5 reasons why Georgia will beat Alabama for the first time since 2007
Georgia and Alabama are set to meet Saturday in their first game in Tuscaloosa since the 2007 season. That was a good day for the Bulldogs; they won 26-23 in overtime.
Since then? Not so good.
Alabama has won the past five meetings, including the 2018 CFP National Championship Game in Atlanta — best not to reflect too much on what happened at the end of that one — and the SEC Championship Game 11 months later in the same building.
This is supposed to be the part where I mention that Nick Saban is 21-0 against his former assistants. Saban, however, won’t be on the sideline Saturday after testing positive for COVID-19. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will be Alabama’s acting head coach.
While a trophy is not on the line on Saturday, that doesn’t lessen the importance of this game. The losing team obviously won’t be eliminated from the CFP race, but the margin for error will be razor-thin through the remaining six games.
Here’s why I think the Dawgs will end a five-game skid against the Tide and improve to 4-0:
1. The secondary will shine
Alabama doesn’t have a No. 1 receiver. It’s more like a 1A and a 1B option.
DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle are equally able to make it a long night for Georgia’s secondary. Just ask Ole Miss, which allowed 284 combined yards to the duo. Waddle, for his part, has gone over the 120-yard mark in all three games this season.
Those two will get the headlines, but don’t forget about John Metchie III. The sophomore from just outside Toronto has made 11 catches thus far, averaging 27.1 yards a grab, and is slowly becoming another key target for Mac Jones.
The good news for Georgia? It certainly has the best group of players in the defensive backfield that Bama has faced all season.
2. Mac Jones will be taken off his rhythm
The Tide look to be doing pretty well in the post-Tua era so far: Jones has thrown for more 400 yards in back-to-back games while throwing just 1 interception. He has been sacked twice so far.
His completion numbers are off the charts: 79.5 percent.
Jones isn’t a scrambler, so it’s all the better for the Dawgs defense if it’s able to neutralize the Tide’s offensive front and force him into errant decisions. And if the secondary is able to keep up its end of the bargain and take Smith and Waddle out of the equation, then a gigantic part of the Alabama gameplan goes out the window.
3. They’ll win the battle up front
While Najee Harris isn’t a volume rusher — his high in carries is 27, set against Auburn in the Iron Bowl last year — his offensive line’s ability to exploit matchups and make needed formational adjustments led to an incredible performance against Ole Miss. In that same vein, Jones has been sacked only twice, as mentioned.
The Dawgs were able to disrupt a highly-touted Tennessee offensive line and sack Jarrett Guarantano 5 times on Saturday. That’s not to mention the negative-1 yard of rushing they allowed.
No one has been able to unlock the Tide’s combination up front so far this season. The Dawgs will face a big test, and if they solve it, the game could be theirs for the taking.
4. They’ll be able to sustain drives and keep Alabama’s offense off the field
It’s a simple concept, really: Jones, Harris, Smith and Waddle can’t hurt Georgia if the Bama offense isn’t on the field.
Yes, I know, I’ll get flamed in the comments section for “stating the obvious,” but the time of possession will be key in this one. Georgia is second in the country in that department at 35 minutes and 29 seconds, while Alabama is a shade under 28 minutes.
Along with that, I think the Bulldogs will find ways to capitalize on their drives and not leave points on the field as they did against Tennessee in the third quarter. They got away with it as they eventually pulled away, but as good as their defense is playing, they have to create scenarios to keep the Tide from striking quickly and often.
5. They’ll be themselves, and nobody else
I don’t think the Dawgs have the ability to turn this into a shootout. There’s no need for Stetson Bennett IV to chuck the ball around the field, leaning heavily on deep balls over the top.
Georgia shouldn’t try to become something they’re not overnight; they have put themselves in the position they are in right now with stellar defense. Simply leaning on the identity they have already established is likely the biggest key to winning this game.