Third-and-8, a counter is called for a five yard gain. Fourth down? Run it again. Just do so quickly.
This brass philosophy has worked well the last few years for Oregon (until its faced a run-first defense) in Chip Kelly’s lightspeed hurry-up. The Ducks’ ground game often leaves defenses looking for balance especially when the offense is back to the line faster than most defenders are set. Mismatches are created, then exploited, across the board. Spread offenses are designed to expose weaknesses in space, even if the opposing unit doesn’t have any apparent holes (Alabama). Tempo causes problems.
Next weekend in the SEC Championship Game, Georgia should implore the same strategy. A similar fast-paced scheme — with more size and strength — could give the Crimson Tide problems. Georgia often goes without huddle when the run game is effective and despite not having an abundance of four and five-wide receiver sets, Aaron Murray’s deadly when he has defenders grasping for straws. The key will be establishing Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall early to keep Alabama honest up front. Look no further than the Texas A&M film to see where Kirby Smart’s attack lacks dominant plays. Murray’s a pro-style quarterback compared to spread-minded Johnny Manziel, but he has a stronger arm with more experience under his belt.
There’s also a spot in the BCS title game on the line for the victor, something that seemed like a long shot for the Bulldogs a few weeks back after an early-October loss. For Georgia, increasing tempo won’t be the only way to take out the defending national champions however. Stopping the run is necessity, but doesn’t come so easy for a unit ranked ninth in the SEC allowing just over 150 yards per game. When the Crimson Tide have passed more than they’ve ran this season, they have outscored opponents 374-65. When they haven’t? Alabama is 1-1. Georgia and Alabama rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the SEC in passing efficiency, but both programs would prefer moving the football on the ground when given the option.
Statistical comparison (offense) for Atlanta’s showdown on Dec. 2
Georgia, Aaron Murray — 2,986 yards, 28 TDs, 7 INTs: Murray’s been through it all this season, both on the field and off. After a disappointing performance in a loss at South Carolina, it was revealed Murray’s father was battling a serious illness. He’s responded since that setback with 16 touchdown passes and three interceptions. Alabama, AJ McCarron — 2,291 yards, 21 TDs, 2 INTs: McCarron’s been near perfect this season and had Heisman hopes before Texas A&M derailed his campaign with two interceptions. McCarron led a gutsy final-minute comeback at LSU and benefits from a dominant running game. Edge: McCarron. His track record as a starting QB speaks for itself.
Wide Receivers/Running Backs
Georgia, Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, Tavarres King — “Gurshall” has been a terror for SEC defenses this season. The two-headed monster from the Tar Heel State needs just 305 yards over the remainder of the season to hit 2,000. Both Gurley and Marshall have breakaway speed. King has caught a touchdown pass in three straight games and leads the Bulldogs with 685 yards receiving. Alabama, TJ Yeldon, Eddie Lacy, Amari Cooper — Yeldon, a freshman from Daphne, Ala., has cooled off the last few games since going over 100 yards twice in October. He lost a key fumble in the fourth quarter in Alabama’s only loss to the Aggies. Yeldon and Lacy have accumulated 21 touchdowns on the ground and more than 1,600 yards. Edge: Push. There’s talented freshmen across the board for both teams and the running games are equally impressive.
Considered one of the best in the country, Alabama’s protectors at the line of scrimmage includes potential All-Americans across the board led by 2011 Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones. Jones started two years at right guard before shining last season at left tackle. He’s the Crimson Tide’s dominant center this fall. Right tackle DJ Fluker is a three-year starter and senior guard Chance Warmack is considered first-round talent for 2013. Georgia’s offensive line is the team’s biggest concern heading into the SEC title game against a front seven intent on getting after Murray. Coaches have switched players at different positions all season but have not seemed to find a starting lineup they’re comfortable with at this point. Edge: Alabama and it’s not even close.
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