SEC Championship 2012: Players to Watch in Saturday's Epic Clash

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistNovember 28, 2012

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 17:  T.J. Yeldon #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks to rush around Sertonuse Harris #39 of the Western Carolina Catamounts at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 17, 2012 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

One game will decide who will meet Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game this season.

Saturday's SEC Championship between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Alabama Crimson Tide will feature a handful of elite players and several other good ones. It's the most talent-rich conference in the country, and these two teams have done it better than anyone else this year.

It's going to be a battle of wills. Both teams boast strong run games, and both defenses are tenacious. Neither quarterback is a slouch either.

A few key players will swing Saturday's outcome, even if it's just with one big play.


Malcolm Mitchell

Georgia has several strengths, but it lacks a true No. 1 wide receiver after losing Michael Bennett and Marlon Brown to injuries earlier this season.

Tavarres King has emerged as Aaron Murray's go-to target, but Mitchell has a ton of potential as well. At 6'1'', he's lightning quick. Plus he works very well underneath a defense, something that Alabama has been vulnerable to at times this season.

The Bulldogs have been an excellent running team this season, but you won't beat 'Bama with a one-dimensional offense. Murray has the arm to make the necessary throws. Now, he just needs someone to haul them in.

Mitchell has 36 catches for 532 yards and four scores this year. He has two touchdowns in the last three games, and his speed makes him a threat to line up all over the field.

Speed and agility has hurt the Crimson Tide before this season. Mitchell has plenty of that, and he could change the game.


T.J. Yeldon

Eddie Lacy may get the ball a bit more than Yeldon, but this is the Tide's most talented offensive player. 

Yeldon has scary potential. He's made a few typical freshman mistakes this season, but those are easy to forgive when you see 847 yards and 10 touchdowns next to his name on the season's stat sheet.

Alabama is going to use the same formula that it always does in this one. Its two-headed monster in the backfield will do its best to carve out yards, and A.J. McCarron will make plays when he has too. It's either going to work or it isn't.

Because of Georgia's speed on the offensive side of the ball, Yeldon will be necessary more so than Lacy. The Bulldogs are strong up the middle and they will neutralize Lacy's north-south style, forcing the Tide to rely on Yeldon's ability to get outside.

The Bulldogs will be the best defense Alabama has faced all season, with the possible exception of LSU. It'll need a big game from Yeldon to punch a ticket to Miami.


Jarvis Jones

Jones is the pulse of Georgia's defense. He proved against Florida that he can change a game all by himself, recording 13 tackles and three sacks in the game.

Alabama's offensive line is excellent, but Jones is as well. He's more than capable of getting around the edge and disrupting McCarron's rhythm—throwing the Tide's offense completely off in the process.

This kid is a 2012 Rotary Lombardi Award finalist for a reason. He has 72 tackles and 10.5 sacks on the year because of his relentless motor and quick first step off the edge.

Murray hasn't played well in big games throughout his career, and that includes the win over Florida this season. However, Jones and this defense are capable of carrying him if he should falter again.

Assuming this one is close, one turnover could make all the difference. Look for Jones to make a big play, or at least command enough attention from Alabama that he allows other players to impact the game.