This is part two of our in-depth preview of this afternoon’s SEC title tilt between the Alabama Crimson Tide and your Georgia Bulldogs. Brent Taylor of the estimable Roll Bama Roll schooled me on a Tide defense that may not be as strong against the run as in past years (sound familiar?) and the Tide secondary. Spoiler: a freshman shall lead them. Enjoy.
MD: Georgia had the SEC’s second ranked passing offense. The Tide the second leading pass defense. Which one breaks first?
Brent: I think Alabama’s defense does... But not necessarily the cornerbacks. Terrion Arnold and Kool-Aid McKinstry have an advantage over UGA’s outside receivers, but I fear the slot. UGA is going to move different guys into the slot (McConkey, Lovett, Bowers) to try to get those quick hitters past the linebackers and/or isolate safety Jaylen Key (UAB transfer, and can find himself overmatched in speed) in mismatches. Alabama is going to give up yards there, and we’re all going to be mad about it. The real test is going to be if the Tide defense can stand up in the redzone.
MD: Similarly, Georgia gives up the fewest sacks in the SEC (0.85 per game) while the Bama defense is second in the league, creating sacks 3.0 per contest. How confident are you that the Crimson Tide defense can get sufficient pressure on Carson Beck?
Brent: Pressure? Yes. Sacks? Probably not. Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell are the best pass rushing duo that UGA will have seen this year, and they will win their fair share of reps. The problem is that Beck is one of the best QBs in the NCAA at not getting sacked by getting the ball out on time. So, ultimately, I think Beck sees more pressure than UGA fans are used to, but Alabama gets less sacks/pressure than Alabama fans are used to. Call it another draw.
MD: Who is the player on the Tide defense Georgia fans should be most worried about and why?
Brent: Caleb Downs! The true freshman safety has been nothing short of phenomenal with a rare blend of speed, instincts, and tackling ability. He’s had the occasional freshman mistake, but has been mostly sound and impactful for Alabama all year. UGA’s entire offense is built to attack mismatch spots and take the outside corners out of the game, so I think there’s going to be a lot of the responsibility for the defense’s performance falling on Downs here. He’s going to have to make those tackles in open space on the quick screens to McConkey, and he’s going to have to keep Bowers from turning a 12 yard catch into a 40-yard TD. That’s a lot to put on a true freshman. Can he handle it? Maybe not every play, but he’s going to win his fair share.
We’ll be back later with one more round of questions and Brent’s score prediction. Until then…