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The Alabama Crimson Tide and Georgia Bulldogs have been fixtures at the SEC Championship this decade, but Saturday marks just the second meeting between the programs in the conference title game.
Since defeating Georgia 32-28 in the 2012 SEC Championship, Alabama’s won three conference titles and established itself as the gold standard of college football.
Georgia returned to Atlanta a year ago after a four-year absence, but instead of facing Alabama, the Bulldogs took on and defeated Auburn.
If Nick Saban‘s Crimson Tide emerge victorious, they’ll lock up the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff.
A victory by Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs would secure their spot in the playoff and potentially knock Alabama out of the top four.
Alabama is in possession of one of the most prolific offenses college football has ever seen.
At the helm of the Crimson Tide offense is Heisman Trophy favorite Tua Tagovailoa, who has rarely been needed for the fourth quarter this season.
But if you just look at Tagovailoa when breaking down the Crimson Tide offense, you’re only scratching the surface.
The rushing combination of Damien Harris, Najee Harris and Josh Jacobs has combined for 20 touchdowns, while wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs are double-digit touchdown catchers.
While Tagovailoa enhances each player in the Alabama offense, he’s been blessed with the most talented players in the country at every position, and it’s been on display in all of Alabama’s 12 victories.
Alabama’s defense has been as good as its offense, as the Crimson Tide allowed four of their 12 opponents to score more than 20 points.
Quinnen Williams, who is arguably the best defensive player in the country, is a menace on the interior, and he’ll be present throughout the SEC Championship, as he attempts to thwart the Bulldogs’ rushing attack, just like he did against LSU.
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Although Alabama lost a plethora of defensive talent to the NFL, it hasn’t missed a beat, especially at linebacker, with Dylan Moses, Anfernee Jennings and Mack Wilson leading the charge.
Georgia is one of the few programs that can attempt to match the firepower Alabama holds on its roster.
The rushing attack is Georgia’s most effective offensive weapon, as Bulldogs running backs totaled 29 touchdowns on the ground, with D’Andre Swift leading the way with nine.
Jake Fromm isn’t as explosive in the pocket as Tagovailoa since Georgia’s offense doesn’t demand him to be the top playmaker, but he’ll have to step up Saturday to give his team a chance to win.
Mecole Hardman and Riley Ridley, the younger brother of former Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley, are Fromm’s top targets, and they’ll be expected to break free from the Crimson Tide’s coverage in order to create long gains that keep Alabama’s offense off the field.
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The defensive key for Georgia will be the play of its defensive backs. If the unit highlighted by Richard Lecounte. J.R. Reed and DeAndre Baker is able to limit the big-play potential of the Alabama receivers, the Bulldogs will earn stops throughout the contest.
If the game comes down to special teams, Georgia holds an advantage in the form of kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, who has made 19 of his 22 field goals.
Alabama 33, Georgia 30
Georgia will provide Alabama with its toughest test of the season to date, but it won’t be able to contain Tagovailoa for all four quarters.
The left-handed sophomore proved in last season’s national championship that the pressure of big games doesn’t get to him, and his ability to produce in clutch moments will be the difference-maker Saturday, as Alabama marches on to the playoff.
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Statistics obtained from ESPN.com