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Too Much Information: Alabama (The Running Game)

Now that we are approaching the point at which season-long statistics might plausibly be construed as meaningful, I am resuming the regular practice of breaking down each week's gridiron opponent.

I have already provided an overview of the passing game, so I now turn to the running game in an effort to deliver not just a modicum of knowledge or a dollop of data, but instead . . . Too Much Information.

Alabama runs the ball a good deal better than Georgia. Georgia stops the run a good deal better than Alabama.

Need proof? The 'Dawgs rank eighth in the league in rushing offense, gaining 136.7 yards per game on the ground. The Crimson Tide ranks seventh in the S.E.C. in rushing defense, surrendering 144.7 yards per game on the ground. Let's split the difference and say the Red and Black probably will get somewhere in the neighborhood of 140 rushing yards tomorrow night.

The Bulldog rushing attack averages 3.7 yards per carry. The 'Bama D gives up 3.7 yards per carry. The Red Elephants, on the other hand, pick up an average of 5.2 yards every time they hand it off, but the Classic City Canines concede roughly half that much---2.7 yards per touch---when the opposition runs the ball. Between Alabama's fifth-ranked rushing offense (219.0 yards per game) and Georgia's third-ranked rushing defense (91.0 yards per game permitted), something has to give, and there is where the battle likely will be won and lost.

Disturbingly, the Red and Black have allowed very nearly as many first downs on running plays (22) than the 'Dawgs have gained (24). On the plus side, though, South Carolina's running game is very nearly the equal of Alabama's, as the Gamecocks average 5.0 yards per carry to the Crimson Tide's 5.2, yet Georgia limited the Palmetto State Poultry to 140 rushing yards, the selfsame number we should expect to see the Bulldogs gain against the Tide tomorrow night.

Although he has fewer touchdowns than either Thomas Brown or Brannan Southerland, the shining light of the Georgia rushing attack clearly is Knowshon Moreno, who deserves more carries and already has a beverage christened in his honor.

Moreno averages 5.7 yards per carry and tallies a little under 90 rushing yards per game. The emerging star at tailback also has six catches to his credit, matching the number of receptions garnered by Mohamed Massaquoi. Moreno's 32.7 receiving yards per game, many of which come on throws which are the equivalent of long handoffs, are second only to Sean Bailey's 54.3 yards per contest through the air.

Although Alabama allows an extra yard per carry defensively (3.7 to Georgia's 2.7), only two rushing touchdowns have been scored against the Crimson Tide. Six of the Red Elephants' 10 red zone touchdowns have come on running plays and 'Bama has a freshman running back of its own.

Terry Grant already has gone over 400 yards this season, averaging 6.5 yards per carry and 134.3 rushing yards per game. He trails only Darren McFadden as the league's leading rusher. Behind Grant is Glen Coffee, who has earned 5.9 yards per rush in spite of his having been shot and killed in the sixth season of "Hill Street Blues".

Coming soon: A look at the odds and ends, plus a prediction. . . .

Go 'Dawgs!