No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia enter SEC Championship as mirror images

Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham credits Nick Saban for many of the defensive philsophies and tactics he employs today. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham credits Nick Saban for many of the defensive philsophies and tactics he employs today. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

ATHENS — Mark Richt opened his weekly news conference Tuesday waxing eloquent about the tremendous achievements of the team the Georgia Bulldogs will face Saturday in the SEC Championship game.

He pointed out that Alabama has won 59 games the last five years, the most in SEC history, and 48 the last four, one short of the NCAA record. A win over the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs on Saturday would tie that record and another one — which would have to come in the BCS national championship — would break the national mark. That national title, by the way, would be the Crimson Tide’s third in the past four years.

“We’re just at a time where they’re dominating college football, really,” Richt told a larger-than-usual crowd of media at the Bulldogs’ football complex on Tuesday. “So we have a lot of respect for them obviously.”

It would appear Richt’s flattery extends beyond the lectern and into the Bulldogs locker room. Though Richt insists “it’s probably more coincidence” than emulation, the on-field similarities of the two teams facing off Saturday at the Georgia Dome are remarkable.

Each team utilizes a 3-4 defensive scheme laden with NFL prospects and playing with reckless abandon. Each team boasts a pair of explosive tailbacks capable of breaking long runs on any down. And both teams run pro-style offenses with quarterbacks operating at incredibly high rates of efficiency.

Georgia junior quarterback Aaron Murray leads the nation in pass efficiency with a rating of 177.15. Right behind him at No. 2 is Alabama junior A.J. McCarron (176.26).

“Philosophically, there’s a lot of similarities in how they try to win with balance, taking care of the ball, playing with a lot of physical toughness on both sides of the ball,” Nick Saban said of Georgia. “They try to put their players in the right position. There’s not a whole lot of tricks and gimmicks with us or them in terms of trying to win with execution… . That’s just philosophically what we believe in. I think they must believe in the same things.”

Of course, Richt and Saban have both been head coaches for a long time – 12 and 17 years, respectively — and each has deep-seated fundamental beliefs when it comes to playing football.

Richt brought his offensive philosophy with him to Georgia from Florida State, where he served as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for 10 years. While he has flirted with different forms of the spread offense, primarily he runs a basic I-formation, pro-style attack that utilizes a strong running game and generates a vertical passing game off play-action fakes.

“We really haven’t changed much offensively,” Richt said. “We actually do a lot more up-tempo stuff now. I don’t think Alabama is really interested in trying to go up-tempo. The pro-style attack is really what we’ve been doing for a while.”

Saban, a longtime defensive coordinator and secondary coach, has always utilized a pro-style, 3-4 defense that features multiple blitz schemes with tight man-to-man coverage in the secondary. It has been meticulously refined during his tenures at Toledo, Michigan State, LSU, with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and at Alabama.

It is on defense where the Bulldogs have undergone their greatest transformation to looking like Alabama. Todd Grantham, the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator of the last three seasons, worked for Saban as defensive line coach and assistant head coach at Michigan State in the late 1990s. Grantham then worked as an NFL assistant for 11 seasons before joining Richt’s staff in 2010.

Grantham brought the 3-4 defense and considerable Saban influence with him to Athens.

“He’s had a lot of influence on my career,” said Grantham, who was hired away from his alma materof Virginia Tech by Saban. “He allowed me to launch my career and have some of success. Our preparation and a lot of things we do here philosophically is from my time with him. Systematically our roots or very similar, or the same as. You tweak things and bring in your own personality, but there are a lot of similar characteristics that we do.”

Saban speaks highly of his former protege.

“If you’re going to rank assistants, he’s one of the two or three best I’ve ever had on our staff,” he said. “Did a phenomenal job for us. I certainly have a lot of respect for what he’s done at Georgia.”

Georgia’s 2012 defense looks a lot like the ones Saban has used to win two of the last three BCS championships. The Bulldogs feature an All-American outside linebacker making big plays off the edge in Jarvis Jones, inside linebacker Alec Ogletree is a tackling machine much like Rolando McClain was in 2009 and noseguard John Jenkins drew a comparison to Terrance Cody from Saban himself.

“I heard about that,” Jenkins said on Tuesday. “For Nick Saban to give me that type of compliment is a big deal. It’s almost an honor, because Nick Saban is very respected in the college football world.”

