The 2012 SEC Championship is only hours away from taking place and soon we will find out who will play a part in the national championship. A matchup between the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the country should result in a battle for the ages, but it is the Crimson Tide that are receiving a majority of the love.
Everybody and their sister have been all over this Alabama team, and it's the Georgia Bulldogs that are being treated like the redheaded-stepchild.
Not today, my friends.
At 4:00 p.m. ET on CBS, it will be the Bulldogs that are crowned new SEC champions.
You can save the talk about Nick Saban putting together a dynasty; Georgia will win its first conference championship since 2005.
Playmakers on Offense Will Give Tide a Problem
The struggles of quarterback Aaron Murray in big games have been well documented leading up to this matchup. Due to him shrinking in pressure situations, he has become the most important player in the SEC Championship. However, even if he hasn't played well against top teams in his career, let's not act like he isn't one of the top quarterbacks in the country.
This is somebody that has thrown 65 touchdown passes in the last two seasons and is completing 66.6 percent of his passes this year. He has all of the traits to become a future NFL quarterback and is only one brilliant performance against a top-notch defense away from receiving the recognition that he deserves.
He will be tossing the ball around against an Alabama secondary that allowed LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger to throw for nearly 300 yards. The Crimson Tide may have the third best pass defense in the country, but it has had its fair share of giving up big plays and looking shaky in the defensive backfield. Johnny Manziel was able to complete 77 percent of his passes against the Tide, as well.
Looking from a quarterback standpoint and talking about strictly throwing the football, Murray is a much better passer than either of those two guys. He has consistently shown the ability to fit the ball into tight windows and his arm strength is elite for the collegiate level.
Also, the junior quarterback may not have Manziel athleticism or speed, but he is a much better athlete than many would give him credit for. He will be able to buy himself extra time in the pocket and could surprise the defense with a few big runs like this.
As for the skill positions, Georgia does have two talented, young true-freshmen in Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley. Of course, Alabama has the top run defense in the SEC, but these are two speedy backs that are capable of breaking one at any moment.
The Tide has only surrendered one running play of over 30 yards all season long. However, even if these backs aren't as effective as Georgia would like, Alabama has to respect their speed and playmaking ability. Just feeding these young players the ball 25 times would soften up the Alabama defense and set up an effective play-action passing game. (Something Murray is great at.)
Receiving-wise, Georgia has an experienced wideout in Tavarres King and a burner in Malcolm Mitchell. Both were able to make plays in last year’s SEC Championship against LSU, and Alabama simply doesn't have the depth at corner that the Tigers had in that game. Don't be surprised if either one of these guys ends up having a big day.
A lot of the credit goes to the Crimson Tide defense because of their reputation and eye-popping numbers. But if there is any offense that can give this unit a run for its money, it would be the Bulldogs.
Georgia Defense Is Nothing to Sneeze at
I know much of the talk has been about the Alabama defense heading into this matchup, but you would be foolish to overlook Georgia on that side of the ball. This is a talented bunch that has begun to peak at the right moment with its starters finally on the field together.
Bulldog safety Bacarri Rambo couldn't quite help himself with some of his comments earlier this week, via the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
“I feel like we’re more talented (than Alabama). We have better players at each position, across the board, especially on defense. It’s going to be a great challenge for us. I know it’s going to be a battle. It’s going to come down to who has the best defense and who makes more turnovers. It’s going to be a battle of the defenses.”
Is that true, who knows?
I do know that he does have a point when it comes to the defensive side of the ball.
Alabama is great as a unit, but Georgia has the ultimate playmaker in linebacker Jarvis Jones. He is a force of nature on the blitz and will show the Alabama front many different looks throughout the game. He is a difference maker and always shows up when the lights shine the brightest. Without a doubt, he is the best defensive player on either team.
Texas A&M did a great job defensively but was scared to blitz Alabama, often only sending three or four guys to pressure quarterback A.J. McCarron. Georgia won't have that issue, as a secondary led by Rambo is much more athletic and complete than what the Aggies have. Sending multiple players will not be a problem and should force McCarron to make quicker decisions with pressure in his face.
It is also worth noting that Alabama will be without playmaking wide receiver Kenny Bell, which is another thing that is riding in the Bulldogs' favor.
As for the run defense, the numbers really aren't an indication of how good the Bulldogs are at slowing down the run. This is a defense that has experienced many suspensions on the defensive side of the ball and has just recently began to come together as a unit. But even with that said, they are allowing less than four yards per carry on the ground.
With a defensive front led by John Jenkins on the line and one of the best linebacking corps in college football, the Bulldogs should provide the toughest task for the 1-2 punch in Alabama's backfield.
Overall, Georgia should be able to hold its own on defense, while the offense goes to work and takes advantage of the Crimson Tide's weaknesses in the secondary.
Call me crazy, but I see there being a new SEC team competing for a national championship.
Note: All stats come from cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted.