Javon Wims vs. Calvin Ridley: Which star WR will steal the show Monday night?
When preparing to take Georgia or Alabama, opposing secondaries know they have to shut down a star wide receiver.
That’s because the Bulldogs have senior Javon Wims and the Crimson Tide have junior Calvin Ridley, both of whom have had great seasons and are their quarterback’s favorite targets.
Wims led Georgia with 44 catches for 704 yards and seven touchdowns. Ridley had 59 catches for 935 yards and four touchdowns for the Crimson Tide, while no other Alabama receiver caught more than 16 passes.
In the College Football Playoff semifinals Monday, Wims had the better performance, recording six catches for 73 yards and a touchdown, while Ridley posted four catches for 39 yards and a score. Both were effective, but it’s clear Wims had more of an impact on his team’s success.
However, the Sugar Bowl was a decidedly less offensive game than the Rose Bowl, where Georgia and Oklahoma combined for a Playoff-record 102 points.
So, who will have the better performance Monday night in Atlanta with the national title on the line? And, whose performance will be more important to his team’s success?
Odds are the answer to both questions is Ridley, as he is the key to the Crimson Tide passing game. He’s also more proven. While Wims, a former JUCO transfer, has enjoyed a breakout year, Ridley has starred from Day 1. The Tide have some other weapons, but they can’t seem to get the ball to them through the air very often.
Nobody will mistake Alabama’s passing game for Oklahoma’s — or Jalen Hurts’ pocket prowess for Baker Mayfield’s — but the Bulldogs struggled to contain OU’s leading receiver Marquise Brown, giving up eight catches for 114 yards and a touchdown.
Georgia still held Mayfield to 289 yards, however, and hasn’t allowed a 300-yard passing game yet this season.
Giving up one Monday to Hurts would be unlikely; his season-high is 248.
But, again, when he throws, it’s usually to Ridley, who will have some space to work with, and he’s good enough to take advantage of that.
Meanwhile, the Alabama defense will focus a lot of attention on Wims, and after holding Clemson star WR Deon Cain to six catches for 75 yards, the secondary is riding high.
CB Levi Wallace was assigned to Cain the most, with star Minkah Fitzpatrick getting a lot of work against Hunter Renfrow, who was held to five catches for 31 yards.
The Bulldogs have some talented players in their secondary, too, but they don’t have the star power Alabama does.
This isn’t to suggest Wims won’t have an impact, or that the Bulldogs won’t win the game, but he will find it tougher to get going, as Alabama will focus on limiting his targets.
Wims averages 16.0 yards a catch, but reaching that will be a challenge. Alabama has allowed just 10 pass plays longer than 30 yards this season and just one longer than 40.
True freshman QB Jake Fromm likely will have to look elsewhere to find open receivers, so Terry Godwin, Mecole Hardman, Isaac Nauta, Sony Michel and others will have to step up and have big games if the Dawgs are going to win.
Ridley, on the other hand, could have a big day, but that doesn’t mean the Georgia defense won’t make life difficult for the Crimson Tide offense. It’s simply that Georgia’s secondary is more susceptible to big plays — it allowed 7 completions of 40 yards — and Ridley is one of the best big-play receivers in the country.
Look for Ridley and Hurts to connect on at least one long touchdown, while Wims has a quieter championship game when the Bulldogs are on the field.