Georgia’s defense has a ways to go to catch Alabama on the field. The Crimson Tide comes into Saturday’s game leading the nation in total defense (233.67 ypg) and scoring defense (9.25) and ranked No. 2 against the rush (77 ypg) and No. 3 against the pass (156.67). Georgia is 22nd and 16th, respectively, in total defense (337.83) and scoring defense (17.67), 67th against the run (163.42) and ninth against the pass (174.42). But the Bulldogs have played much better in the season’s second half. They’ve allowed just 8.6 points a game over the last five, dating back to their win over then-No. 2 Florida.

“I love this defense, actually,” said Jones, who leads the Bulldogs with 10.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss.  “I think it’s one of the best defenses and a lot of the teams play it. Alabama plays the same defense, and they’re dominant in it as well.”

Richt is hoping the Bulldogs continue to look more like Alabama, particularly in the achievement category.

“There are a lot of similarities,” he said. “One thing they’ve done is they’ve been national champions and we’ve not. They’ve been SEC champions and we’ve not during the time frame of these kids’ careers. That’s the biggest difference I see right now.”

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AJC’s complete and continuous coverage of the SEC Championship game . . .

65 comments Add your comment

Pazian

November 27th, 2012
9:16 pm

I have a very good feeling about Jarvis Jones for this game. This will be his first chance in 3 weeks to get after the passer due to UGA playing the 2 tripple-floption teams the last 2 weeks. Add to that the fact that he passed on being a 1st Rounder in the NFL last, this is what he came back for and he’s going to show up in style.

GATA

uga student

November 27th, 2012
9:21 pm

I refuse to let myself get really excited for this game….until they take the lead. Go Dawgs!!

kingdaddy

November 27th, 2012
9:50 pm

60 minutes…

kingdaddy

November 27th, 2012
9:53 pm

Jarvis should be fired up for this one. This is a statement game…

MontanaDawg

November 27th, 2012
10:47 pm

Get Fired up dawgs!!

Haka Dawg

November 27th, 2012
10:49 pm

There will be a lof jaw jacking, jaw japping, dreadlocks wagging, flags flying, me doing the haka warrior chant,etc.

Le Go Dawgs!

Pukanaaa!… BLEH!… Haka Down Dawgs!

BamaCharlotte

November 27th, 2012
10:57 pm

Too much mouth from UGA players. Bama has a bulletin board full of material. If UGA wins, congrats ahead of time. However, I think Richt should show more class by controlling his team’s media exposure and comments. You don’t hear comments like this made from Bama’s side of the fence. Bama players have been respectful and humble.

BamaCharlotte

November 27th, 2012
10:59 pm

I was referring to players’ comments, BTW.

Remarkable

November 27th, 2012
11:39 pm

It should be a dog fight! (Pardon the pun.)

Pazian

November 27th, 2012
11:42 pm

@BamaCharlotte — That’s because Bama is not being asked the same questions from the Media as UGA players are. Bama players aren’t being asked questions that basically amount to “Aren’t you scared of big bad UGA?” UGA Players are and they are responding. as I would hope, with confidence. If you perceive confidence as a lack of class that’s your right, I just dont define it that way.

As for BB-Material, UGA doesn’t need any from the Bama players. 99% of all the articles predicting Bama to roll over UGA is all the material we need to get this group up for the game. GL on Saturday :)

Pazian

November 27th, 2012
11:42 pm

@BamaCharlotte — That’s because Bama is not being asked the same questions from the Media as UGA players are. Bama players aren’t being asked questions that basically amount to “Aren’t you scared of big bad UGA?” UGA Players are and they are responding. as I would hope, with confidence. If you perceive confidence as a lack of class that’s your right, I just dont define it that way.

As for BB-Material, UGA doesn’t need any from the Bama players. 99% of all the articles predicting Bama to roll over UGA is all the material we need to get this group up for the game. GL on Saturday :)

Pazian

November 27th, 2012
11:43 pm

sorry for the lag double-post, I swear I only hit submit once :p Oh well.

Remarkable

November 28th, 2012
12:03 am

@ BamaCharlotte
Too much mouth from UGA players. Bama has a bulletin board full of material. If UGA wins, congrats ahead of time. However, I think Richt should show more class by controlling his team’s media exposure and comments. You don’t hear comments like this made from Bama’s side of the fence. Bama players have been respectful and humble.

