GAME DAY: Georgia-Alabama preview

An SEC Championship game program on sale in the lobby outside Friday's Coaches Luncheon (AJC photo by Kent D. Johnson)

SEC Championship game program on sale in lobby outside Coaches Luncheon (AJC photo by Kent D. Johnson)

RETURN TO THE DOME

Georgia is in the SEC Championship game for the second consecutive season. The Bulldogs hope any similarity between Saturday’s game and last year’s ends at halftime.

“We had a great first half last year, but didn’t finish like we wanted to,” Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson said. “That’s been dwelling on our minds since then.”

In last year’s game, Georgia led top-ranked LSU 10-0 in the first quarter and held the Tigers to no first downs and 11 yards in the first half. But LSU dominated the Dogs in the second half and won 42-10.

Many Georgia players have said this season’s team was driven by the goal of returning to the Georgia Dome and, once there, making a better showing. They’re there, set to face Alabama at 4 p.m. Saturday with a berth in the BCS championship game at stake.

“I feel like now we know what it takes to win,” Georgia wide receiver Tavarres King said. “That game last year was a tough one, still tough to swallow because we were playing so well for a half and came out flat in the second half. We know we can’t do that. We know it’s going to be a 60-minute fight.

“Glad to have another opportunity to play in an SEC Championship (game), and I’m going to try to make the most of it.”

Robinson believes the Bulldogs return to the Dome with a different mindset.

“We’re a different team than last year heading into the game,” he said. “I think we were simply excited to be there last year and didn’t realize what we could have done.

“This season, we’ve won a lot of games, but we haven’t celebrated like we want to yet, because we’re not satisfied with where we are.”

Said tight end Jay Rome: “All year we’ve wanted to get back and finish the drill.”

THE OFFENSES

Saturday’s game features college football’s top two quarterbacks in

Aaron Murray in the Georgia Dome on Friday. (Photo/David Goldman)

Aaron Murray in the Georgia Dome on Friday. (Photo/David Goldman)

passing efficiency (Georgia’s Aaron Murray and Alabama’s AJ McCarron), two terrific tailback tandems (Georgia’s Todd Gurley-Keith Marshall and Alabama’s Eddie Lacy-T.J. Yeldon) and two injury-thinned receiving corps.

One difference is that Alabama’s offensive line is much more experienced and acclaimed.

In fact, the Crimson Tide’s offensive line — ranked the No. 1 unit in the country by several publications — has a cumulative 155 games of starting experience. Senior center Barrett Jones has started 48 games, senior left guard Chance Warmack 38, junior right tackle D.J. Fluker 34, junior right guard Anthony Steen 23 and sophomore left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio 12.

“They’ve got three All-Americans up there that are big and physical,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “The reason their running backs have had success is, one, their running backs are talented, but also their offensive line makes holes for them, does a good job of getting them running lanes.

“And they keep their quarterback clean in the pocket. That’s one of the reasons he’s only thrown two interceptions. I’m sure there’s a confidence factor there, too, with the quarterback that he can hold the ball maybe that half-second longer for guys to come open because they do such a good job in protection.”

The teams have scored points at an almost even pace, Alabama averaging 39 per game and Georgia 38. In yards, Georgia averages 463.7 and Alabama 433. Both teams have balanced offenses.

“I think that is an outstanding (offense),” Alabama coach Nick Saban said of Georgia’s, “because of the balance that is created by their ability to run the ball effectively, as well as having a good quarterback and good skill guys to make plays outside in the passing game.”

THE DEFENSES

Alabama’s defense has been the hardest in the nation to get points or gain yards against this season. It has allowed 9.2 points and 233.7 yards per game, ranking No. 1 among FBS teams in both categories, and has held six of 12 opponents to seven points or less.

“Defensively, they’re about as good as it gets,” said Georgia coach Mark Richt, noting that Alabama has allowed only three of its past 27 opponents to reach 300 total yards. “That’s a scary thought,” Richt said.

There have been two exceptions this season, however, to the Tide’s defensive dominance: 418 yards allowed to Texas A&M and 435 to LSU.

