There’s a big one being played in the SEC this evening. The Alabama Crimson Tide and Georgia Bulldogs square off this evening in a primetime matchup on CBS. Plenty of attention will be shone on this one for a number of reasons, and we decided to expand the preview this week and do a roundtable!
Before we get there, here’s some valuable info for the game.
How to Watch
Time: 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT
Spread: Alabama -5.5
1. Alabama’s offense has been on fire to start the season. That being said they will no doubt be facing a stern test in the Georgia defense, who might be the best unit in the country. For ‘Bama, what is the key to finding a weakness, if any, on this Dawgs defense?
Andrew Spanel: First, it has to start with avoiding pressure. Georgia can bring pressure with only four, which stresses the defense, and then they bring blitzes to terrorize the quarterback. It’s almost like bombarding the enemy before ordering a wave of attackers to charge. After that, I’m not sure if Alabama can establish the run. Georgia still hasn’t given up a rushing touchdown to a running back since the 2018 season, so this will be Najee Harris’s biggest test. Alabama’s best shot is with their receivers such as Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith, and John Metchie III. These guys are the next generation of dynamic receivers for Alabama, and Waddle and Smith could be future first-round picks.
Zach Remelius: Keeping Mac Jones clean. Going into last week I knew Georgia would beat Tennessee but there is something that happened that surprised me. A Vol offensive line that was built up as maybe the best in the country got absolutely manhandled by Georgia. They finished with negative rushing yards, Jarrett Guarantano had no time to throw and that led to him doing some Guarantanoish throws. No one is going to be able to handle Smith, Waddle, Najee and Mitchie if Jones has time to throw.
Robert O’Neill: It’s been outlined here but it all comes down to keeping Mac Jones upright. Alabama’s offensive line has been good this season and it goes without saying that Bama’s receivers are excellent and will be able to make plays
2. Georgia has played it serviceably on offense this year. Typically, Alabama’s defense is fierce, but they’ve shown some weak spots, especially last week against Ole Miss. Who do you favor in this matchup and why?
Andrew Spanel: First of all, I actually don’t think Alabama’s defense is as bad as everyone thinks. Ole Miss is just really rolling at the moment with a combination of tempo and play-calling. Second, Georgia can do almost everything right and still lose. Traditionally, in order to beat Bama, teams cannot just be good, they have to be great, especially on offense. This includes instances where teams had mobile quarterbacks (Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, Deshaun Watson, Trevor Lawrence, Joe Burrow), were explosive on offense (Auburn, Ohio State, and even Ole Miss a couple of times), or were just very lucky (the Kick-Six). Looking at Georgia, I don’t see that. I think the key for them is that they have to establish the run and use play action rollouts that allow Stetson Bennett to make plays either with his arm or legs.
Robert O’Neill: I have to agree. Bama’s defense hasn’t been as dominant as years past, but Lane Kiffin’s offensive wizardry and knowledge of Nick Saban’s offense has to play a part here as well. This game is obviously Stetson Bennett’s biggest test, and it’s tough to gauge how he’s going to be able to handle it.
3. Who is your player to watch on both teams?
Andrew Spanel: For Georgia, I’m actually going to go with a group of players and say the offensive line. They absolutely manhandled Auburn but were not quite as impressive against Tennessee. The Vols had several tackles for loss and notably, stopped UGA on the goal line a couple of times at the end of the first half. In order to win, they must bully Alabama in the trenches and control the clock because anything less would mean having to keep up with the Tide.
For Alabama, let’s pick the one position that has been a liability for Alabama in big games- the kicker. Will Reichard has only kicked two field goals all year and was used sparingly last year along with Joseph Bulovas who is still on the team. If Alabama has to settle for long field goals, hold your breath.
Robert O’Neill: I’ll be very vanilla here and go with Stetson Bennett and Mac Jones. Both quarterbacks are playing the biggest game of their careers here.
4. Who wins?
Andrew Spanel: Part of me thinks that this is finally the year when Georgia under Kirby Smart finally beats Alabama. It feels like it’s been a long time coming even though the Bulldogs had a few good chances in the past including the infamous national championship game. Not to sound too dramatic, but if Georgia wins this game, the monopoly that Alabama holds in the SEC could be over.
However, I’m going with the Tide. Georgia would have to be great in all three phases while Alabama could conceivably win on offense alone. Even Nick Saban saw the writing on the wall by changing his philosophy over the last few years, sensing that the best defense is a great offense. Just when people start to doubt Alabama, they almost always rise to the occasion. The narrative is already being crafted. “Nick Saban won’t be there.” (Pending an additional test) “The defense sucks.” “Mac Jones isn’t Tua.” Don’t listen to that. Until I’m proven wrong, Alabama is still the favorite. Pick: Alabama
Zach Remelius: Every team it feels like there is a prime opportunity to knock Alabama off their perch no one can do it. LSU clearly isn’t having that sustained success, Ole Miss got caught cheating, and no one knows what to expect from Auburn year to year. (Bo Nix isn’t it folks.) Anyway this feels like another chance for a team to take the proverbial throne from the Tide. The Dawgs can match talent for talent, they have an incredible defense and yet I don’t feel like it is their time. I don’t trust Stetson Bennett IV to be able to make those throws when he is going to need to make them, and I do trust what I have seen from Mac Jones and their plethora of options on offense. UGA fans, you guys will get another shot at Bama if we have an SEC title game and maybe even a 3rd shot as both of the teams are clearly two of the top four. Who knows what could happen a couple months from now but on Saturday Alabama adds another massive victory to its history. Pick: Alabama 30, Georgia 24
Robert O’Neill: I have to go with Alabama as well. Until it’s shown that someone can beat them, they’re always going to be my pick. Pick: Alabama