SEC Championship Game Primer
By Jeremy Hillman
Follow us at Twitter.com/SouthernPigskin. Become a fan at the SouthernPigskin.com Facebook Page
Alabama and Georgia are ready to face off for a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.
For the 2012 SEC Championship, it has all come down to this: Alabama versus Georgia, in the Georgia Dome this Saturday afternoon.
The stakes are enormous. The winner will not only be crowned champion of the best college football conference in the nation, but will also earn a spot in the BCS National Championship Game against Notre Dame in January.
The Crimson Tide won the SEC Western Division title with an 11-1 regular season record. The Bulldogs earned the SEC Eastern Division title with an identical 11-1 regular season mark. The battle for the 12th victory promises to be intense.
Roll Tide. Go Dawgs. One game. One champion.
Here is how the two teams match-up and who I believe will walk away the winner:
Alabama Offense versus the Georgia defense: Alabama has a very balanced offense. On the season, the Tide, led by statistically sound QB AJ McCarron, have averaged 209 rush yards and 224 pass yards per game against SEC competition. Alabama will attempt to continue this balance against Georgia, in an attempt to keep the aggressive Bulldog defensive front seven, led by All-World LB Jarvis Jones, out of the backfield and away from the ball. Look for hand-offs to talented backs Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon in the beginning, which will open up the play-action pass for McCarron and speedy wide-out Amari Cooper. Alabama struggled the most this season (in a loss to Texas A&M, a close win over LSU and a closer-than-expected win over Ole Miss) when it rushed for under 180 yards. The Bulldogs have only allowed 127 rush yards per game to SEC opponents, a good bit lower than the 180 yard threshold that previously signaled trouble for Bama, and may be able to disallow the Tide's efforts of setting up the pass with the run. Georgia will have to make solid tackles on the Tide running backs and not allow the play-action to get them out of position to make plays on defense or allow Cooper to get behind the secondary. If they do these things and continue their impressive efforts against the run game (allowed just 75, 46, and 57 rushing yards in their last three SEC games, respectively), the Bulldogs will come out on top in this match-up.
Georgia Offense versus the Alabama defense: Against SEC competition, Georgia has averaged slightly more yards per game on offense than Alabama (439 to 434). The key for Georgia is QB Aaron Murray. In the only two games Murray has thrown for more interceptions than touchdowns this season, Georgia has lost (versus South Carolina he had 0 TDs and 1 INT) and won a very close game (versus Florida he had 1 TD and 3 INTs). We all know that Alabama QB AJ McCarron avoids throwing interceptions; he has an impressive 25 touchdowns and just two interceptions on the season. Therefore, Murray will need to match him with limited mistakes and avoid the costly pick. Although the young Georgia backs, led by impressive Todd Gurley, are talented, it is tough for anyone to run against Kirby Smart and Nick Saban led defenses. The Tide have allowed just 82 rush yards per game against SEC teams in 2012. Do not expect Georgia to break that trend. That puts additional pressure on Murray to get the job done in the passing game. The Alabama defense has given up 203 passing yards to Tennessee, 209 passing yards to Mississippi State, 296 passing yards to LSU and 253 passing yards to Texas A&M. The Bama defense has clearly shown they can be susceptible to the pass this season. It all comes down to Murray. If he is on his game, Georgia can win this matchup. However, if Alabama rattles him early and he makes mistakes like he did against South Carolina and Florida, it could be a disappointing day for the Bulldog nation.
What will happen: Georgia and Jarvis Jones will be active on defense, doing everything they can to get in the Tide backfield, past a dominating Alabama offense line, and will disrupt the Bama run game. Alabama will have a few big plays on offense, especially with the screen pass, but will struggle to put significant points on the board. On the flip side, Alabama will for the most part shut down the Bulldog running game and all-but dare Murray to try and beat them. In the end, Aaron Murray will finally have his signature game and do just enough to edge out Alabama on the scoreboard in a close and very emotional game. This is going to be fun to watch.
Predicted Game MVP: Georgia LB Jarvis Jones
Score Prediction: Georgia 24 Alabama 23