Does Alabama enter Atlanta as the bigger unknown?

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Before the start of 2012, everyone had the audacity to attack Georgia’s weak schedule. And with only two preseason ranked teams in South Carolina and Florida, we knew it would set Georgia up for an epic run. That’s football.

However, what no one is talking about – other than Steve Spurrier – is that Alabama, too, had a weak schedule and virtually remains untested. How good is Alabama? Well, we don’t know. Bama was slated to play only three preseason ranked teams in Michigan, Arkansas and LSU, too. But nobody wants to talk about Alabama because they just look better beating just as bad of teams as Georgia has.

Neither have the resume of the Florida Gators, and Georgia beat the Gators earlier this season.

Steve Spurrier has been known to publicly belittle Georgia, and he spoke out against their weak schedule during SEC Media Days. However, Spurrier reminded everyone yesterday that the SEC Championship featured the two teams with the weakest schedules of anyone in the East and the West. And he’s right.

Sagarin NCAA football ratings give Alabama the 39th toughest schedule in the country, while Georgia has the 42nd toughest. That’s pretty close.

Georgia and Alabama equally could have lost two games during the regular season. Georgia was torched against South Carolina and could have lost to Florida, and Alabama was handled by Texas A&M and should have lost to LSU. But credit their staff and players for only managing to lose one.

Nick Saban’s defenses have been beaten by great quarterback play. Yes, there have been more dual-threat quarterbacks – Tim Tebow (Florida), Cam Newton (Auburn), Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) and Jordan Jefferson (LSU) – than pro-style quarterbacks – Brian Johnson (Utah) and Stephen Garcia (South Carolina) – to beat Saban-coached defenses in recent years. Garcia played the game of his life, and Utah whooped Bama with a total team effort in the Sugar Bowl.

Aaron Murray will have to be great – not good – to take down this Tide defense, and he must take care of the football. If he looks at what Zach Mettenberger was able to do against the Tide secondary, it should give him confidence. Mett played his best game against Alabama. Georgia has a big advantage in the passing game if they can exploit Bama’s corners, much like Texas A&M did. Mett threw for 298 yards and one touchdown, while Manziel threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns.

Alabama’s early cupcake schedule through eight weeks hid deficiencies in the secondary – the same secondary that replaced three starters from last year’s all-American squad.

Can Murray have that kind of impact?

Since the forgettable first half against Florida, Murray has thrown 14 touchdowns and zero interceptions, and he’s playing as well as any quarterback in the country. He will present problems against the Tide’s secondary. Advantage Georgia.

In the only two big games this season – LSU and Texas A&M – Alabama was -5 in turnover margin. Bama turned it over twice against LSU and three times against Texas A&M.  TJ Yeldon had fumbling issues in both games, and AJ McCarron threw two picks against Texas A&M. Bama had to play catch up and was not in control of most of either game. Georgia has just the explosive offense to play ahead from the get-go, putting more emphasis on McCarron’s arm, taking the Tide out of their game plan.

Expect Georgia to go hurry-up mode early, something LSU did with success, as did Texas A&M.

If Georgia wins the turnover battle, there’s a great chance the Bulldogs will hoist the hardware Saturday night.

Alabama will try and pound it down Georgia’s throats. And in their biggest game of the year, the Bulldogs’ defense only allowed 75 rushing yards to one of the best power rushing offenses in the SEC in Florida. Georgia won the turnover battle that game, too. Yeah, I know Georgia has given up over 300 yards rushing in the last two games. However, both games were blowouts with subs entering the game early in the second half and against offenses that don’t throw the football at all. This defense will be ready for Alabama.

While writers and talking heads continue to knock Georgia for being an untested team and use their weak schedule as the reason they made it to the Atlanta, Alabama is in the very same boat.

Remember when Nick Saban yelled at the media to stop telling his team how good they are and start giving their opponents more credit? Perhaps it truly wasn’t coach speak, and he was really serious. Saban has confidence in his team, but it’s different from last year at this time. Alabama is somewhat unknown heading into this weekend.

Photo Credit: John David Mercer-US PRESSWIRE

COMMENTS

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  • Spurrier may be right about them both having the weakest schedules, but he’s still a whiney baby. Go find a box of tissues and plan for your bowl game Stevie.

  • I’m soooooooooooooooo sick of hearing about schedules. Not because I’m a Georgia fan, but, because as the writer points out, this has been going on since before the damn season started. STFU already! WE. GET. IT. UGA beat UF (the team with the “best resume” in college football) and Bama beat LSU (the other “heavyweight” of the West). That’s ALL that flippin’ matters. If those teams were better, they would have beat UGA and Bama, respectively, but they weren’t and they didn’t. I’m tired of the argument that these teams didn’t earn their positions in the SECCG. Going 11-1 is no small feat, much less going 11-1 in the SE-damn-C.

    • Exactly. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

      • Jon I normally agree with your articles but what the hell are you thinking when you say Bama should have lost to LSU. I am a true dawg through and through but the game against florida was handed to us, while alabama fought hard for theirs. how can you say alabama is the bigger unknown when the dawgs got (unfortunately) SMOKED by a South Carolina team that almost have lost to Vandy! LSU had a Bye week before they played bama, too!

        • I guess we can agree to disagree this time! LSU arguably outplayed Bama in the second half and should have won the game. Bama put the drive together late – I gave them credit for doing so in the article. Yeah, Florida turned it over 6 times, but Georgia forced those turnovers. I never said they are actually a bigger unknown than Georgia, but I did pose the question because so many are just writing Georgia off in this game.

        • Thank you Jon! Don’t know what my fellow dawg is saying… they are called forced turnovers. And Alabama got 100% outplayed except for 1 drive that resulted in the game’s outcome. C’mon GoDawGs36! Have some confidence. We could win this game

        • Surely you know by now that there is no linear connection to who beat’s who.
          Irritates the crap out of me, like it is it relevant.

          SC killed UGA…UF destroyed SC….UGA beat UF… UF beat TAMU….TAMU beat Bama.
          So…TAMU would lose to UGA.

          Hate this line of reasoning. Little to no correlation

  • And SC is 34th in SOS…1-1 against top 10 like UGA. SC beat GA….GA beat FL…FL beat SC. Time to STFU Spurrier.