The SEC Championship Game goes down on this Saturday afternoon.
The Alabama Crimson Tide and Georgia Bulldogs meet in the same place they did last January, where the CFB Playoff Championship was decided. Of course, ‘Bama won that game off the arm of Tua Tagovailoa, and Tua has been doing wondrous things this season for the Tide. Jake Fromm and the Dawgs haven’t forgotten that and while most of the crop from that game is playing on Sundays, the wounds are still fresh and revenge is on their minds.
Can the Dawgs pull off the upset? Or will the Tide keep rolling?
We got some of our writers to talk about these topics today.
If Georgia is going to win… and yes, that’s a big if… what’s their recipe for success?
Julian Mitchell - For Georgia, it really comes down to possession if they’re going to have a chance in this one. I believe that the best and worst units (Bama’s offense being the best and UGA’s defense being the “worst”) will be on the field when Bama has the ball, so Georgia limiting this scenario and keeping Tua on the sideline is priority number one.
Bryan Edwards - If Georgia can play at the pace it wants, and does its best to keep Alabama’s offense (primarily Tua) at bay, I think that’s what’s going to give the Dawgs the best chance. Let Aaron Murray run a methodical offense. Sometimes keeping the other team’s offense off the field is the best defense you can play.
Jonathan Waldrop - This is going to have to be UGA’s most balanced game of the season and I do think it can occur. They’re going to have to play “control the clock” with their potent ground game at pivotal points and they’re going to have to hit the big plays to keep the Tide defense guessing. For all the strides the Alabama defense has made, big plays have occurred on cornerback Saivion Smith’s side of the field and I guarantee Jim Chaney will attack it.
If Georgia does win… and yes, that’s a big if… who winds up being the BIGGEST reason why?
Julian Mitchell - The big dawgs up front on the offensive line are the key in this game. UGA averaged 307 rushing yards in their last five games. When you exclude the UMass game, they still put up 277 on average over those four. The offensive line’s been great and has been opening up holes, but an Alabama front led by Quinnen Williams and Raekwon Davis is certainly the toughest unit they’ve seen in this span.
Bryan Edwards - I think Georgia’s run game and offensive line are key IF it is going to take this one from Bama. If Elijah Holyfield and D’Andre Swift can get into the secondary on the ground, and if the offensive line can contain the dangerous rush Alabama brings to the table, that will be the reason the Bulldogs will walk out as SEC Champions.
Jonathan Waldrop - I agree with Julian, here. While Mays and Wilson have been very good this year, the interior of UGA’s offensive line is the key. If they can push Quinnen off the ball (a very tall task) then Chaney’s got an easy task of playcalling because ALL he has to do is chip away 4-5 yards at a time. Bama’s first team d-line is maybe the best (save for Clemson’s of course) in the country. Not a lot of depth behind them, though, and the offensive line getting a push will allow Swift and Holyfield to do those things they’ve done so well in 2018.
Do you think that Alabama sincerely has a chance to lose this game?
Julian Mitchell - I do, but only if Georgia goes above 200 yards rushing, which will be a tall task. In the championship game that went to overtime last season, the Tide only allowed 133 yards to a stronger group of Georgia tailbacks. The Dawgs don’t want to have to win this game through the air.
Bryan Edwards - Yes, but it is a small chance. Georgia will likely have to play a perfect game to unseat the Tide as champions.
Jonathan Waldrop - Of course. I’ve watched all the Bama games closely and, as of late, the slow starts have made closer games at halftime against lesser competition. UGA is not lesser competition. If they fiddle around for too long, Bama might have to play catch up in the second half and it’s something they just haven’t had to do. And at the end of the day, if it comes down to a field goal kick, or hell, an extra point, which team do you trust more?
If they do, do they make the CFB Playoff?
Julian Mitchell - If Bama loses and Ohio State, Oklahoma and Clemson all win, I think the Tide get left out. That would be two one-loss conference champions and an undefeated conference champ up against a one-loss non-champion. Everyone wanted to make the “But they won the conference title!” argument last year for Ohio State to get in, but ultimately having two losses killed them. Now if Bama loses and one or more of Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State also lose, chaos ensues. Basically if Bama is the only team in the top 6 to lose, I think they get bumped down to 5.
Bryan Edwards - It’s hard to leave Bama out even if they lose. They’ve been so dominant that I think they’ve done enough against the toughest teams they’ve faced to prove that if they slip up once, they are still very deserving of being in the CFP. I think they’re practically a lock into the playoff.
Jonathan Waldrop - Yes. Stranger things have happened, but unless UGA puts an emphatic ass-whoopin on Alabama, the Tide can come back from a loss in the SEC Championship. Plus, from a political standpoint, I think you can sell Clemson, Notre Dame, UGA and Bama really well.
Who wins the game?
Julian Mitchell - In the end, I think Alabama wins because they can play two ways on offense to win. They can play slow, with Damien Harris, Josh Jacobs and Najee Harris, but they can also explode with the insane vertical threats of Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle, Henry Ruggs and even Irv Smith. Georgia has the disadvantages of not being quite as explosive vertically on offense AND having a front seven that’s not as strong as Alabama’s on defense to deal with. I’m feeling a score of about 35-24 in favor of the Tide
Bryan Edwards - Georgia is a great team, but man, Alabama is on another level then about anyone this year. I think the Dawgs keep it close early, but ultimately, Tua and the Bama offense will pull away and do what they’ve done all year long. 42-21 Bama.
Jonathan Waldrop - My fellow contributors are very confident in Alabama. I am, too, but I really do think UGA has the horses on offense to keep it close. Bama 34-30.
HOW TO WATCH
Time: 4 p.m. ET
TV: CBS (Check your local listings)
Watch Online: CBSSports.com