Statistically, Georgia’s defense does not match Alabama’s. The Bulldogs have allowed an average of 17.7 points (No. 16 nationally) and 337.8 yards (No. 22). But the Dogs have held their past three SEC opponents to an average of 6.3 points and 246 yards per game.

“It’s kind of a tale of two seasons,” Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson said. “The first half of the season, we didn’t really live up to anybody’s expectations on defense, and now we’re playing the way people thought we should have been playing all along.”

“I haven’t seen anybody play as well as we have in the second half of the season,” Georgia linebacker Amarlo Herrera said.

Georgia is counting on a big game from outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who has the third most sacks in the SEC (10.5) despite missing two games with injuries.

RICHT VS. SABAN

Nick Saban, Mark Richt shake hands in front of SEC Championship trophy Friday. (AJC photo/Brant Sanderlin)

Nick Saban, Mark Richt shake hands in front of SEC Championship trophy Friday. (AJC photo/Brant Sanderlin)

The game will be the sixth between teams coached by Nick Saban and Mark Richt. Saban’s teams hold a 3-2 edge in the previous five.

Two of Saban’s three wins against Richt-coached teams came in 2003, when his LSU team beat Georgia in the regular season and again in the SEC Championship game. Saban’s other win against Richt came in 2008, when Alabama won in Athens.

Richt’s wins against Saban-coached teams came in 2004 over LSU and 2007 over Alabama.

This is Georgia’s fifth appearance in the SEC Championship game, all under Richt. The Bulldogs are 2-2 in the previous four, winning in 2002 (over Arkansas) and 2005 (over LSU) but losing in 2003 (to LSU) and last year.

Alabama is in the conference championship game for the eighth time, the third time under Saban. The Crimson Tide is 3-4 in the previous seven, all against Florida.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

  • Alabama and Georgia played five mutual opponents this season: Auburn, Florida Atlantic, Missouri, Ole Miss and Tennessee. Alabama beat those five teams by an average margin of 32.8 points. Georgia beat them by an average margin of 25.8 points.
  • Alabama’s defense has given up six touchdown passes all season. Georgia’s offense has thrown 31.
  • Georgia tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have run for a combined 1,858 yards. Alabama tailbacks Eddie Lacy and T.J. Weldon have run for a combined 1,848.
  • Alabama is ranked No. 2 and Georgia No. 3 in the BCS standings, as well as in the Associated Press and USA Today polls. The last time Alabama and Georgia met with both teams ranked in the top three: Oct. 31, 1942.

LAST MEETING

When Georgia last played Alabama on Sept. 27, 2008, the Bulldogs were undefeated, ranked No. 3 in the country (same as now) and had Matthew Stafford at quarterback, Knowshon Moreno at tailback and A.J. Green at wide receiver.

And yet they fell behind 31-0 in the first half that night and lost 41-30 to the Crimson Tide in Sanford Stadium.

The game, for which Georgia famously donned black jerseys, seemed to propel the programs in opposite directions for several seasons.

Georgia, which was ranked No. 1 at the start of the 2008 season, went on to finish a disappointing 10-3 that season, followed by 8-5 in 2009 and 6-7 in 2010 before correcting course last season. Alabama, on the other hand, went on to win two BCS championships in the next three seasons (2009 and 2011).

Georgia has five players remaining from its 2008 team: wide receiver Tavarres King, safety Bacarri Rambo, linebacker Christian Robinson, running back Richard Samuel and defensive end Cornelius Washington. All except Samuel redshirted in ’08.

AJC COLUMNIST JEFF SCHULTZ’S PREDICTION:

So three weeks ago when I wrote that Georgia looked good enough to beat Alabama, I received several loving communications from my adoring public that said something along the lines of, “I hope you’re right. But I suspect you’ll soon be counting butterflies and pink unicorns in the garden.”

To which I respond: “Hah. Everybody knows unicorns are white.”

