Sorry guys, life happened. I’m now the (significantly less rested) proud father of a 6-week old baby girl. It’s been an interesting 6 weeks but in case you haven’t done the math in your head, she’s undefeated. With that out of the way, I’ve been meaning to get back to this place but either couldn’t or just really didn’t want to. This won’t be a long one, but I’ll just kinda fire off the cuff a bit about what I think…this explains the general scattered feel for this one. I’m holding her while writing so that’s new…
- It’s no secret that Bama wants to run the ball. Why wouldn’t they? They have the reigning Outland trophy winner switching from LT to center in Barrett Jones. They have the top guard in the upcoming draft in Warmack. Both OTs are top shelf talents. It’s a line built to maul people and they do it well. You throw in a couple of stout RBs and you’re looking at an offense that’s ideally suited to run a pro-style, ball control, offense. With all that said, they seem to be throwing the ball more this year and after the breakout performance in the BCS CG last year, I can see why. AJ McCarron is ideally suited to take the reins of that offense as he’s a guy that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, is accurate and while he might not have the big arm and ideal measurables, he also doesn’t come with the ego associated with those and as such is perfectly content to be a facilitator. The fact he’s able to lead last minute game-winning TD drives at LSU certainly helps.
- The inevitable AJ McCarron-Aaron Murray comparisons have been all over the place and it’s not really fair for a couple of reasons. 1) the QBs don’t square off in a passing competition…football’s a team game. 2) While the 2011 UGA defense was solid, the 2011 Alabama defense was one of the better ones in recent history. I have every bit of confidence that Bama would’ve been just as successful with Murray under center last year but I’m not entirely sure the opposite could be said. McCarron just isn’t asked to do as much as Murray, as the UGA ground game wasn’t nearly as consistent last year and Murray had to throw it a lot. Obviously McCarron is a very solid QB and his game-winning drive against LSU coupled with his efforts in last year’s BCS championship show him to be very good under pressure (a valid question of Murray at this point), but you have to wonder if UGA can slow the Bama ground game if McCarron can execute against a top secondary.
- Both teams sport balanced offenses, making it very difficult for a team to key on one thing so it’s going to be equally as important for us to slow their ground game as it is for us to get after McCarron. With the loss of their best deep threat, I’m thinking Bama’s going to have a little more difficult time throwing the ball. For all the talk of Murray struggling in big games, against the top two pass defenses Bama played this year (Michigan at 2 and LSU at 20), McCarron completed barely 50% of his passes. Granted he didn’t have to throw against Michigan, but the fact remains that UGA’s 9th ranked passing defense presents a significant challenge. If you can make a balanced team one dimensional, you have a chance.
- Who stands to make some money here: Generally speaking when they have the ball, the guys who stand to benefit the most are the Alabama OTs. Jarvis Jones is nearly a lock to be a top 5 pick in the NFL draft. What better way to prove your value as a NFL OT than to have a big game against an elite pass rusher? Fluker and Kouandjio are both large, athletic guys that could easily have long NFL careers and with a big night their stocks could soar. When he’s been healthy Jarvis has been a complete terror but at times this year it was obvious that he wasn’t able to play at a high level due to various nagging injuries. He’ll have every opportunity to make huge plays Saturday but his stock is already pretty darn high. Bama’s OT’s probably acknowledge the challenge, and subsequent opportunity, that they’ve been given.
- Matchup to watch: Obviously Jarvis versus the Bama OTs is going to be a marquee matchup but another big one is Bama’s OC Barrett Jones going up against Big John Jenkins inside. If he’s able to handle Jenkins by himself I think their running game will be just fine. If Jenkins is able to get a push and force them to double that’s likely not something they’ve had to do much at all this year and might throw them off some. As good as Jones is, Jenkins presents such a tough matchup for any center by himself. After having undersized OL (they’re all undersized to him) diving at his feet for 2 weeks, he’s likely to hug Jones first but my guess is he’s ready to take out some frustration.
When UGA has the ball:
- It’s no secret that Aaron Murray is the main cog in the UGA offense. Unlike McCarron, Murray is asked to do a lot more. While both teams sport a stout running attack, UGA’s less experienced line and more vertical play-calling see a lot more pressure put on Murray to be the main man in the offense.
- While Murray’s importance to the offense is hard to overstate, his play isn’t necessarily the best predictor of a UGA win. That would likely fall on the biggest question mark on the UGA team, the OL. If our OL plays well, opens holes consistently for Gurshall and gives Murray a reasonable amount of time to throw, I like our chances of putting some points on the board. I’m not talking about gashing them on the ground like we did against GT and Auburn or Murray having time to count to 10 back there, just a good solid effort and Bama can be scored on. LSU and TA&M both had success moving and scoring. LSU hasn’t been a particularly good passing team and their OL has had to be completely reworked due to injury. Throw out A&M, Manzeil was unconscious. Look at what LSU did. We’ve got some talent outside, specifically Mitchell, that can pressure the Bama corners. If Murray has enough time to set consistently, I like his chances at moving the ball and we’ve done a great job all year of punching it in versus past years where we settled.