Whoa. Not so fast. Look at what Alabama running back, Kenyan Drake, from Georgia’s, Hillgrove High School said on his twitter account. Didn’t sound humble or respectful to me. He’s probably in Saban’s dog house.

boykin

November 28th, 2012
1:51 am

Full of Class! Sic Em Dawgs!

7576DAWG

November 28th, 2012
1:56 am

And just think we have to wait 3 days , fourteen hours . This is murder. I hope our team can wait to peak . This is a big deal . Only three team still have the ability to go to the national Championship out of 120 total in Division 1. Notre Dame is already there . That leaves only Georgia or Alabama.

LDawg

November 28th, 2012
4:28 am

BamaCharlotte – I guess no one told Kenyan Drake to keep quiet.

No Mercy

November 28th, 2012
7:11 am

Yep, 2 left for 1 spot…….Pretty damn cool…..GO DAWGS!!!!!! I really like Georgia’s chances, think they win by 2 scores….big pressure on both QBs, might not be pretty for either of them, defense scores more than O for GA.

Wildcat 86

November 28th, 2012
7:56 am

Who cares what Vegas thinks???? They had USC #1 to start the season. This is why we play the game!

William G. Little

November 28th, 2012
8:21 am

Chip must have one of those fun-house mirrors. ;)

Max Sizemore

November 28th, 2012
8:24 am

It may look as though both defenses are playing with “reckless abandon,” Chip, but they are playing with discipline, first and foremost.

Bev

November 28th, 2012
8:27 am

Has the girl who Sanders Commings beat to a bloody pulp gotten out of the hospital yet?

82Dawg

November 28th, 2012
8:31 am

Any sightings of Hershel Talker lately??

82Dawg

November 28th, 2012
8:34 am

@ Bev get back to the laundry, your Techies have one more game.

William G. Little

November 28th, 2012
8:38 am

How long has it been since Georgia locked down the SEC East?

That’s how long Nick Saban has been working on his game plan for next Saturday.

Just Sayin’…

secfan

November 28th, 2012
8:45 am

Georgia must have no personal fouls and no turnovers in order to have a chance. If the score is close going into the fourth quarter the odds should be more in their favor.

ApothecaryMark

November 28th, 2012
9:02 am

Jarvis Jones will have Chance Warmack in his face all game. BTW, Warmack is another GA HS product who will be a first round pick–ahead of Jones–from BAMA. Thanks Richt!

Sammy

November 28th, 2012
9:20 am

Saban’s won 57 games in last 5 years, Richt’s won 55 games.
Saban’s won 47 games in last 4 years, Richt’s won 45 games.

Richt has a higher career win % than Saban overall, Saban really had some bad years in his first part of his career, where Richt only had 1 losing season, but lately, Saban has a SLIGHT edge over Richt in wins (+2 over 5 years, +2 over 4 years).

Not much difference, most consider Saban to be the dominant coach out there, he has a +2 lead over Richt.

If Richt beats Saban, and wins the Bowl, and Bama loses their Bowl, then Richt will be TIED UP WITH SABAN in wins over the last 5 seasons.

Wonder why you don’t hear much about this in the ESPN media?

Philosophically, UGA blitzes more on defense, and UGA passes much better (UGA ranked 35th in passing, Bama 77th).

UGA also, right now, is averaging 2.3 takeaways per game, where Bama is averaging 1 takeaway per game over the last 3 games. That’s a HUGE difference philosophically. 230% difference.

Richt has more top 10 finishes in his 1st 11 seasons than Saban, Bryant, and Bowden had COMBINED in their 1st 11 seasons. Big difference.

Sammy

November 28th, 2012
9:27 am

UGA’s passing offense is more complicated than Saban’s offense.

Ask LSU. Watch the 1st half video from the 2011 SEC Championship.

John Chavis couldn’t guess right one single time.

Bobo’s passing schemes are as legendary as Saban’s defensive schemes.

If you think Bama had PROBLEMS facing their ONLY 2 SEC ranked opponents, LSU & A & M defning the pass, wait until they face Bobo.

Look for UGA to baffle Smart and Saban. Just like LSU & A & M did in their pass offense.

Bama doesn’t practice defending the pass much, because their offense practices the run so much, so their defenses can’t handle it.