But seriously: Georgia has a good chance to beat seemingly unbeatable Alabama, which by the way isn’t unbeatable. The Crimson Tide have the same record as the Bulldogs. They lost a home game to Texas A&M, allowing touchdowns on the Aggies’ first three possessions. They have a great defense, but that week they showed themselves to be vulnerable to a high-tempo offense (and, no, I don’t believe it was just because Heisman Trophy-favorite Johnny Manziel was the A&M quarterback).

Even with losing two starting wide receivers, Marlon Brown and Michael Bennett, the Dogs have the weapons to attack Alabama. The big question is whether quarterback Aaron Murray can avoid replicating the disastrous first half he had against Florida (three interceptions) and play more like he has since.

The other major key for the Dogs is their defensive front. Alabama has the best offensive line in the nation, and Georgia will need to get some pressure on AJ McCarron. But UGA’s best defensive players (Jarvis Jones, Bacarri Rambo, Alec Olgetree, Shawn Williams) have been their best players lately, which wasn’t the case early this season.

Call me crazy (again). I say Georgia wins its first SEC title since 2005 and moves on to the BCS Championship game.

133 comments Add your comment

Mikie

November 30th, 2012
11:02 pm

BamaCharlotte

November 30th, 2012
11:21 pm

I love how much of a slacker coach Richt is. I hate to end a sentence in a preposition, but Richt had to wait for a player to do his job after SC: Motivate and prepare his team for the remainder of the season with uncouth comments geared at his own team. I really hate to see Kirby go, but after your 6-6 season next year, it’s a foregone conclusion.

General Mills

November 30th, 2012
11:23 pm

60 minutes of all out hell .Go Dawgs GATA !!!

BamaCharlotte

November 30th, 2012
11:29 pm

General Mills, how many UGA former UGA players occupy a prison cell? Google that.

BamaCharlotte

November 30th, 2012
11:44 pm

Here’s something for you sidewalk UGA fans: I camped at UGA in ‘94 and ‘95. I turned down Goff when he pulled Jason Elam, John Kasay, and Kasay Sr. In a room to try to persuade me to sign when your boy Dax was failing. Bobo was QB, and they offered me my choice between PK, punter, and OLB, given that I was 6′4″ and 235 in HS. I couldn’t get coaches out of my room in McWhorter Hall. I chose another D1. Before you talk ish, did you walk between the hedges?

General Mills

November 30th, 2012
11:49 pm

Yeah right Bammer.Your real name Forrest ?

BamaCharlotte

November 30th, 2012
11:57 pm

My real name is “Turned Down a Scholly to Mr. Valdosta.”

BamaCharlotte

December 1st, 2012
12:01 am

General Mills, tell me what McWhorter looks like, we’ll, when they still had athletic dorms. How do you get there from the coliseum? Where’s the pool at? Who was the camp coaches in ‘95? If you want to see what a scholarship offer from UGA looks like, send me your e-mail.

Put in Timeout by Ken Sugiura,Filtered by Mark Bradley, Banned once by Bill King & Chip Towers but only slightly loved by Jeff Schultz.

December 1st, 2012
12:27 am

It could be a LONG day. Have fun and please be careful if you are drinking.

General Mills

December 1st, 2012
12:45 am

Forrest are you really serious?Thousands of kids camp there.Don”t mean squat.And if you were that great I sure you would have signed with the Dawgs instead of some school you’re ashamed to mention.And Yes I camped there myself 76.Mcwhorter was crap then .No Ac etc.They even took us swimming.Whoopee.What has that got to do with this game or article?
\

Johnny football

December 1st, 2012
2:35 am

Bamacharlotte, Who cares? Just send us a picture of your facial expression after the game because the dawgs are going to beat down Alabama. Make sure you have on your white gloves because their will be a lot of crow eaten tonight.

