Alabama vs. Georgia

The Sports Xchange

November 28, 2018 at 2:03 pm.

KICKOFF: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET
SITE: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta
SERIES: Alabama leads 39-25-4 and has won four in a row.
RANKINGS: Alabama No. 1; Georgia No. 4

Crimson Tide

–QB Tua Tagovailoa was selected the SEC Offensive Player of the Week after his performance against Auburn in the Iron Bowl. The sophomore completed 25 of 32 passes for 324 yards, tying the school record with five passing touchdowns and adding a rushing touchdown, as well. He has done all this while attempting only three passes in the fourth quarter. He leads the nation with a passing efficiency rating of 212.5, which would be an NCAA record if it holds.

–WR Jerry Jeudy, a sophomore, is one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver. He had five catches for 77 yards against Auburn, giving him 1,079 receiving yards for the season, which is the third-best total in school history. He can catch Julio Jones (1,133) this week, but not Amari Cooper (1,727 yards in 2014).

–DL Isaiah Buggs is sometimes overshadowed on Alabama’s defensive line, but he has 9.5 sacks this season, which ranks No. 13 in school history. He needs a half sack to tie for ninth place. He’ll be going against a Georgia offense that is tied for 23rd nationally, allowing only 1.33 sacks per game.


–QB Jake Fromm, a sophomore, just completed a wonderful regular season for the Bulldogs, completing 161 of 233 passes for 2,236 yards with 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Fromm, a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award, is completing 69.1 percent of his passes, which is ahead of the school-record 67.9 posted by Hutson Mason in 2014.

–RB D’Andre Swift continues to post huge numbers for the Bulldogs in the running game and comes into Saturday’s game with 139 carries for 962 yards and a team-high nine touchdowns.

–WR Riley Ridley leads the wideouts with 34 catches for 450 yards and eight touchdowns, but he’s not the only weapon Georgia has at wide receiver. Junior Mecole Hardman checks in with 32 catches for 519 yards and six scores, with Jeremiah Holloman (21-350) and Terry Godwin (17-316-3) also able to make big plays.


It has been nearly 11 months since the 2017 national championship, yet a lot has changed with Alabama and Georgia ahead of the SEC championship game Saturday in Atlanta.

The coaches are still at their respective schools, and the teams are still at the top of the SEC. But the personalities of the teams are different.

No. 4 Georgia (11-1, 7-1 SEC) looks like it’s completely embraced the Crimson Tide persona, running the ball and playing strong defense while finishing atop the SEC East for the second straight year. The Bulldogs are ranked 13th nationally in scoring offense (40.1 points) and 10th in scoring defense (17.2).

“Georgia is one of the most complete teams in the country,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “They haven’t really like dramatically changed. I think they’ve made a lot of improvement. I think their efficiency on offense has been very good all year long.

“Defensively, their scheme has not changed a lot, but some of their players have. They still have really, really good players and they play well together. They’re well coached. Nothing easy against them.”

No. 1 Alabama (12-0, 8-0 SEC), has new coordinators and six new assistant coaches overall, plus a different run-pass-option offense that’s geared toward taking advantage of sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s skills.

Georgia fans were introduced to the Heisman Trophy frontrunner last year, as he came off the bench to lead the Crimson Tide’s comeback in the 26-23 overtime title game.

“Quarterback play and third-down conversions and protecting the ball and not turning the ball over a lot. Those are similarities,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “Both got good set of backs, good set of receivers. Both teams are scoring points.

“The biggest difference is they play better defense, obviously, than we have.”

There are two spotlight matchups with this game that can’t be ignored, the first being the sophomore quarterbacks.

Jake Fromm, who flipped his commitment from Alabama to Georgia in March 2016, is 23-3 as a starter and his completion percentage of 69.1 percent is on pace to set a school record (67.9 Hunter Mason in 2014). He’s 161-for-233 for 2,236 yards, with 24 touchdowns and five interceptions for a season passer rating of 179.4.

That rating is third in the league behind Alabama quarterbacks Tagovailoa (212.5) and Jalen Hurts (204.5). The former is 189-for 269 (70.3 percent), for 3,189 yards, with 36 touchdowns and two interceptions.

The touchdowns are already a single-season school record, while the passer rating is on pace to set an NCAA record.

“He’s got an elite arm talent,” Smart said about Tagovailoa.

“He’s really fast. He’s got really good wide receivers around him. He’s got powerful backs, and he’s got a talented tight end and a great offensive line, and he knows where to go with the ball. He’s got great vision downfield. He’s got the ability to look off safeties. He can throw the touch pass. He can throw bullets. He’s really good at the RPO game. And then on top of all that, he can run.

“So he’s a lot to take in.”

The other major matchup is Alabama’s run defense against Georgia’s ground game.

The Crimson Tide went from giving up 115-plus rushing yards against five straight opponents during the first half of the season, to 70 yards against Missouri, 31 at Tennessee, 12 at LSU and 44 against Mississippi State.

Auburn managed 130 last week but averaged 3.0 yards per carry with the longest gain 9 yards.

Meanwhile, Georgia seemed to find its niche after losing at LSU 36-16. Sophomore running back D’Andre Swift has topped 100 rushing yards in four of the last five games, and along with Elijah Holyfield hoping to match Nick Chubb and Sony Michel as the Bulldogs’ second 1,000-yard tandem in as many years.

“We kind of refocused on ourselves and went back to the basics and went back to work, and ever since then we’ve been clicking a little bit higher,” said Holyfield, who has 896 rushing yards while Swift has 962.

The Crimson Tide is second nationally in scoring (49 points per game) and third in scoring defense (13.8). Alabama has made tremendous strides and shut out LSU and Mississippi State, when those foes were ranked No. 3 and 16, respectively.

Statistically, the Crimson Tide appears to have an advantage in most categories except special teams.

However, the Bulldogs will be playing close to home, knowing that they almost certainly have to win to make the College Football Playoff, and there’s that whole thing about getting another shot to the team it lost to 26-23 in overtime.

It’s a factor that both teams have been playing down.

“Last year’s last year,” Tagovailoa said. “I’m just worried about what we can do as a team this year.”