Alabama vs. Georgia: Can Tide repeat their success in these 5 key areas?
There certainly have been common themes in Alabama’s recent run of success over Georgia. The score is the most prominent but others are every bit as telling.
The Crimson Tide, in a rare underdog role, beat the Bulldogs 41-24 in the SEC Championship Game in December. It was a convincing win, much like the 41-24 victory the Tide had over Georgia during the 2020 season. Neither game was in doubt headed into the fourth quarter and the Tide kept rolling. Will that continue in the National Championship Game on Monday? It depends on whether Alabama can repeat its past success in multiple areas.
Turnovers are an easy way to lose a football game. Ball security has been an issue for the Bulldogs in the past 2 contests against Alabama. If that trend continues, Georgia has little chance of winning. The Crimson Tide feed off mistakes. Its defense was 2nd in the SEC in turnover margin. Bama and South Carolina finished the season tied for No. 1 in the SEC with 15 interceptions. Forcing turnovers is nothing new for Alabama, which was 4th in the SEC with 12 interceptions last season.
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett contributed to that total — frequently. Bennett threw 2 interceptions in the SEC title game and had 3 picks against the Tide in 2020. That’s 5 interceptions in just two games. It doesn’t matter how great Georgia’s defense is if Bennett continues to hand the ball over to Alabama. It’s impossible to win like that.
So let’s look back at several common themes and assess how likely they are to appear again Monday.
Will Bennett throw multiple interceptions against Alabama?
Bennett is a great story. The former walk-on/transfer may bring a tear to your eye as you hear him reminiscence about his Georgia fandom and unlikely rise in college football. He may also make Georgia fans cry with his lack of accuracy and arm talent. He’s limited. Everyone knows that, including Alabama’s coaches. The Crimson Tide have kept Bennett in the pocket in the 2 previous games and he struggles when he’s not able to scramble outside.
Alabama has intercepted at least 2 passes 9 times in the past 2 seasons. Two of those came against Bennett and Georgia. It’s likely they’ll get at least 1 Monday night and don’t be surprised if they come up with 2 again.
Will Alabama throw 3 or more touchdowns against Georgia?
On the other side of the ball, there’s a common trend among quarterbacks as well. Two Alabama quarterbacks have thrown multiple touchdowns against Georgia’s vaunted defense, which is the best in the SEC in passing defense. Former Alabama quarterback Mac Jones threw 4 touchdowns against Georgia in 2020. Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young threw 3 touchdowns against the Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game.
Georgia’s defense has only allowed 9 touchdown receptions this season. Aside from the Alabama game, Georgia has allowed just 6 touchdown passes in the other 13 games. That’s an astounding stat given the teams Georgia has faced in this pass-happy era of college football. Alabama has bucked the trend twice but it would be difficult to pull off a triple play against this Georgia defense by throwing for 3 or more touchdowns again. Alabama can still win the national title without throwing 3 touchdowns, which it may still do.
Will Alabama convert on 50% of its 3rd-down opportunities?
Keeping control of the football will ultimately lead either team to victory. Forget about time of possession; that’s a dated statistic. However, Alabama was able to keep Georgia’s defense on the field by getting key stops with its defense. Those aforementioned turnovers certainly helped.
The other major factor in Alabama’s success against Georgia has been the Crimson Tide’s ability to convert on 3rd downs. Georgia has only allowed teams to convert on 3rd down 34% of the time. Alabama, however, is first in the SEC with a 52% conversion rate — which also is their conversion rate against Georgia the past 2 games.
As you keep track of this statistic don’t solely focus on 3rd downs. Alabama will set itself up for easier 3rd-down opportunities on 1st down. Young isn’t likely to make many mistakes on 1st down. He’s too savvy for that. Expect Young to pick up at least a handful of yards to start each set of series. That’s worked in the past. Alabama has converted 13-of-25 3rd downs against Georgia in the past 2 games.
Will Georgia convert on 50-percent of its 3rd down opportunities?
Georgia’s conversion rate on 3rd downs may be even more important than Alabama’s. The Crimson Tide can still turn in some big plays for scores if it doesn’t control the ball against Georgia, but the Bulldogs want to run the ball and then run the ball some more. They don’t want to face many 3rd-and-longs with the questionable quarterback play they’ve had in the past 2 games against Alabama.
Georgia has converted 45% of its 3rd downs this season. Alabama, however, leads the SEC as it allows its opponents to convert just 31% of the time.
The Bulldogs have converted 10-of-28 3rd downs (35%) in their last 2 games against the Crimson Tide. Keep in mind that one of those games occurred before Bama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. decided to become Superman. Converting will continue to be difficult for Georgia. Anderson is known for sacking the quarterback, but he’s also very good against the run.
Will Georgia average 4 or more yards per carry against Alabama? It’s complicated
Georgia’s best method to top the Crimson Tide is with the stout running game the Bulldogs have displayed all season — until they played Alabama. Georgia is 2nd in the SEC with a 5.2-yards per carry. Alabama, however, tops the SEC as it allows just 2.5-yards per carry.
Georgia averaged 3.6 yards per carry against Alabama this season and 4.8 yards per carry in 2020. This statistic may end up being the most important one of the game for Georgia. If the Bulldogs can average 4 yards per carry or more, they’ll control the ball, keep Bennett out of bad situations and be able to rely on a stacked defense. If Georgia can’t average over 4 yards per carry, Bama’s reign over the Bulldogs will most likely continue.
As for the final score, that’s a pretty important statistic. If Bama can reach 40-plus points again against Georgia, then make some more room in the trophy case, which must be the size of a city block by now.
Ultimately, the statistics of the last two games will tell you two things. First, Alabama has dominated Georgia in the areas in which it needed to. Second, if Georgia doesn’t buck some recent trends, it will be heartbroken once again in a championship game against the Tide.
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