Publish Date: 12/01/2018
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa
Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 1 at 4 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Alabama -13.5
This is a rematch of last year’s thrilling NCAA Championship game that was won by Alabama in overtime 26-23. Can Georgia take this game down to the wire again? Let’s take a look at how each team could prevail in this matchup?
The Tide has a balanced attack that is averaging 49 points a game, an amazing 8.0 yards a play. They also rank first in the SEC with 26 plays of 40 yards or more. The Tide offense is maybe the most explosive in the history of Alabama football and that is saying a lot. Tua Tagovailoa has passed for 3,189 yards and 36 touchdowns to just an incredible 2 picks. Damien Harris (719 yards) leads the ground game, but Najee Harris (664) and Josh Jacobs (412) will see their share of the action on Saturday. Jerry Jeudy (56 catches) is Tagovailoa’s favorite target, but there’s no shortage of depth on the outside. Henry Ruggs (39), Jaylen Waddle (37), DeVonta Smith (27) and tight end Irv Smith (35) give Tagovailoa five standout weapons in the passing game. Can Georgia’s defense slow down the Tide?
The Bulldogs have been susceptible to the run at times but are still limiting opponents to 4.0 yards a carry. The Georgia defense is also holding offenses to 4.9 yards per play overall and rank fourth in the SEC in points allowed a contest (17.2 ppg). The problem lies in the Dawgs ability to rush the passer which they could do last year. This year has been a different story. With that being said, the Georgia secondary is strong and the key to this game will be for Georgia to eliminate explosive plays and make the Tide go on long scoring drives. In the red zone holding the Crimson Tide to field goal attempts will also be key.
Special Teams will be key to winning the field position battle. Georgia must limit the Tide to starting inside their own 30 as much as possible as short fields will probably lead to a blow out loss by the Bulldogs.
On offense, the trenches will be key and that is cause for great concern for the Dawgs because guards Ben Cleveland, Cade Mays and Kendall Baker have each missed time due to injuries in recent weeks, and there’s no guarantee any of the three are ready to go on Saturday. Even then Georgia has only given up 16 sacks on the season and Jake Fromm is more than capable of having a big day if he has time to throw.
The great thing for Georgia is they are not a one-dimensional offense so look for Georgia to open up the passing game and spread out Alabama’s defense to let Fromm get rid of the ball quickly to playmakers in space. While the Crimson Tide rank second in the SEC in pass efficiency defense, this might be the one unit where Saban’s group is a little vulnerable. Fromm enters Saturday’s game with 24 touchdowns to just 5 interceptions. The sophomore is also completing 69.1 percent of his passes.
Helping Fromm on the outside is a deep and talented group of wideouts. Mecole Hardman has caught 6 touchdowns this fall, while averaging a healthy 16.2 yards per reception. Riley Ridley has scored 8 times and posted 34 receptions, with Jeremiah Holloman (21), Terry Godwin (17) and tight end Isaac Nauta (25) also in the mix. The Bulldogs need to limit explosive plays on defense, and on offense they need to have a diverse attack to keep a strong Crimson Tide defense off balance.
The Tide just need to be themselves and they usually are. They need to get pressure on Fromm and limit the Georgia run game. In the end though, if they can pressure Fromm the Tide will be on their way to another College Football playoff because I don’t see Georgia really having a shot in this game unless quarterback Jake Fromm has the game of his life. I think Georgia will make the game interesting for three quarters and the Tide will pull away in the 4th.