Alabama is heading into its most important game of the season and the team needs to win in order to reach the most important game of the season.
The Crimson Tide are ranked No. 2 in the BCS standings and Georgia, their opponents in the SEC title game, sit at No. 3. Both teams have one loss and whichever school is able to stay that way after Saturday’s showdown will play Notre Dame for the national championship.
There is an immense amount of pressure on the Tide’s players, and the team must get excellent performances from its key members in order to take down the Bulldogs.
Here are the players whose performances will decided this matchup.
Cyrus Kouandjio, Left Tackle
The average college football fan has likely heard little about Cyrus Kouandjio this season, and that is a massive complement for the sophomore tackle.
Offensive linemen tend to only be mentioned when they mess up, and Kouandjio has made few mistakes this year. He has steadily improved and kept quarterback A.J. McCarron out of harm's way.
But he is about to face an entirely different challenge. Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones is every offense’s nightmare, and he is capable of taking over a game.
The junior has 10.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for a loss and six forced fumbles this season. If Kouandjio is unable to keep Jones from adding significantly to these totals, Georgia will spoil Alabama’s national title hopes.
Jesse Williams, Nose Tackle
Williams is hard to miss when he's on the football field. At 6’4” and 320 pounds, the Australian native often wears eye black like war paint and is a truly intimidating presence.
The fear likely only increases for opposing players once the game starts, as he routinely tosses offensive linemen around like children.
In the matchup with Georgia, Williams must dominate at the point of attack like he has for the majority of the season. Freshman running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are both averaging better than six yards per carry this season, and they will be the driving force behind the Bulldogs’ offense.
If Williams eats up blockers and puts pressure up the middle, Georgia will not be able to find much success on the ground, and Alabama will be playing for its second national championship in as many years.
A.J. McCarron, Quarterback
This is a fantastic matchup and may end up being more entertaining than the national championship game.
The score will be close right up until the final whistle, and Alabama will once again turn to McCarron for late-game magic.
The Crimson Tide have had only two close contests this season. When they took on LSU, McCarron was calm and collected down the stretch and led a game-winning drive late in the game.
However, the next week against Texas A&M, he failed to repeat his heroics and a fourth-quarter interception sealed Alabama’s defeat. Down the stretch, McCarron must play like he did against the Tigers in order for Alabama to win the SEC.