With three hours until kickoff, Sanford Stadium is already soaked and messy, giving us a small preview of what will come later this afternoon. Alabama and Georgia will be playing on year’s most important games in conditions that may favor both offenses. Tackling may get more difficult and keeping up with a runner’s cuts may be impossible. Especially when the running backs are of the caliber that we will see today. Before the game gets going, we will take you through some quick matchup breakdowns and try to give an advantage before giving a final score prediction.
No. 13 Alabama Crimson Tide at No. 8 Georgia Bulldogs
Where: Sanford Stadium, Athens, GA
When: 3:30 pm EST
How to watch: CBS
Line: UGA -1.0; 50.5 O/U
When Alabama has the ball:
Passing: Jake Coker may not get many chances to throw the ball on Saturday afternoon but that may be best for the Crimson Tide. Coker has struggled all year with deep throws. The receivers have struggled with hanging on to the ball and losing Robert Foster won’t make things any easier. Freshman Calvin Ridley and transfer Richard Mullaney will need to step up, especially in the short yardage throws that we are likely to see. The Georgia secondary is young but has shown strengths through four games this year. As a group, they’ve allowed just 166 passing yards per games and just three touchdowns. The Bulldogs have been good at forcing mistakes, intercepting five passes while racking up eight sacks as a team. Georgia did give up a big game to Louisiana Monroe quarterback Garrett Smith in the season opener but he got to play in Athens on a sunny day. Advantage: Georgia
Rushing: Derrick Henry should be the workhorse for Alabama and hopes to add to his impressive touchdown total. The junior running back has eight rushing touchdowns so far this year and has done a lot of his work on the outside with his speed. That does not mean he can’t go through the middle though, especially behind an offensive line that stars Ryan Kelly and Cam Robinson. That may be good enough to run by many defenses but Alabama throws in Kenyan Drake who will take many of the sweep plays that Lane Kiffin calls. Bo Scarborough is supposed to return and could make an impact if he sees the field. Georgia’s defense has given up 103 rushing yards per game, allowing just 3.1 yards per carry. They held Vanderbilt’s star Ralph Webb to just 68 yards on 25 carries in their SEC opener. Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins lead a strong linebacking core and are the forces of the Georgia defense. Advantage: Alabama
When Georgia has the ball:
Passing: Greyson Lambert has proven that he is a good enough quarterback to keep the offense flowing with Nick Chubb in the backfield. He has completed 77 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and zero interceptions while averaging more than 10 yards per attempt. Malcolm Mitchell is back this year and is clearly Lambert’s favorite target through four games. He is the only receiver with double-digit receptions and leads the team with 306 yards and three touchdowns. He is the only receiver with a touchdown this year, the others going to Soney Michel, Jeb Blasevich and Chubb. Alabama’s secondary has allowed 202 passing yards per game while giving up six touchdowns and only intercepting four passes. The pass rush has been better so far, getting to the opposing quarterbacks 11 times. The defense has allowed a lot of passes underneath their safeties. If the defense brings up the secondary and cuts off short throws, Lambert may be in for a tough afternoon. Deep throws will not be the best idea with Joaquin approaching. Advantage: Push
Rushing: Four 100-yard rushing games, 8.6 yards per carry, seven touchdowns. That’s what Nick Chubb has been doing so far this season. The backups, Keith Marshall and Michel, have averaged nearly seven yards per carry while accounting for 10 total touchdowns. Clearly the strength of the Bulldogs lies in the backfield but the test will be how much can the offensive line hold off Alabama’s strong front seven. The Crimson Tide have allowed just 2.0 yards per carry to opponents and 57 rushing yards per game. A’Shawn Robinson and Reggie Ragland hold down the middle and make sure no one can break through. However, the majority of the Bulldogs runs come off tackle so it will be up to the outside linebackers to contain the running backs and force them back to the middle of the field. Chubb can hit a second gear as well as anybody and will blow past the defense. Advantage: Georgia
It will be a messy game and if you’re watching on television, you are one of the smart ones. The running games of both teams will be used early and often but it may come down to who can stay consistent through the air, even if it 12 to 15 passes all game. This is a tough game to predict because you never know how the weather will affect the game. Sanford Stadium will be rocking and this may be the year Mark Richt puts himself on top of the college football world.
Georgia 21, Alabama 14
Caleb Turrentine is a contributor at Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow him on Twitter, @CalebTurrentine.