Preview: Alabama vs. Georgia
Top-ranked Alabama will undoubtedly be part of the four-team College Football Playoff but fourth-ranked Georgia isn’t a lock as the two squads prepare for Saturday’s SEC championship game at Atlanta. The Bulldogs can clinch a CFP spot by beating the Crimson Tide but risk being bypassed for the playoff if they should lose the contest.
The two squads met in last season’s national title game with Alabama prevailing 26-23 in overtime in what was the coming out party for Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who came off the bench to throw three touchdown passes. “He can sit in the pocket and make every throw,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said during a press conference. “He’s very confident, and he’s got a presence about him in the pocket. He doesn’t fear rush; if he’s got guys bearing down on him, he sidesteps and gets the ball out, and that’s what makes him very special.” Alabama has been dominant all season but coach Nick Saban is very wary of Smart – his former defensive coordinator – and the Bulldogs. “Georgia is one of the most complete teams in the country,” Saban said at a press conference. “I think Kirby’s done a fantastic job there in terms of taking the players that were there and developing them in the style that he wants and doing a great job of recruiting to get new players to come and buy into their system. This is going to be the biggest challenge we’ve had to date.”
TV: 4 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Alabama -13.5
ABOUT ALABAMA (12-0, 8-0 SEC): Tagovailoa has thrown a school-record 36 touchdown passes against two interceptions and the sophomore fuels an offense averaging 49 points per game. Jerry Jeudy is enjoying a standout season with 56 receptions for 1,079 and 11 touchdowns while fellow sophomore receiver DeVonta Smith (27 receptions) will forever be remembered in Alabama lore for catching the game-winning 41-yard touchdown pass in the national championship game. The Crimson Tide give up an average of 13.8 points with sophomore nose guard Quinnen Williams recording a team-leading 16 tackles for loss and senior defensive end Isaiah Buggs notching a team-best 9.5 sacks.
ABOUT GEORGIA (11-1, 7-1): Sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm was intercepted twice in last season’s title game but has been picked off just five times this season while passing for 2,236 yards and 24 touchdowns. The attack that produces an average of 40.1 points per game also relies on two standout running backs in sophomore D’Andre Swift (962 yards, nine touchdowns) and junior Elijah Holyfield (896 yards, seven scores). The defense allows an average of 17.2 points with senior linebacker D’Andre Walker (team-high 6.5 sacks) and sophomore safety Richard LeCounte (team-leading 64 tackles) among the standouts.
1. Alabama has won the past four meetings.
2. Bulldogs junior WR Mecole Hardman leads the SEC with a 21.8 average on punt returns – he has one touchdown – and also averages 26.2 yards on kickoff returns.
3. Crimson Tide junior LB Terrell Lewis (knee) returned to practice from summer surgery and his availability will be determined later in the week.