Alabama Football: Keys to Defeating Georgia in SEC Championship Game

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistNovember 29, 2012

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 24:  Jeoffrey Pagan #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts after a tackle for a loss against the Auburn Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 24, 2012 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Saturday's SEC Championship is going to be closer than Alabama fans would like to think.

Georgia is hot and talented. The Crimson Tide don't hold many distinct advantages, with big-game experience being the only thing that really jumps out at you.

If Alabama wants to travel to Miami and face Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship, a few things must happen. If they don't, disappointment lies ahead.

Let's take a look.


1. Contain Jarvis Jones

Jarvis Jones is a freak. Alabama must contain him if it wants to succeed on offense, but it's not going to be easy.

With 72 tackles and 10.5 sacks, Jones has made a name for himself as one of the nation's best defensive playmakers. He has a nose for the football and a motor that just won't quit.

But there's also a fine line here. The Crimson Tide cannot overcompensate against Jones, because the Bulldogs have other talented players. Jones can be just as effective by drawing the attention of 'Bama's offensive line to the point that other defenders slip through the cracks.

Jones can change this game in an instant. He's a lethal edge rusher who will test Alabama's stacked offensive line like no one—aside from maybe Texas A&M's Damontre Moore—has all season long.

You can bet that Jones has been the subject of more than a few film sessions all week long. If the Tide aren't prepared to stop him, he can punch Georgia's ticket to Miami with one tremendous performance.


2. Get off the Field on Third Down

Alabama's defense must earn itself some rest, and that means getting off the field on third down.

In Alabama's loss to Texas A&M earlier this season, the Aggies converted 11-of-18 third-down opportunities. LSU, in the team's only other close game, converted 10-of-20 third downs.

Georgia is 27th in the nation in third-down conversions, making good on 46 percent of its chances.

The Bulldogs can swing Saturday's game with this factor alone. If the Tide cannot get off the field, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall could eventually wear them down, making Aaron Murray more dangerous in the process.

If Alabama's defense is stuck on the field, that also keeps the offense from finding its rhythm. Georgia's defense will make things difficult enough without that happening.

Third-down conversions are a key factor in any football game, but 'Bama has struggled when it has allowed teams to convert a good clip. If Georgia does like the Aggies and Tigers did, it could be a long day for Nick Saban's squad.


3. Force Bulldogs to Play One-Dimensional Offense

Murray, Gurley and Marshall are all outstanding players, and it's going to take all three clicking on all cylinders to beat Alabama.

If the Crimson Tide can force Georgia to rely on either the run game or the pass game, without the support of the other, the Bulldogs could be in trouble.

Alabama's defense isn't as good as it was last year. It does struggle against faster opponents, but Saban is still a defensive mastermind.

The Tide aren't ever just talented, they're smart as well. If the Bulldogs allow them to pin their ears back and sit on one facet of the game, it will allow Alabama's defense to play the aggressive style that it prefers.

Saban's best bet is pressuring Murray. He's not a proven quarterback in big games, and Florida showed that earlier this season. As good as Gurley and Marshall have been, it's hard to believe that they can win a game on their own.

If Georgia keeps Alabama off balance, it will score points. If it can't, and Alabama knows what's coming, Mark Richt's team will go home disappointed.