Georgia football: 5 reasons Dawgs will win the SEC Championship
This is when we find out how generationally good this Georgia team is, and if it can finally snuff out the Alabama curse from so many bad memories in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The difference is that Georgia is doing it with a suffocating defense, and the super teams of years past, be it Alabama last year, or LSU in 2019, did it on offense. Their styles were more entertaining and filled with more excitement.
Kirby Smart couldn’t care less about style points and debates about ranking previous great teams. He is on a mission this year.
Like an anaconda searching for lunch, Georgia slowly and methodically drains the clock with the lead and drains opponents’ will to win. Alabama is next in line.
Here are 5 reasons the Dawgs will win the SEC Championship:
The smothering defense
The bread and butter of this Georgia team is its historic defense led by the punishing defensive line and front 7. It has helped Georgia allow the fewest amount of points (6.9) for any FBS team since Oklahoma in 1986. If Georgia doubled its scoring allowance per game to opponents, it would still be No. 1 in the country ahead of Clemson’s 15 points per game. Yes, Alabama puts up 42.7 points per game, but Georgia on offense hangs close at 40.7. Bryce Young and the dynamic passing game of Alabama with Jameson Williams and John Metchie are dangerous, but the Crimson Tide will have few other weapons to attack with Saturday, primarily because they are very thin at running back.
One piece of valuable context about how great this defense is: Jermaine Johnson transferred from Georgia to Florida State for more playing time, and Johnson was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year this week.
Common opponent edge
Picture their 4 common opponents. Georgia breezed past the quartet of Arkansas, Auburn, Florida and Tennessee. Alabama, however, came within single digits of 3 of them, most notably Auburn in a 4-overtime thriller in the Iron Bowl.
Georgia’s average margin of victory in those games was 28 points, while Alabama’s was 9.75.
The main threat in that group for Georgia was Tennessee, but a defensive adjustment after the first quarter gave way to Georgia bottling up the Tennessee passing game. It wasn’t just that Georgia won all these handily, they stripped the will to win from the opponents, and made the second halves snoozefests. It tells a story of a dominant team not only in the SEC, but nationally, because with all the problems those teams had, none of them had a losing record, and combined, they were 27-21.
Total second-half drives this season with a scoring margin under +14:
4T. Bama, Coastal and Pitt — 33
3. WKU — 31
2. Cincinnati — 28
1. Georgia — 6
SIX. SIX ALL YEAR. AND FIVE WERE AGAINST CLEMSON.
— Bill Connelly (@ESPN_BillC) December 1, 2021
Stetson Bennett’s improvement
The Georgia quarterback has matured as much as anything since the last time these teams met last season. He has the confidence of his coaching staff and teammates, and the confidence that he’s withstood all the possible scenarios that would knock him from the starting job. JT Daniels’ health, a lack of production on offense, an ill-advised 3rd-down throw that cost the team a game. He has managed the offense so well, it’s to the point where his calm demeanor breeds confidence in his teammates, which matters in a game like this with such high stakes on a large stage. He stays level-headed, and doesn’t get too high when things are going well, and stays composed when there’s a struggle or two. While he’s not the prototypical top-shelf QB, he adds wrinkles with improvised scrambling that gives defenses headaches.
Georgia’s tight ends as the secret sauce
One of the biggest freshman breakout seasons this year came from Brock Bowers, and that was never more evident than when he turned on the afterburners to leave Georgia Tech defenders in his exhaust fumes. Throw in Darnell Washington at 6-7 and 265 pounds, and John FitzPatrick as a reliable blocker and Georgia has a distinct advantage over the middle. Bowers averages 17.6 yards per catch, but he’s somewhat similar to Alabama’s Jameson Williams in that he’s capable of a big play at every turn, such as the Tech game.
This trio is also a valuable element to neutralize Alabama defensive star Will Anderson Jr. when Georgia turns to the running game. Look at their size and speed differences, and Alabama has to be aware of that when substituting, if not in developing a schematic plan. They might be unsung heroes, or simply a necessity given the injuries and youth at wide receiver, but Georgia’s tight ends have become the secret sauce.
Motivation to end curse
Georgia fans are aware of the history, but this team led by the defense has enough to smash the history books and continue its march toward Lucas Oil Stadium. Just like Smart preaches to his players to not play to a scoreboard, they won’t be reminded of the history, and instead will be pointed toward what’s still at stake in the College Football Playoff.
They’ve worked too hard to see this historic season be derailed. Georgia players know what’s available to them. They know the program’s history and understand how close they are to delivering its first national championship since 1980.
If there were cracks in this team, they would’ve been exposed by now. There have been plenty of teams with pieces that are better than Alabama, and none of them made significant progress. Motivation will be what puts Georgia over the top, and lets the confetti fall.