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ESPN gave Alabama a 12.9 percent chance to run the table in the Southeastern Conference. Media members selected Auburn as the conference champion, during SEC Media Days.

It has the toughest schedule in 2015; however, there is a chance for the Crimson Tide to dominate in the SEC. Alabama’s meeting with Georgia on Oct. 3 will be crucial.

A matchup at Sanford Stadium in 2008 was the last time Alabama faced the Bulldogs on the road. The Crimson Tide won 41-30, but it had an experienced quarterback at the time.

Georgia, like Alabama, is breaking in a new signal-caller.

It graduated Hutson Mason, and the battle is between Brice Ramsey, Greyson Lambert and Faton Bauta. Blake Sims became Alabama’s single season passing leader in 2014 with 3,487 yards. Regardless of his efforts, Sims had one year to navigate the offense.

Alabama now turns to an intriguing quarterback competition that features two 6-foot-5, 220+ pound trigger pullers.

Senior quarterback Jake Coker has the edge, but redshirt freshman David Cornwell is on his heels. Even true freshman quarterback Blake Barnett has his arm in the conversation.

A winner will be named by the end of fall camp, which starts Aug. 6.

Yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine has compiled a breakdown of strengths and weaknesses for both teams heading into the matchup this season.


Running Backs

  • Georgia [Strength]
  • Alabama [Weakness]

Summary: True sophomore Nick Chubb is the headline, but Georgia has a stable of productive running backs. It returns Keith Marshall, Brendan Douglas and Sonny Michel.

Chubb averaged 7.1 yards per carry last season, and totaled 1,547 rushing yards with 14 touchdowns. Georgia’s backs combined accounted for 2,210 rushing yards and 21 scores.

As for Alabama, it will be the first time since 2008 that it doesn’t have a solid one, two punch at running back that similars in both size and/or running style. Derrick Henry will be the featured runner. The 6-foot-3, 242-pound junior totaled 990 rushing yards with 11 touchdowns in 2014.

Senior running back Kenyan Drake will get some carries because of his experience, yet he will be used more so at receiver. He chimed in with 112 rushing yards, 159 receiving yards and six touchdowns, prior to injuring his leg against Ole Miss. Drake has 1,087 career rushing yards.

Alabama lacks depth aside from Henry and Drake. It expects true freshman Damien Harris and redshirt freshman Ronnie Clark to emerge. The timetable for Bo Scarbrough’s return is promising, but for now, Harris and Clark are the two that are on campus.

Alabama and Georgia both want to establish a heavy run game. It comes down to which offensive line imposes its will, and which group of running backs comes prepared.


Wide Receivers

  • Alabama [Strength]
  • Georgia [Weakness]

Summary: The absence of Amari Cooper, Christion Jones and DeAndrew White hurts, but Alabama returns many capable receivers to its roster. Sophomores Robert Foster and ArDarius Stewart have stepped up. Both players were productive in spring practice and excelled in Alabama’s spring game. Redshirt junior wideout Chris Black will anchor the group.

He finished fifth on the team in receptions (15) and totaled 188 yards.

Alabama acquired graduate transfer Richard Mullaney from Oregon State, and junior tight end O.J. Howard is expected to have a breakout season. Raheem Falkins, Derek Kief and Deionte Thompson all will work their way into the rotation, while freshmen Calvin Ridley and Daylon Charlot learn the system under offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.

A healthy Malcolm Mitchell is imperative for Georgia’s success. He’s battled injuries throughout his career, but when healthy, Mitchell is a dynamic receiver. Georgia returns Justin Scott-Wesley, Isaiah McKenzie and Reggie Davis at receiver. It has solid tight ends, including Jay Rome and Jeb Blazevich, but everything offensively starts with Mitchell.


Offensive Line

  • Georgia [Strength]
  • Alabama [Strength]

Summary: Both team will look to dominate upfront. Georgia returns one of the best offensive tackle nationally in senior John Theus. The Bulldogs recorded 257.8 rushing yards per game last season with 38 touchdowns. Along with Theus, senior Hunter Long will anchor the line.

