It’s hard not to want to just bag these next two weeks and get right to the epic SEC Championship Game showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 5 Georgia. It’s a rematch of the National Championship Game from a year ago and it is, by far, the most anticipated matchup of SEC teams all season.
When we last left these behemoths, they were basically separated by one play in the national title game, with Alabama coming out on top. Eleven months later, a few things have changed. Alabama has been untouchable all season and is unbeaten at 10-0.
Georgia has lost once — at LSU, 36-16 — but won the SEC East convincingly to get a spot in the SEC title game in Atlanta on Dec. 1.
We’re going to start looking ahead to that title game with a look at what each team is doing better than the other. My colleague in Tuscaloosa, Marq Burnett, is doing the same from the Alabama side.
Frankly, he has a much easier job that I do.
That’s no slight on Georgia, its players or coaches. It’s just people are talking about Alabama like they are a generational team, one of the greatest ever. So finding 5 things that Georgia is doing better, well, that took some digging.
But here’s my shot:
1. Georgia runs the ball better than Alabama
So far this season, Alabama has rushed for 2,148 yards on 414 carries, a 5.2-yard average. That’s good. But you know what’s great? Running it for 2,407 yards on 407 carries. That’s what Georgia has done, gashing defenses for a 5.9-yard average. That’s a sizable difference.
That Georgia has an edge here this season is something of a surprise because they were replacing all-time greats Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. But this stable of Georgia running backs actually have been even better this year than the 2017 group. Last year’s group averaged 5.8 yards per carry.
2. Georgia’s running backs break big runs far more often
Georgia sophomore D’Andre Swift has an 83-yard touchdown run this season. Fellow running back Elijah Holyfield has as 66-yard run. Two others, Demetris Robertson and Tyler Simmons, have 72-yard and 56-yard touchdown runs on jet sweeps. Those big plays can swing a game. Alabama has had only two runs longer than 30 yards all season, and one came from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Now that Swift is healthy, he has been on a roll in the past three games. And when the Dec. 1 title game rolls around, he will be the best running back on the field.
3. Jake Fromm has two good knees and Tua has one
I never have — and never will — root for injuries against anybody, and I certainly won’t start here. But it’s obvious that Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has a bum knee and every time he hits the ground, you wonder if he’s going to get back up. Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm is as healthy as a horse.
They say the best ability is availability. Georgia has two quarterbacks who are 100 precent healthy. Alabama’s two quarterbacks, Tua and Jalen Hurts, have only two good legs between them. If Tagovailoa can’t play 60 minutes on Dec. 1, then the edge swings back to Georgia.
4. Georgia can play with no fear as huge underdogs
The guess is that Alabama will be a double-digit favorite on Dec. 1 and there’s an enormous amount of pressure on them to run the table and get Saban that national championship that will break the record with Bear Bryant. This Alabama kids are going to feel that pressure, especially if it’s a close game, because, quite frankly, they haven’t had one all year.
Georgia can free-wheel it and take some shots. They have nothing to lose because they aren’t supposed to win. So when they do pull off the upset, everyone’s going to saw “wow.” Heavy lies the head that wears the crown.
5. Georgia is confident in its kicking game; Alabama cringes
Rodrigo Blankenship isn’t automatic, but the veteran Georgia kicker is pretty darn close. He’s made 17-of-19 field goal attempts this season and all 43 extra points. His only two misses were in a September road game at Missouri, when he misfired from 49 yards and had a 36-yard attempt blocked. Kirby Smart never hesitates to send him in.
Nick Saban, on the other hand, would rather have three root canals during a media meet-and-greet than trot a kicker out there. Alabama kickers Joseph Bulovas and Austin Jones have combined to make just 11-of-15 field goals and, even worse, they combined to miss a whopping 6 extra points already. Especially in a close game late, Georgia has a huge advantage here.