It’s becoming increasingly difficult to judge the SEC’s best teams after Alabama.
You’ve got squads who struggle at times on offense (Florida, South Carolina), teams that have gotten by with favorable scheduling (Texas A&M, Mississippi State) and a contender that is tough to project (LSU).
Then there’s Georgia.
One would’ve thought the world was ending after an early October debacle on national television in Columbia, S.C. The Dawgs can’t win on the big stage, they said. Mark Richt needs the boot was a popular phrase. But just like last season, a loss to South Carolina hasn’t derailed a team loaded with NFL talent and a solid quarterback. Three more wins and the Bulldogs will be in striking distance of the BCS national title game. You didn’t see that coming when Richt’s team fell out of the midseason Top 10 did you?
Thanks to a couple losses from highly-ranked and a signature win over No. 2 Florida, Georgia is back in the mix.
With a little help (one, maybe two upsets) and a win over top-ranked and unbeaten Alabama in Atlanta, Georgia would be headed to Miami for the big one. I wasn’t sold on the Bulldogs early in the season and I’m not 100 percernt convinced now, but that’s the beauty of the battered and bruised SEC. You win enough games, aesthetically pleasing or not, and you’ll be in the BCS mix at the end of the season. The conference is simply too difficult for teams to pass the eye test each and every week (like Oregon out west). In other leagues, it’s possible for a team to be more dominant than others and showcase its strength to poll voters. The ACC has two such teams who have separated themsevles from the rest of the league, annilhating others in their path.
And what does Florida State and Clemson get for it? A No. 8 and No. 10 ranking in the AP, but more importantly, a 10 and 13 slot in the BCS. Strength of schedule comes into play here.
Georgia’s schedule, though favorable by SEC standards, still has a heavyweight remaining that could push the Bulldogs’ BCS ranking into the forefront. To unseat Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, Georgia will need to put pressure on the Crimson Tide secondary. Alabama’s last line of defense showed a few weaknesses in Baton Rouge, allowing several big plays in the passing game from Zach Mettenberger. Aaron Murray is better than Mettenberger, more accurate in fact, and certainly capable of picking up yards in chunks against Alabama.
Nick Saban’s group will be tested again this Saturday against Johnny Manziel and the Aggies, perhaps further exposing what is perceived to be the Crimson Tide’s lone weakness. If the Bulldogs can get any kind of running game going inside the Georgia Dome, I’d expect a close ballgame. The true question lies on whether Georgia is physical enough to beat the Tide. The Bulldogs are 1-1 in such contests this season where battles are won at the line of scrimmage.
Alabama on the other hand has only had its physicality tested once and nearly lost. There’s still room for Georgia in Miami if the Bulldogs can upset the Crimson Tide in a few weeks (based on both teams winning out).
Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE