Saturday’s SEC Championship is a rematch of last year’s national championship game, and Georgia would like nothing more to avenge that loss to Alabama. It was a game that the Bulldogs led, until Tua Tagovailoa replaced starting quarterback Jalen Hurts and led a comeback to win, 26-23.
Tagovailoa, who is the overwhelming favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this season, is now the Crimson Tide’s starter, and has led the team to a perfect 12-0 record. The are 13.5-point favorites to stay No. 1, a position they have held since the AP Top 25 preseason poll.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart, a former assistant under Alabama’s coach Nick Saban, knows stopping the junior signal caller will be his team’s top priority.
“He’s got an elite arm talent, he’s really fast, he’s got really good wide receivers around him, he’s got powerful backs, and he’s got a talented tight end and a great offensive line, and he knows where to go with the ball,” Smart said. “He’s got great vision downfield, he’s got the ability to look off safeties, he can throw the touch pass, he can throw bullets. And then on top of all that, he can run. So he’s a lot to take in.”
Alabama’s Biggest Challenge
To listen to Smart describe Tagovailoa, and the Alabama offense, he makes it sound like the No. 4 Bulldogs have no chance to upset the best team in the country. Saban, though, knows Georgia is the toughest team his program will face all year. The only blemish Georgia has, was a 36-16 loss to LSU, who lost to Alabama later in the season, 29-0.
“They’ve got some really impressive wins, (and) they’re ranked very highly in a lot of categories,” Saban said, “and this will be the most challenging game that we have all year.”
Keys to Game
If Georgia is going to win they are need to be successful running the ball. That won’t be easy since the Crimson Tide is 15th in the country in run defense, allowing 114 yards per game. The Bulldogs, though, are No. 11 in rushing offense, averaging 259.8 yards per game.
Georgia has outscored every opponent but one, by 14 points, while Alabama has won every game by at least 22 points. The two defenses are in the top 15, with Alabama at No. 6, and Georgia at No. 12.
Both teams have motivation to win. If Alabama is victorious it will further cement this team’s legacy as one of the best college programs of all time. Georgia needs to win to stay in the fourth spot for the College Football Championship. A loss, even a close one, will probably open the door for either No. 5 Oklahoma, or No. Ohio State to take the final spot.
Smart knows there is little room for error.
“When you look at them on film do you say this team could be the best? “They’re pretty good,” Smart said. “They’re really good. I mean they have a good team. They’re explosive. They’ve got, I don’t see the weaknesses.”