physical aspect to go along with an intelligent football sense, that alway seems to have him around the football. Alabama will have to be aware of where Rambo is at all times.
Alabama will go into this game as 7.5 point favourites, but coach Nick Saban will have to warn his troops not to look ahead to the National Championship Game. There is no better coach in college football than Saban, and he will have his team ready.
Quarterback A.J. McCarron is the field general for the Tide. The senior had a terrific season for Alabama, completing 67.2% of his passes for 2,507 yards, 25 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions. McCarron has done a terrific job of decision-making in the pocket, and he leads by example.
The Tide have an outstanding running game, which balances the offence. Junior Eddie Lacy rushed for 1,001 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. Lacy is a bruising, power back that punishes opponents with his bulldozing style.
Freshman T.J. Yeldon brings speed and big play ability from the backfield. Yeldon has gained 847 yards and scored 10 touchdowns on the ground for Alabama this year, and he brings a change of pace, to Lacy’s style.
With each game Amari Cooper keeps getting better. The freshman receiver improved throughout the season, ending up with 45 receptions for 767 yards and 8 touchdowns. Cooper will need to stretch the Georgia secondary, to help open up the Alabama passing game.
The strength of the Tide is their mighty defence. Ranked number one in the country by allowing a mere 9.3 points per game, the Tide are a menacing bunch to deal with. Cornerback Dee Milliner is projected to be a top draft pick in the upcoming NFL draft, and a big game on Saturday could see his stock rise. Milliner does have 2 interceptions this season, to go with his excellent cover skills.
Linebacker C.J. Mosley leads the team with 92 tackles, and is all over the field. Mosley also has 4 sacks and 2 interceptions, which means he can do it all on the defensive side of the football.
Linebacker Adrian Hubbard leads the team with 5 sacks, thanks to his speed off the edge. The sophomore does over pursue at times, but can make up for that, with his non-stop motor.
With the game being at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, the ‘Dawgs will have a slight home field advantage. The problem is Alabama is better on the road than they are at home. Plus I still don’t trust Georgia in a big game, while I completely trust Alabama on the big stage. The Tide take it 23-7 and advance to the BCS Championship Game.
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