Here is what I’m NOT worried about for our 3rd attempt at beating Alabama in the SEC Championship Game:
1) Alabama quarterbacks have been sacked 36 times this season. On 422 pass plays. That’s 3 sacks per game, and a sack every 12 drop backs. And if anything is consistent about Alabama is that they are passing it 36 times a game. Even against the cupcakes, Bama OC Bill O’Brien dialed up 31 throws hosting Mercer (hehehe) and 37 against New Mexico State. There seems to be good opportunity against the right side of the Tide O-Line.
The reason I like this is because the Bulldog defense is averaging almost 3.5 sacks a game, while facing just over 30 pass attempts. It is a little harder to compare because several teams just completely gave up throwing it against Georgia (Vandy, Tech, Arkansas) as the game was out of hand so early. Conversely some of those sacks came with 2nd and 3rd stringers in, so maybe that balances out. I know I just like these trends.
2) Short yardage rushing… at least by the Tide. I think most folks have heard that the injury bug bit, and nested, in the Alabama running back room this season. Currently down to only two scholarship running backs, RB1 and 1,000 yard rusher Bryan Robinson is questionable for Saturday afternoon. The other back with free tuition is Trey Sanders, and he’s just now coming back from a hip injury. And this shows.
On 3rd down and 3 yards or less, Alabama has run it 31 times for 111 yards. 16 of those were able to surpass the line to gain. If you take out the longest run of 20 yards, they’re averaging 3 yards a rush in those situations. They obviously aren’t able to impose their will as in years past. Then there’s the fact they’ve thrown the ball in those situations 18 times (they completed 15, and got a 1st down 13 times). Bama has not only turned to the pass in 3rd and short, they’re much more successful there. Hellllllooooooo, bubble screen! And knowing is half the battle.
3) Good placekicking and Nick Saban aren’t often paired together, and I’m just as confident in Jake Podlesny as Tide kicker Will Reichard. He’s missed on extra point already this season, and missed 4 field goals. That is 1 more extra point than he missed last season, and 4 more missed field goals (if you do the math, that kid was perfect in the 2020 season!).
Their other special teams don’t bother me much either, other than Jameson Williams returning kicks. And with Camarda able to boom it off the tee through the end zone, or hang a punt high enough for the coverage team, then that should be pretty well negated.
Now forgive me, as I was weaned at the nipple of Larry Munson’s scratch. So here’s what does worry me about going back to the Benz this year:
1) The Bama secondary in run support. Brian Branch can flat out lay the lumber. DeMarcco Hellams and Jordan Battle are both upperclassmen and both in the top 5 in team tackles. And these guys really come up quick and prevent deep gashes by opposing runners.
Other than the crazy Florida game, where the Gators racked up 244 yards on the ground, the Gumps have held the other 11 opponents to 110 yards or fewer. If the bread and butter of the Georgia offense is the run, then their secondary will do well and make it a tough slog on the ground. They’ve shown more weakness in coverage, but are those the plays we want to lean on?
2) Crimson Tide receivers can get open. If you don’t sack starting QB Bryce Young, you’d better force him to get rid of it quick. The more time he has, the more yardage that throw will go for. And as I said above, the Red Elephants are not afraid to chuck it all over the yard.
You know about Jameson Williams and John Metchie, both of whom have eclipsed 1,000 yards in receiving. The good news is that they get the vast majority of the targets and catches, so if you’re able to zone or double-cover those guys, recent history says you’re slicing their production by more than 50%. Though Slade Bolden is the third of the trio of Junior wide-outs, and is more than serviceable. But isn’t this just the type of game where Alabama flips the script and suddenly finds a staunch O-line?
3) There are a lot of stats that show Georgia’s defense as #elite, while Alabama’s offense is trending in the wrong direction (shout-out to Dawg_Stats). For whatever reason, I may be somewhat calmed but I don’t find total solace in those numbers. This is just a game I’m prejudging by my gut. For example:
I don’t like how Stetson Bennett throws those quick 1 step WR screens. Seemingly every game we don’t seal that edge rusher and I swear it looks like it’s going to be a pick 6 every time. He throws it sidearm and usually with good tempo, but it scares the hell out of me every time. Especially considering how many batted balls Bennett experiences.
I love the Mailman, and nothing would please me more than to see him control the game and reverse the 2H mojo from last year’s contest. He is a different player, and OC Todd Monken has consistently dialed him and the playcalls throughout this season. But the Crimson Tide defense is getting healthy (LaBryan Ray is a serious force who missed some games in the middle of the season). Then there’s the freak who is Will Anderson (you’ve read the Roquan/Jarvis comparisons) and Henry To’o To’o who is thriving under Saban as he never did under Jeremy Pruitt. SBIV will in every facet be facing his toughest test to date.
Call me crazy, just don’t call me late for dinner. Sound off in the comments below what worries you about the Bulldogs of Georgia versus the Crimson Tide of Alabama. And as always…