RedandBlackDAWG

December 1st, 2012
3:35 am

BamaCharlotte

November 30th, 2012
11:44 pm

You are one weird dude, not to mention you’re rambling on about your fictitious life, are about as believable as as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. Do they have one of those dwarfs named dreamer?
98 percent of fans, never played for their favorite team, at the very least. Probably .01% of fans, like to make up stories, about their great exploits and insult others, without having any knowledge about those folks lives, who they are or even where they live. You have to understand that nobody gives a rat’s butt about what you did or didn’t do, or whatever mental illness you might have. Just like you, they don’t know you and I assume wouldn’t bother to get to know you, if the opportunity presented itself anyway.
I assume by your nickname you are a Bama. fan, but I doubt that lends much distinction to your life. Most likely you are a Tech. fan, feeling the envy, but who you are, where you are or what fantasy world you live in, has absolutely no bearing on the fact that, your purpose on this blog is to try, at least in your mind, to impress somebody as to your athletic prowess, or some other such worthless fact.
Here is a address you might like to visit on the web. *”AL.com”*Perhaps you can go and state your fictitious story over there with better resorts.

WtfWruthnkn

December 1st, 2012
4:05 am

Total dominance over the Nerds from the joke at the coke

December 1st, 2012
5:46 am

The Dawgs Roll over the the Tide by 3 touchdowns. Then I will have the pleaseure to call the Paul Fimbomb show tell all of the Alabama Rednecks that there next opportunity to pick up women will be in Tampa at the family reunion before the outback bowl, All the rednecks think that the dawgs have no chance in this game. The have false since of security, yeah they have won two championship in the past three years, But i can gurantee you Jarvis Jones and company is tired of hearing about it and they will punish Alabama.s offense today. After we win today ESPN,and all the Mark Richt Haters , can kiss our Hairy Dawg A**. Go Dawgs I will see you in MIAMI put that in your pipe in smoke it Alabama Nation.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

Biter dawg fan

December 1st, 2012
6:01 am

Cant sleep thinking about Q/B Murray’s —EVIL TWIN—

—–Which will show up today????———I bet Coach Bobo got no sleep

———Go dawgs —-especially ———RAMBO/JENKINS/TREE/WASHINGTON

—-SPECIAL TEAMS and —SAMUAL could be the DIFFERANCE

—On a final note—-BAMMA STATE FLOWER????A SATILITE DISH

–BLAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH————–Trailer parks forever

Biter dawg fan

December 1st, 2012
6:06 am

Message to PAUL FINNBOMB———GO FU** YOURSELF

———You and the in-bred nation su**

—-TAMMIE could kick that chicken neck A$$ any day—blahahahah

——ESPN crew can also kiss my A$$—kirk herbstreet

Rob K

December 1st, 2012
6:20 am

Jackdawg- any chance Dawgs come out in black jerseys ? How about a blocked punt like 2002 against
Arkansas to set the tone !!!!!

PRESSURE

December 1st, 2012
7:21 am

zbulldawg

December 1st, 2012
7:39 am

You can throw all that last meetings out the window. You throw all the stats out with it. Bama’s great OL hasn’t seen any defense as fast as big & as Hungry for proving that they are as good or better than theirs. Uga’s defense has good solid dept. I haven’t one word about our DB’s all year from the so called experts. They are as good a bunch as there is in the nation. Our nickle back is a senior who has started !! It will be the other way around UGA’s defense will ware Bama’s OL down.Their backs have not been HIT like they will be HIT today. Look for UGA to have a few penalies for uness ROUGHNESS today. They WILL turn it loose !! UGA got in the Gators face & whooped them good !! And they will again today. We will play safe & smart on offense & special teams & turn it over to this GREAT Hungry with everything to PROVE defense to set the tone for the game. These DAWGS came back for a reason Now the reason is here.So if you bet the house you better start looking for a place to live !! LET THE BIG DAWG EAT

JB

December 1st, 2012
7:39 am

Bama’s OL is the best in football. Their QB is Murray…only better. They are #1 ranked D in NCAA. Their kicker is 100% perfect this year. They are coached by Saban……Other than all that, Go Dawgs and shock the world.

Dog Fan

December 1st, 2012
7:47 am

Enter your comments here

1969 Graduate

December 1st, 2012
7:48 am

Today is the day. The game is only hours away. I am incredibly excited. Like Jeff I predict a Bulldawg victory. I’ll admit there’s some wishful thinking involved.

