Alabama Football: Areas Where Crimson Tide Must Dominate to Defeat Georgia
The No. 2-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide don't have many weaknesses on either side of the ball, but that doesn't mean Nick Saban's crew can just show up this Saturday in Atlanta and win the SEC Championship.
The defending national champions will need to do what they do best in their biggest game of the year in order to claim their 12th and most important win of the season.
Here we break down three areas where the Crimson Tide must dominate on Saturday in order to defeat Georgia and return to the BCS National Championship Game this coming January.
Alabama must shut down Georgia's two-headed rushing attack led by Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall if they are going to win this weekend. Both backs are averaging more than six yards per carry this season and have combined for more than 1,800 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide enter Saturday afternoon's SEC Championship matchup boasting the nation's second-best rushing defense, second only to Stanford, allowing just 77 yards on the ground per game this season.
If Alabama's front seven can keep Gurley and Marshall under wraps for the most part, then it will render the Bulldogs one-dimensional offensively, forcing quarterback Aaron Murray to beat it through the air. Although Murray is talented enough to make plays for Georgia, he threw just one touchdown to four interceptions against his two toughest opponents this season (South Carolina and Florida).
Once the Tide shuts down Georgia's rushing attack it can focus on getting after the passer.
Only Nebraska and Michigan are allowing fewer passing yards per game this season than Alabama (156.7). The Tide's stout secondary has only given up six passing touchdowns this season and has racked up 16 interceptions in 12 games.
But the key for Alabama's successful pass defense is its lethal rush.
The Tide has recorded 76 tackles for a loss this fall, as well as 30 sacks, equating to two-and-a-half per game. If Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart can continue to dial up heat on the defensive line, then Alabama will create turnover opportunities and plenty of chances to get to Murray on Saturday.
Offensively, Alabama's success hinges on being physical at the point of attack up front, and running the ball effectively.
Nick Saban's squad ranks 22nd in the nation in rushing yards per game (214.2), and 14th in rushing touchdowns (32 in 2012). Look for the dynamic rushing duo of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon to key the Tide's ground attack inside the Georgia Dome in Atlanta this weekend.
Both backs are averaging more than six yards per carry this season, and if they can continue to eat up chunks of yardage on the ground, then quarterback A.J. McCarron will have several opportunities to make big plays through the air with play-action passing.
When Alabama is gaining yards on the ground on first and second down, they are almost impossible to beat.
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.
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