ARdawg

November 28th, 2012
9:30 am

The word is free tickets to the ACC chumpionship with the purchase of a hotdog and a Coke

42-10

ARdawg

November 28th, 2012
9:33 am

The only ones yapping about BB material for the SECCG are the Tech trolls. It must be really demoralizing to be a Tech fan

Sammy

November 28th, 2012
9:34 am

Also, UGA and Bama, are both in the top 5 nationally in 2nd half defense, which is shutting teams down when it counts.

UGA wasn’t supposed to be able to run on stat leader defense Florida, but had no issues. Gurley alone ran for 125 yards against Florida’s stat leading run defense.

Bama is just like Florida:
1- run the ball on offense
2- stop the run on defense
3- pray for turnovers

And UGA manhandled Florida.

Texas A/M and LSU wern’t supposed ot be able to move the ball on Bama’s stat leading defense, but both rushed for over 135 yards, and BOTH passed for 70-78% completions and over 8 yards per pass attempt.

No ranked SEC team has had ANY issues RUNNING OR PASSING on Bama in 2012.

Yeah, Bama jacks up their stats against bad teams, but LSU & A/M did what they wanted.

William G. Little

November 28th, 2012
9:41 am

This is the single biggest game that Mark Richt has ever coached. I hope he’s holding up well under the pressure. ;)

Sammy

November 28th, 2012
9:41 am

Richt sends a lot more players to the NFL than Bama does.

So the NFL doesn’t see the two programs as the same, that’s for sure.

They think UGA gets their guys mnore ready for the NFL than Bama.

Stafford has done better than any Bama Qb in the NFL over last 5 years.

AJ Green has done better than any Bama receiver over the last 5 years.

GATiger

November 28th, 2012
9:41 am

Bama is just like Florida? Are you kidding? Bama has much more firepower on offense than Florida. Also, you’re discounting their condition coming into the game against A&M. LSU beat them up pretty bad the week before. If Georgia doesn’t get off to a 2 or 3 TD lead early, and I don’t see how they can, it’s going to be a long night for the Dawgs…again.

William G. Little

November 28th, 2012
9:48 am

We’ll see what Bama’s got come Saturday, won’t we?

They’ve suffered from quite a few key injuries this season, but they’re also pretty deep.

ARdawg

November 28th, 2012
9:52 am

Bama is a demm good football team. So is Georgia. It’s going to be a good game

NCDawg

November 28th, 2012
9:53 am

ApothecaryMark – Jarvis Jones moves all over the field. No one person gets to block him. DUH! I guess it is too much to ask Bammers to do some thinking before they type.

NCDawg

November 28th, 2012
10:05 am

Oh boy the excuses for the loss to A&M are coming up… jeez. Just face it Bama got BEATEN. They should have lost at LSU. Everybody but Bammers knows it.
The game will be decided on the field. Florida’s defense is better than Bama’s. They play the pass better. Statistics are for losers. The only stat that matters is W and L and UGA and Bama are dead even in that statistic. It should be a great game.

William G. Little

November 28th, 2012
10:09 am

Bammers won’t be on the field of play next Saturday. Neither will Delusional Dawggies.

All they can do is sit back and watch…

Bazooka Joe

November 28th, 2012
10:58 am

Bama Charlotte – I cannot disagree with you there, to me the bigest difference between Bama and the Dawgs (besides the fact that Bama has played in NCG type games and we havent for a long time) is the fact that we run our mouths too much. I know, Im an old geezer, to me you score a touchdown and hand the ball to the ref and go celebrate on the sideline. However, how many times have we seen stupid personal foul penaltiues for running our mouths ? I dont know how many bama has (not just personal fouls, those do happen in the heat of battle – Im talking about the stupid ones) but I am willing to bet not nearly as many as we do. We got away with it against the gators, we wont get away with it against bama.

Sam Robards, Dawg Fan

November 28th, 2012
11:03 am

Call me an optimist (or a homer, whichever), but I like the Dawg’s chances in this game.

UGA and Bama really have been mirror opposites this year, it seems. Both teams match up pretty well, with each having different advantages (our WRs are better than their CBs, their DLs are better than our OLs, they have consistent kickers, we have better LBs, etc.).

What I think gives the Dawgs the edge is an intangible: I think we want it more. Don’t get me wrong, Bama wants it, too, but they won the (national) title last year. They don’t feel they have anything to prove.