Aaron Murray must have a good game which assumes a good game by our offensive line. Our running backs must have a good game. Both of these assume a good game by Mike Bobo; Bobo has been better recently, but I worry about his play calling as a very weak link if he reverts to repetitively trying things that aren’t working + trying new things when it means abandoning successful things.

Our big players on defense must have a very big game. At the same time they must not play too far outside of themselves. They can’t abandon pass defense in an effort to become pass interceptors, for instance. Still, we will need to create some turnovers if we can, and take advantage of any Alabama errors.

We know these are two very good teams. Alabama is not perfect, not unbeatable, and not destined for anything, nor is Georgia, but both teams have good to great college players at most positions. It all comes down to which team plays better this afternoon.

Is this a game where the deciding factors are all about what’s between the ears and in the heart? It may well be. If so, that makes it all the more interesting. Georgia right now reminds me of the Georgia team which played Hawaii. I didn’t think then that any team in the nation could beat that Georgia team, or even give them a good game, and I was disappointed they had to play a team like Hawaii. Today will be another chance to see what an excellent, sky-high Georgia team can do against a very solid, very competent, very balanced, very composed, very well coached Alabama team.

It’s wishful thinking for Alabama fans if they think this Georgia team won’t be sky-high, and won’t play for 60 minutes. I seriously doubt the Alabama team or coaches even entertain that notion.

I’m calling it for Georgia.

Go, Bulldogs!

[...] of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:* For Mark Richt and Georgia the moment is finally at hand* GAME DAY: Georgia-Alabama preview* Junkyard Blawg: Dawgs need a nearly perfect game to stem the [...]

Game Changer

December 1st, 2012
8:32 am

If you dont finish first, you are last——–

Aaron Murray has a chance to quiet those like myself about his lack of ability and performance against quality teams.

Go Dawgs and for once, perform at championship level AM. H Mason, please be mentally ready, you could be the difference today against Alabama.

Frankly

December 1st, 2012
8:51 am

Left Coast Dawg

December 1st, 2012
8:55 am

Yeah, there was no team that could have beaten that UGA team on the day it demolished Hawaii. I hoped sincerely the bowl game would have been against USC instead of Hawaii when we were robbed of a National Championship opportunity. No worries this year! There’s no way anyone can keep the Dawgs out of the NC game now…..only the Dawgs can keep themselves out.

GATA Dawgs….Sic’em, ROOF ROOF…..Go Dawgs, Hunker Down!!!

bwell

December 1st, 2012
8:57 am

Do or Die today………. Ga 42- 24

1eyedJack

December 1st, 2012
9:01 am

The key to the game is how well each offensive line plays. Whichever team can run the football will win.

sogadog

December 1st, 2012
9:02 am

Call me crazy too, Dawgs 27 Tide 24.

A J's nightmare

December 1st, 2012
9:03 am

DP

December 1st, 2012
9:12 am

“Yeah, there was no team that could have beaten that UGA team on the day it demolished Hawaii.”

LOL.

[...] more from the original source: GAME DAY: Georgia-Alabama preview ← Back to Home Tags: christian, dome, downs, focal, game, georgia, held, lsu, sec, [...]

ARdawg

December 1st, 2012
9:26 am

Jeff Schultz

You’re as sane as I am. DAWGS!! Close and late. Likely one of the best SEC games in decades. Does it help that I was flying paper airplanes in my garden last night?

Keniboy

December 1st, 2012
9:30 am

I’m 58 but I still have 4 yrs of eligibility left

Hairy Dawg

December 1st, 2012
9:32 am

I wake up today with smile on my face cause I know we winning national champs and that why Coach Richt is best for us as Christians. We deserves to win with the talent we got that unlloading a whooping can on Bammer. It time to teach that Saban a lesson so he knows Dawgs own state and recruits and GA Dome. Then Saban know not to come here but expect to get a beating. Saban is dirty and evil like for trying to deny Dawgs our rightfulls place as champs. But God has ways a making him pay and that starts today. Remember you can’t spell Christ without Richts and Saban is close to Satan. Let the BIG DAWG eat.

