Just hours away from the SEC Championship between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Georgia Bulldogs, the stakes for this game couldn’t be higher. Each time the Tide and Bulldogs faced each other, it has been an exciting game. We all know about 2nd-and-26, but remember the 2012 game?
That game was won by Alabama, but Georgia was just a few yards away from winning that game and going to the national championship game to face Notre Dame.
Well, this time may not be as different as the 2012 game. If Georgia wins, more than likely will face the Fighting Irish in the College Football Playoff. If Alabama wins, and Oklahoma handles Texas, the Tide may either face the Sooners, or they could have a CFP rematch with Ohio State from the Big Ten.
But before we get to all of that, let’s take a look at the matchups that could determine the winner of this massive SEC title game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
1. Tua Tagavalioa vs the Georgia Secondary
Coming into this game, Georgia was ranked 13th in the country in total defense, just behind SEC teams Mississippi State, ranked 4th, and Alabama, ranked 6th. But, so far their defense hasn’t faced a quarterback like Tua Tagovailoa all season. The closest to that level may be Missouri’s Drew Lock, so Tagovailoa will offer a real challenge to the Georgia secondary. The only defense that gave Tagovailoa any problem was Mississippi State, mainly because the Bulldogs pressured Tua early on. It will be interesting to see if the Bulldogs go after Tagovailoa and risk getting burnt over the top.
2. Alabama Defense vs Georgia’s Running Backs
This might be the most interesting matchup of the game, especially the way the Alabama defense has played the last couple weeks against the run. Against The Citadel, and Auburn for a half, both teams were able to run on the Bama defense. Now in the second half, they shut down both, but this is Georgia, and the Bulldog running backs have been successful against almost everyone they played in 2018. D’Andre Swift destroyed Auburn, running for almost 200 yards against the Tigers in their game. Elijah Holyfield adds to this one, two punch, which may give the Tide trouble if they aren’t careful.
3. The Forgotten Phase: Special Teams
This may not seem like much at the moment, but Georgia’s kicking game has been way more consistent than the Alabama kicking game, and this may come into play in a big way. Alabama kickers have missed 10 extra points this season which has not been a factor in the Tide’s games yet. They also have an issue making long field goals. All you have to do is look at the end of the national championship game to know that the Tide do not want to depend on their kickers to win this game for them, and Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship rarely misses.
On top of that, both Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle and Georgia’s Mecole Hardman are game-breaking return guys that could swing the field position battle in the blink of an eye.
4. Jake Fromm vs the Alabama Secondary
Fromm has already faced a tough secondary when he was bottled up by LSU earlier this season, but since then, Fromm has found his sea legs so to speak. Despite being a young group, the Alabama secondary has also gotten better since Arkansas put up 31 points against them. If the Tide’s defense can stuff the Bulldogs running game and force them to throw, will Fromm be able to bear the weight and carry the Bulldogs?
5. Saban vs Smart
You would think this would be an advantage to Alabama, and don’t get me wrong, it still is, but Georgia head coach Kirby Smart almost put one over on his former employer back in January, and now that he knows Tagovailoa and the Alabama passing game is coming, you would have to think he would be better prepared this time. We will see how well prepared Smart and Georgia is this time around.