- Everyone wants to talk about how Murray performed against SC and UF and how that bodes ill for how he’ll play against Bama, but that’s only half true. SC has probably the top pass rushing tandem in the country. They’re going to stress and defeat the majority of OTs they face. Bama doesn’t present that challenge. While an excellent defense, Bama, like UF, pressures via scheme and just plays very sound defense. While Murray struggled in the first half against UF, two of his INTs were tipped and one was easily the worst pass he’s ever thrown. Murray has tremendous experience and is known for being voracious in his preparation. If the OL can give him time and he’s able to trust them, he should have success Saturday.
- We can’t afford any drops. Last year in this game Malcolm Mitchell dropped a sure-fire TD that would’ve put us up 10-0 early and allowed us to not waste the onside kick/early momentum grab.
- Who stands to make some money here: Aaron Murray. The only two legit knocks on Murray are his height (can’t change that) and his ability to perform in big games. This is certainly a massive opportunity to do something about the latter. He stands to make a ton of money if he can prove he has the ability to rise to the occasion and somehow go on a two game winning streak here. That’s not to say that he’ll immediately declare himself for the draft but it would certainly be far more understandable than if he lost this one.
- Key to the game: As much as I talked about Murray above, I think the key to the game is how well we’re able to run the ball. So much of what we do on offense is predicated on the threat of the run. If we can’t make them at least respect the run then we could be in some serious trouble. If we could somehow make them commit to stopping the run and start stacking the box, then that plays right into our hands. If I were a DC of a top shelf unit like Bama, I’d certainly be more inclined to making Murray beat me given his track record. With that said, if Murray does have a light click on and plays to his potential, that’s an easy way to get down in a hurry.
- I hope this doesn’t come down to a FG.
- I hope we come out emotional and focused but I don’t want to see the personal foul penalties that marred the UF game (Mitchell, Gurley, I’m looking at you guys). Bama’s too good a football team to gift them 15 yards a clip. Watch Jarvis and do what he does.
- The much ballyhooed arrogance of Bama fans is something that UGA fans don’t get to see all that often but their run since 2009 has pushed them into another level. I’m pretty sure when Spurrier quipped that they could compete with some NFL teams there was probably some serious agreement from the Bama faithful and debates about whether they could win a division or not.
- So it took a year to kick in but whatever Auburn fan offered at halftime of the 2010 Iron Bowl to give up winning any more SEC games if they could just win that one and take the title has suddenly realized there was a one year delay on the payback.
- When Arkansas lost to La-Monroe in the first few weeks of the season I thought there was no way they’d be considered the 3rd least dumpster-firish of the upper level SEC programs. UT and AU produced epic suck seasons that just couldn’t be anticipated.
- With that said, a fun pre-SECCG conversation for your tailgate is “Which open SEC job is the best”? A lot goes into it but that’s what makes it a fun debate. I’m inclined to say UT but if Bray and the two good WRs leave then UT won’t have a ton to build around immediately and expectations aren’t going to stay suppressed for long. WHile Auburn is appealing, they have a ton of baggage in terms of impending NCAA investigations, booster control issues and the whole Alabama’s little stepcousin complex. I’m surprised to say that Arkansas might be the most stable of all of them.
- So Missouri has got to be wondering what the heck they walked into. They faced 4 teams that were ranked #7 or better (including #1 at the time Alabama) and the tag along they brought with them from the Big XII ended up being ranked 9th when they played. 5 top 9 teams in one season is tough yet they were a 2nd half collapse against Syracuse away from being bowl eligible. Granted they only beat UK and UT this year but they were close in several games and should get better as they tap the SEC resources. I wonder it Mizzou and A&M chanted SEC at each other in their season finale?
- Why does the AP allow Ohio State to be included in their voting? It just justifies them being allowed to flaunt their undefeatedness even more. I love the fact that ESPN’s BCS guru came out and said that Ohio State would likely be no better than #5 in the BCS currently even though they were undefeated.
- Has a conference championship game ever been more underwhelming than the upcoming ACC one? With FSU coming off a pounding from Florida at home and GT getting drilled and actually finishing about 3rd in the division, it’ll be a miracle if that stadium is close to half full. Neither team has sported a ton of fan support this year anyway.
- Seriously, if UCLA loses to Stanford and Kent State knocks off Northern Illinois then a team that lost by 33 to Kentucky will be playing a BCS bowl. Wow. We thought we got shafted in 2007 when we got stuck playing Hawaii. Kent State is having a nice little season but losing by that much to Kentucky? Pretty sure this wasn’t what they had in mind when they created the BCS.