Senior center Ryan Kelly and sophomore left tackle Cam Robinson both return for Alabama.

Kelly is a exceptional pass blocker, but needs to improve at run blocking. Robinson excelled at both last season, allowing three sacks in 861 snaps. The Crimson Tide returns Dominick Jackson, Bradley Bozeman, Alphonse “Shank” Taylor, Ross Pierschbacher and others to its front line. It will be interesting to see who takes over at left guard and right guard this season.

Alabama tallied 206.6 rushing yards per game in 2014 with 35 touchdowns.


Defensive Line

  • Georgia [Weakness]
  • Alabama [Strength]

Summary: Georgia has playmakers and experience at defensive end, but its interior guys are young. It will be a daunting task for them to fill in gaps, in order to stop the run.

Alabama, on the other hand, is strong at defensive tackle and defensive end. Junior A’Shawn Robinson and senior Jarran Reed are both high on NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper, Jr.’s board.

Jonathan Allen is a solid pass rusher, and the Crimson Tide has depth on its line with Dalvin Tomlinson, Darren Lake, D.J. Pettway, Denzel Devall, Joshua Frazier and Da’Shawn Hand.



  • Alabama [Strength]
  • Georgia [Small Weakness]

Summary: Senior inside linebacker Reggie Ragland is the clear cut leader on this year’s Alabama defense. The mantle that was held by former players Demeco Ryans, Rolando McClain, Dont’a Hightower and C.J. Mosley now falls on Ragland.

A healthy Reuben Foster is important for Alabama’s front seven. He avoided injuries in spring practice. The Crimson Tide will have balanced rotation at outside linebacker. Dillon Lee, Rashaan Evans, Ryan Anderson, Tim Williams and others should see much playing time.

True sophomore Shaun Dion Hamilton and redshirt freshman Keith Holcombe continue to absorb the system at inside linebackers under defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.

Georgia is talented and experienced at outside linebacker with Leonard Floyd, Lorenzo Carter and Jordan Jenkins; however, the Bulldogs are thin at inside linebacker. Reginald Carter is its big time player at that position. It does return Tim Kimbrough and Chuks Amaechi.



  • Georgia [Strength]
  • Alabama [Strength]

Summary: Alabama’s secondary has a chance to be much improved even in the losses of Landon Collins, Nick Perry and Jarrick Williams. Senior cornerback Cyrus Jones and safety Geno Smith both look to captain the defensive backfield.

True sophomore Tony Brown expects to take the second corner position, opposite Jones. Redshirt freshman Marlon Humphrey is ready to carve his own story as an Alabama player. Eddie Jackson, Maurice Smith, Jabriel Washington, Ronnie Harrison and Laurence “Hootie” Jones are all battling for a starting spot at safety.

Junior safety Quincy Mauger will captain Georgia’s secondary in the absence of Damian Swann. The Bulldogs return two senior cornerbacks in Devin Bowman and Kennar Daniels-Johnson. Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt continues to implement his style of play in year two.


Special Teams

  • Georgia [Strength]
  • Alabama [Small Weakness]

Summary: Georgia has all seniors returning on special teams with Colin Barber (punter), Marshall Morgan (kicker) and Nathan Theus (long snapper).

Morgan connected on 16 of 21 (76.2 percent) field goal attempts last season. Barber averaged 39.3 yards per punt, and pinned opponents’ inside the 20-yard line 11 times in 2014.

Junior kicker Adam Griffith seems to be healthy this season, according to Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban. He started last season a perfect 7 of 7 on field goal attempts, until a stress fracture in his back caused him to struggle. He ended 2014 making 12 of 19 field goals.

A healthy Griffith gives Alabama more confidence on special teams.

True sophomore punter JK Scott looks build off an All-American freshman season. He averaged 48.0 yards per punt in 2014 (led the nation), and pinned opponents’ inside the 20-yard line 31 times. The Crimson Tide must control field position, in order to win this season.


Stephen M. Smith is a senior analyst and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine, Pick Six Previews and SB Nation. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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