The Dawgs are coming in with a chip on their shoulder brought about by the fact that we came to this game last year and, after a great start (coulda been better if our freakin’ WRs hadn’t dropped two TD passes in the first half), gave it up. Redemption is a fantastic motivator. The fact that the majority of the media acts like we don’t even deserve to be here is going to work greatly in our favor by subverting people’s expectations. And yeah, the fact that we haven’t been in a position like this recently is going to give the team that much more incentive to lay it all out there Saturday.

So yeah, I’ll call a Dawg win. If I had to put a score out there, I’d say either 28-21 UGA or 28-23 UGA.

Go Dawgs!

Lonnie

November 28th, 2012
11:03 am

I totally agree with Richt! Bama is a beast and Saban is as good as they come. He has a system that is working well and the constant string of recruits to get it done. But as a lifelong Dawg fan and graduate of UGA, I say that the dawgs will pull it out. We have the talent and we know the moment so let’s see the results. Let’s go Dawgs!!!

tim

November 28th, 2012
11:12 am

I am a life long Gator fan who will be cheering loud and clear for the Dogs….what a great season…now show Saban how an offensive juggernaught can tame a suspect “D”…..I’m saying UGA 38 BAMA 20….Murray game MVP…..I was there in 80 cheering for the Dogs so it’s only fitting that every 33 years a Gator becomes a turncoat…

Joey

November 28th, 2012
11:28 am

I haven’t heard one UGA player predicting a win Saturday.

In fact, even Rambo didn’t say our D would stop Bama’s offense, the like. He said our D has more talent than Bama’s D. The NFL seems to agree with that statement.

The difference is Bama’s depth. It will be near impossible to wear their D down – even A&M did n’t do that.

We better now try that route either.

Tide/Dawg

November 28th, 2012
11:41 am

I am a fan of both teams. I want the team to win that has the best chance of beating Notre Dame. If K. Drake of Al. made a negative comment about Ga. you can bet he’s in Saban’s doghouse. You seldom see that from Al. players. They are coached to play to their talent not their mouth. But, lest I remind you, they are kids and they all feel the need to mouth off sometime. Saban doesn’t like it, Richt doesn’t like it, no successful coach likes it,but once you hit the send button on a computer, it’s too late to recant, it’s on it’s way around the world. Weighing in on the talent, both teams have it, Alabama probably has the edge in experience in big games, but that can change on one play. Momentum is the key to this game,..who can get it, and who can keep it. Old Mo plays no favorites. He will side with anyone…as long as you can play. Let your guard down for 2 seconds and he will join the other team. That’s where experience comes in. Alabama lost it early against A&M, regained it, and lost it near the end of the game. Georgia never had it against So. Carolina. Both teams were good enough to recover and finish their schedule with Mo on their side. That’s why they are in the championship game. Ole Mo is waiting to join someone Sat. afternoon. We’ll see who can keep him happy:o))

TERRY Y

November 28th, 2012
12:42 pm

WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!…..UGA IS A TEAM TO BE RECKONED WITH…UA HAS THE “NATL CHAMP” PEDIGREE FOR SURE……HOWEVER, THIS IS THE YEAR OF THE DAWGS! I HAVE A STRONG FEELING THE DAWGS WILL BEAT UA.
GO DAWGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Silver Fox

November 28th, 2012
1:09 pm

Bev….reference to your inquiry about Cumming’s girlfriend….. She’s doing fine, she’s back in school and will be starting at linebacker for ALA this Saturday….

Alphare

November 28th, 2012
1:20 pm

To say BAMA/UGA mirror image is obviously simplistic minded.

Richt is a former QB, Bobo is a former QB. UGA’s offense is throw and throw first, which is the odd style in SEC until Mizzo/TAM joined, because most SEC teams emphasize run game first until you have to throw.

Alphare

November 28th, 2012
1:26 pm

Gary Danielson made some comments about UGA couple of days ago. He basically said UGA is not proven except the gator game. Even with the gator game, UGA was not playing well despite the win. So he obviously expects a BAMA win.

Va_ArmyDawg_757

November 28th, 2012
1:39 pm

ApothecaryMark: So you think Chance Warmack gets drafted before Jarvis Jones? Please tell us all what you know that the rest of the NFL talent scouts must be missing… you’re the same type of dimwit that couldnt come to terms with the fact that AJ green was better that Julie jones, in college and in the pros.
Cannot wait to see jarvis smack your crybaby QB all over the GA Dome on Saturday.