The Bulldogs locked up their next postseason showdown with Alabama when they beat Kentucky earlier this season and claimed the SEC Title. Getting some measure of revenge over ‘Bama after last year’s national title game defeat would be huge for Georgia as it would both claim the SEC crown and boost the Bulldogs back into the College Football Playoff field. A defeat would make another run at a national title dependent on the results of other games.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys:
Protect Jake Fromm
In the National Title game last season the Alabama defensive line was a huge reason that the Crimson Tide were still in the game at halftime despite limited quarterback play. With 12 tackles for a loss and four sacks of Jake Fromm, it was a dominant performance the likes of which we have come to expect from Saban led defenses in big games.
This one is a big game.
The Georgia offensive line is still more banged up than Kirby Smart would like, with the result being that Fromm is once again vulnerable to being hit and sacked. Alabama ranks 5th in the nation with 3.33 sacks per game, which good for a total of 40 on the year. This is a matchup which sits squarely in the favor of the Alabama pass rush and the Georgia offensive line is going to have to scrap and fight on every play to keep Fromm clean.
Be better at the goal line
It was in a nationally televised game against Florida where Georgia’s goal line issues on offense were broadcast for all to see. Usually, the closer a team gets to the end zone the better their offense becomes. For some reason though, the 2018 Georgia team gets stunningly worse in situations where it should be scoring easy touchdowns.
The Bulldogs success rate is outstanding in open play where they have the third-highest mark in the nation at 54.1-percent. The problem is that it drops like a stone from there, bottoming out at just 116th in the nation from inside 10 yards and 129th inside of five yards to go.
This success rate, or complete lack of success with goal to go, will simply kill Georgia against Alabama. You cannot play a team as good as the Crimson Tide and settle for field goals when touchdowns are that close to being scored. If Georgia is stoned even once inside the 10, a realistic through given the Alabama defense, then it could be the difference between a win and a loss.
Find explosive run plays
It is no coincidence that Georgia has played its best football over the back half of the season as the running game has improved. The Bulldogs have sent back after back to the NFL over the last decade and a now healthy D’Andre Swift is looking to end the season with a bang and prove he is the next great Georgia runner.
Swift has been beset by injuries all season, but he has exploded over the last month in five touchdowns and 674 yards of total offense in the last five games. Throw in another 400+ yards on the ground for Elijah Holyfield and you have a two pronged rushing attack that has been heating up down the stretch.
A grind it out rushing attack isn’t an issue for an Alabama defensive front that features one of the best run stuffing defensive tackles you will ever see in Quinnen Williams. It is a defense though that is sometimes too aggressive against the run, taking bad angles to the ball and allowing explosive run plays that go for long touchdowns.
With a 75-yard touchdown run called back by Auburn and a couple of 40+ yard rushing touchdowns put up by The Citadel, this is clearly one of the few areas on the field where Alabama is vulnerable to being exploited in an individual matchup that favors the Bulldogs.