We’re just over two days from the SEC Championship Game. It’s the best kind of matchup where both teams are at the top of their game, both teams have yet to square off this year, and both teams are eligible to advance to the BCS Championship. Let’s get to some predictions…
I’m picking Georgia to win this game. Going back to prior to the season, I thought Alabama would lose at least two games in 2012. I thought they lost too much on defense to repeat the successes of last year. As the Tide began to roll early in the year, it appeared I was wrong. Then, the defense got waxed against LSU and Texas A&M.
Essentially, Alabama’s defense got beat by quality quarterback play. I think Aaron Murray is extremely talented and is up for the job. The third down conversion rates of both Texas A&M (61%) and LSU (50%) against the Alabama defense should be somewhat alarming for Alabama fans. Alabama’s defense struggled to get off the field against these teams. I think the same thing happens against Georgia.
Alabama does not have a dominant pass rusher, and Murray should have enough time to execute and make the throws. Georgia has weapons all over the field and will indeed look to spread it out and target Alabama’s secondary. Gurley provides the balance in the running game.
While nobody gives Richt the edge in the coaching department against Saban, I do think he is criticized a little too much. Georgia was ready to play last year against LSU in Atlanta, but struggled to regain momentum in the second half after a Honey Badger special teams touchdown. I think Richt gets his team ready to play again this year, but the team puts together a complete game.
Career defining victory for Mark Richt. Career defining victory for Aaron Murray.
Georgia 28, Alabama 24
I’ve been on the fence for the last two weeks between these two teams and which would hoist the hardware Saturday night.
I’ve come to the conclusion that both teams are virtually equal in talent, and you simply can’t point to one massive advantage for either team. The biggest advantage I see? Nick Saban. The way he game plans, disguises his defense and gets his team ready for big games is hard to pick against. It takes great team performances to beat them. I’m not sure Mark Richt can beat Nick Saban – I’ll be honest.
Think back to Tim Tebow’s 2008 SEC Championship game, Cam Newton’s incredible comeback in Tuscaloosa, Johnny Manziel’s signature Heisman moment and Stephen Garcia’s game of his life in 2010. It all took amazing performances to beat Saban and Bama by the quarterback. Can Aaron Murray accomplish that feat? Of course he can, but primarily the quarterbacks to have success against Bama have not been pocket passers. I’m not taking into account Murray’s record against top 25 teams in his career, because I think he’s poised to take the next step at any moment.
When two teams are equal in talented playing at a neutral site, I always like the team with the better running game, the better defense and the better special teams. So far this season, Bama’s running game has averaged 214 yards per game, good for second in the SEC. And while the defense was exposed against LSU and Texas A&M, they make you play your best game to beat them. I expect Georgia to go up-tempo on offense in the first half in an effort to replicate how many plays LSU (86) and Texas A&M (78) were able to run. Alabama is #1 in the SEC in kickoff returns, #7 in punt return, #6 in punting and #5 in field goals. All are better than Georgia. Field position will be crucial in this game, and Georgia’s 13th in the SEC in punting.
But Alabama must protect the ball on offense, because they were -5 in turnover margin against LSU and Texas A&M.
Alabama 24, Georgia 21
Photo Credit: Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE