Georgia football: 5 biggest concerns about stopping Alabama in SEC Championship
Georgia gets its biggest test of the season Saturday when it tries to end its recent rough stretch against Alabama. Not since the Clemson game has Georgia been tested the way it will be in Atlanta, even though it’s 12-0 and the only unbeaten team remaining in the Power 5.
Georgia is trying to win its 2nd SEC championship in 5 years. The Dawgs beat Auburn in 2017.
Fittingly, this is the first time Alabama is an underdog since 2015 at Georgia in a game that Alabama won 38-10 with Mark Richt as Georgia’s coach and Kirby Smart as Alabama’s defensive coordinator. This ends a stretch of 92 games where Alabama was a betting favorite.
Here are the 5 biggest concerns about Alabama:
1. Overcoming history
Georgia has lost its past 6 against Alabama, including 2 in the SEC Championship Game and 1 for the national championship following the 2017 season. Some people don’t believe a program that has repeatedly struggled to overcome a challenge can do it until it actually does it. Georgia fans understand that Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta is not home to all positive memories for the red and black.
“Well, I hadn’t been a part of all those, but obviously, this year is this year, and every year is independent of the previous,” Smart said on a Sunday media teleconference. “I don’t think there’s any overlap between the two. I know people want to make it that, make it some kind of overlap. Every year is independent of the previous.”
2. LB Will Anderson Jr. is a problem
Arguably the best linebacker in the country, Anderson leads the nation in sacks (14.5) and tackles for loss (29.5) as a punishing presence that almost no one can block. Anderson has drawn comparisons from Smart to former Alabama LB Rashaan Evans, and from others to legend Derrick Thomas.
It’s no surprise that Anderson is a finalist for the Bednarik Award and Nagurski Trophy, awards which are presented annually to the nation’s top defensive player. Anderson will likely make several plays, but the challenge for Georgia is to not let him take over the game, or even a stretch that could swing the momentum.
3. Bryce Young’s heroics
If you can lead a game-tying drive in the Iron Bowl on the road that goes 12 plays and covers 97 yards, the SEC Championship game atmosphere likely won’t be a problem. That’s the case for QB Bryce Young, who mixes an uncanny mobility with poise under pressure to deliver 9 games of at least 300 yards passing. In fact, Young is on a streak where he’s had 7 straight 300-yard passing games. He has 40 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions for the season.
Several times in the Iron Bowl, and throughout the season, it appears that Young is boxed in by the pass rush but somehow escapes to find an open receiver. Smart said Young has one of the quickest releases he’s seen.
“He’s composed at all times and he has great presence in the pocket,” Smart said.
4. Alabama’s resilience
Alabama fans may have had to sweat and white-knuckle their way down the stretch, but the Crimson Tide have still delivered win after win. It’s one thing to win, but what the 4-overtime thriller at Auburn revealed is Nick Saban can be downright giddy about this team. Alabama has shown its limitations, but a team that continues to find ways to win is among the most dangerous.
Despite not much going its way last week, Alabama still battled like no other, especially in the second half, and never gave up when the odds were heavily stacked against it.
5. Jameson Williams and John Metchie
They may not be as dynamic as some of the previous wide receiver tandems at Alabama in recent years, but Williams and Metchie are plenty dangerous.
Williams from a big-play standpoint who can take almost any pass 70 or 80 yards, and Metchie is known for securing key 3rd downs with Young scrambling for help. Williams also may have some added motivation after he was ejected from the Iron Bowl for targeting.
Williams already owns an Alabama single-season record and a nation-leading 4 touchdowns of 70-plus yards this season. Metchie leads Alabama and is 3rd in the SEC for receptions with 77. He’s also 4th in the league in receiving yards at 895.
Georgia’s defenses has no weaknesses, but if there’s one area to try to exploit, it’s the secondary. Slowing down Alabama’s dynamic duo will be the Dawgs’ biggest defensive challenge.