You've read the definitive preview. You've watched the pregame show. You've seen the sign. You've watched a hated rival spit the bit at home against a man who's crazier than a sack of rabid weasels. Now it's time to consider the 5 things you may (or given my recent track record, may not) see when the Georgia Bulldogs take on the Alabama Crimson Tide tonight in Sanford Stadium. In addition to 100,000 or so diehard SEC football fans (including those who won't even make it into the Stadium) representing two storied programs, I'm betting you'll see:
1) Tripp Chandler: Chandler got the call frequently last year in Tuscaloosa. Sometimes he answered it, other times he didn't. The reason that Chandler was such a big part of the game plan is that in Nick Saban's defense, stopping the run comes first. It's solid, fundamental football. A beneficial side effect of that philosophy is that the push up front that stops the run also gives the QB less time to pass downfield. But the tight end will often be able to either get open underneath in zone coverage, or get man coverage against one of 'Bama's big linebackers. The tight end will be open, and thrown to at least 5 times. Let's hope he catches it.
2) Less Terrance Cody than you think: Alabama 's nearly 400 pound defensive tackle has figured heavily in pregame discussion throughout the blogosphere and mainstream media. Cody's a big man, and he moves well for his size. He's definitely a matchup problem for freshman center Ben Jones. But ask yourself this: how often does Georgia really run the ball in the "A" gaps without some counter motion or other misdirection? Answer: fewer than 10 times a game and most often along the goalline. Cody presents a bit of a problem in pass rushing situations, though. But with Jones' nasty attitude and low center of gravity, I think it's less of a mismatch than some believe.
3) Misdirection: We haven't seen a lot of it so far. Alabama's pressure defense is a perfect candidate to get burned on some end around plays to A.J. Green or halfback passes. Even if we don't connect on these, I think one every quarter or so will be a big part of keeping the 'Bama defense off balance.
4) Passing yards: I think the defensive gameplan will look similar to that we saw for the South Carolina game. We'll make John Parker Wilson beat us, and apply pressure selectively. I'm not as down on JPW as some. All in all, he's been quietly effective under center for Saban's team, especially now that he has a bona fide rushing threat to take some of the pressure off. But against the two best teams we've played so far (South Carolina and Arizona State), the red and black defense has averaged allowing 11 rushing yards a game. Alabama's rushing attack is better than those two, and they'll be more committed to the run. But Alabama won't exceed 150 yards rushing. If they win this one, Wilson will have to make plays when it counts.
5) Georgia 34, Alabama 17. Poo-poo the "blackout" all you want. The Gameday set this morning was a good preview of the cacaphony that awaits a young Alabama team tonight in the Classic City. If Georga plays up to potential on defense and avoids turnovers, this one should be solidly in hand by the start of the fourth quarter. But if 'Bama's still in it or even leading late, we'll have a hard time coming back. Everyone is saying that Alabama has a huge advantage over Georgia's "young" offensive line. I think that young group has a lot more experience at this point than people are giving them credit for, and they have a lot to prove. Knowshon goes for 120 total yards or more in a primetime victory. Until later . . .