No. 1 Georgia and No. 3 Alabama will tee it up inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday afternoon in Atlanta in the SEC Championship Game with more than just the conference title on the line. The Bulldogs have cruised into the title game with an undefeated record, a stifling defense and a big play offense that has been able to stretch the field whenever it deems necessary.
The Crimson Tide struggled last week in a quadruple overtime win over rival Auburn, and haven’t been as crisp as they have been in year’s past. But coach Nick Saban knows how to win when it counts, and he’s led his team to the precipice of back-to-back SEC titles yet again.
What should you expect on Saturday afternoon? Let’s break down the matchup and make picks straight up and against the spread.
Georgia vs. Alabama: Need to know
Offensive line has to be better: It’s safe to say that last weekend’s game vs. Auburn was a total disaster for the Crimson Tide offensive line. They gave up 11 tackles for loss, quarterback Bryce Young was sacked seven times and they averaged just 1.92 yards per carry. That was against Auburn. Comparing Auburn’s defensive front to Georgia’s is like comparing a pee wee flag football team to the Green Bay Packers.
Saban said on Sunday that he knows things have to get fixed.
“Obviously, it wasn’t very good,” he said. “We didn’t do a very good job of pass blocking. We didn’t do a very good job of finishing blocks on the running plays. So it’s pretty obviously to everybody that we didn’t execute very well. Did a much better job in the second half, I think. Wasn’t always perfect, but much, much better. I think some of the adjustments that we made were a little better for them to execute relative to the way Auburn was playing us.”
George Pickens is back: The star wide receiver for the Bulldogs got a few snaps and caught one pass last week against Georgia Tech in what was his first action since tearing his ACL during spring practice. It’s clear at this point that coach Kirby Smart did that for one reason and one reason alone — getting him ready for the stretch run. The junior caught 36 passes for 513 yards and six touchdowns in eight games last season, and added 49 catches for 727 yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games as a true freshman in 2019.
He’s the kind of difference-maker that can kick this offense — which has already shown to be a big play offense through the air — into overdrive. Quarterback Stetson Bennett IV is averaging 10.8 yards per attempt, which is second only to Coastal Carolina’s Grayson McCall in the nation. If Pickens is back in the mix even as a minimal participant, the Alabama defense will have its work cut out for it.
Can Trey Sanders get it done: Alabama running back Brian Robinson Jr. has been fighting through some bumps and bruises, but suffered a pulled muscle in his “lower body” last week. That injury limited him late in the Iron Bowl, and has been a cause for concern in practice this week. That leaves sophomore Trey Sanders as the only healthy scholarship running back on the Tide roster, which is crazy considering how deep they typically are at every position across the roster.
Saban has faith in Sanders, who was a five-star prospect and the No. 6 overall player in the Class of 2019.
“He did a good job,” Saban said on Sunday. “He did a nice job with catching the ball. He did a good job in block protection, especially on some critical passing situations. When they blitzed, he made great pickups and ran the ball fairly effectively. So we were pleased.”
How to watch Georgia vs. Alabama live
Georgia vs. Alabama prediction, picks
Featured Game | Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Georgia Bulldogs
Simply put, this is a matchup nightmare for the Crimson Tide. The offensive line has been unable to run block on a consistent basis all year, and last week against Auburn was its worst performance of the season. Now it is suddenly going to get right against Jordan Davis and the Bulldogs’ front seven? Nope. No chance. Georgia will keep Alabama in check all afternoon, which will allow Bennett and the rest of that offense the ability to dictate the style and tempo of the matchup. The Bulldogs will win by double digits. Prediction: Georgia (-6.5)