Go Dawgs! Sick E’m!

dawgfan

December 1st, 2012
9:49 am

I’m just trying not to get too excited. Offensive line is a major concern and I’m not completely sold on our defense’s ability to stand up to Bama’s physical running game. I’m a huge Aaron Murray fan but there’s no denying his struggles in big games, although I think a big part of that is too much pressure is put on him due to a lack of a running game in big games.

At any rate, this is going to be a tremendous challenge. We’ll see what happens.

Vance

December 1st, 2012
9:50 am

There’s more at stake for the Dawgs than Bama. Bama loses, they already have recent championships; Dawgs lose and Murray cannot shake the lack of the number of big wins for him, and Richt continues that “almost but not quite there” monkey on his back. I hope for Richt and Murray’s sake, we get over this hump and move forward. Regardless of what happens, Go Dawgs!

rlm

December 1st, 2012
9:52 am

Well we are kind of glad someone 235 lbs and over 6 feet named Charlotte did not go to UGA. Might have had problems fitting in in the locker room. I guess they got their great writing skills at Alabama in the remedial program

thetruthandnot

December 1st, 2012
9:58 am

Just glad its UGA and UA and not LSU.Their hard to beat in big games.

Hale C

December 1st, 2012
9:58 am

Is AJC Time Clock to SEC Champ Game right ? can anyone explain to me please

Biggun

December 1st, 2012
9:59 am

No doubt, Biggest Game of Year for both! Two very good teams with the winner taking it all the way to another SEC National Title Winner. I see Ga winning a hard fought game. I believe Chris Conley has a career day with “Gurshell” and the Ga Safeties playing big! Of course, the biggest factor will be the O-Line playing their “A” game. If Ga can spread the Bama defense, Ga wins!

Dawg Talk

December 1st, 2012
10:00 am

Go Dawgs!!!!!

Hairy Dawg

December 1st, 2012
10:03 am

And another thing is next years team is even better now that we got some experiemce at RB and OL. We set up to display dominants and win muliple BCS for years. It start today with a big rear whooping on the Rolling Turds and that sorry Saban dirt bag.

Hunker Down and GATA!

Dawg Talk

December 1st, 2012
10:07 am

Gentlemen……The O-Line is going to be just fine today. The real keys to winning the game are, #1-catch the ball this year, #2-No turnovers, #3-no stupid penalties, & #4-play assignment football in all phases of the game–offense,defense, & special teams!! Dawgs win today & this is how they will do it!

pooh p

December 1st, 2012
10:14 am

Georgia has played 2 ranked teams all year and got destroyed by one of them. They shouldn’t even be in the top ten.
The real losers today are the workers at the dome who don’t even make a living wage selling popcorn while you watch Mark Tricked make more moneey for his fancy truck.
The concession workers at the dome should walk out until the teams pay them their fair share.

Hairy Dawg

December 1st, 2012
10:15 am

The key is to smash those Bammers right in mouth and then stomp them in broken nose with hob nailed boot. Dawgs is up to it today and shows why has always been deserving of BCS even though pollsetrs stole it from us couple of years.

Go Dawgs!

This video is what we're gonna do you Bammers!

December 1st, 2012
10:15 am

BananaBama

December 1st, 2012
10:21 am

WOW.

Richt looks really PEEVED about shaking hands with Saban in that photo.

You would think he was an able-bodied, able-minded 0bama Welfare Recipient who just got “cut off” and was having to got interview for a job and WORK for a living.

Stevie Ray

December 1st, 2012
10:23 am

I graduated with Hershel’s class and was on the sidelines in front of where he got tackled to end the ND game. Being completely intoxicated, 2 of us rushed the GA goal post..got one hand on then felt tapping on my leg…turned around to find 3 of NOLA’s finest…now if you’ve spent anytime in NO, you know not the mess with that particular breed of cop. They suggested..”not up in here..” but were gentle…My buddy and I then went up to 50 yard line empty seats and sparked one up..wouldn’t it be great if…..??