The Alabama Crimson Tide are one game away from returning to the BCS National Championship Game to defend their title. That Alabama football team isn’t going to get there unless it plays its best football against the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 1.
But what will it take for the Tide to see those aspirations come to life after the battle at the Georgia Dome?
Alabama has a couple of clear-cut advantages, but Georgia didn’t get to 11-1 by accident.
Here’s a breakdown of the key position battles the Crimson Tide must win in order to capture the SEC title.
Offensive tackle and tight end vs. Jarvis Jones
Jarvis Jones is a huge threat coming off the edges. His 10.5 sacks and 72 tackles attest to that. But Jones brings another added dimension for the Bulldogs’ front seven. He’s a load that’s tough to move and gets into opposing team’s running lanes.
Slowing him down with double teams or chip blocks from the tight end or fullback will be crucial for this offensive line’s success in both the run and pass game.
That’s easier said than done.
Wide receivers vs. Bulldogs’ secondary
The Tide have an excellent pair of 6-foot-1 wide receivers in Amari Cooper and Kenny Bell. Bell, the team’s speedy home-run hitter will not be available for this game due to a broken leg he sustained during the team’s 49-0 route over Auburn last week.
That puts a little more pressure on Cooper and the rest of the Tide’s receiver group. Cooper is by far the best overall target for AJ McCarron, but he’ll need some help against the ninth-ranked Bulldogs pass defense. The unit is allowing just 174 yards per game through the air.
Who’s it going to be that steps up across from Cooper?
Kevin Norwood and Christion Jones have both caught over 20 passes and four touchdowns each and will have to raise their game in his absence. Both have catches of 30-plus yards but neither has broken a big one like Cooper or Bell, yet.
Cornerbacks vs. Georgia’s wide receivers
Alabama’s second-ranked rush defense is allowing just 77 yards per game. They are physical and imposing up front and will be able to limit the Bulldogs’ running game. That leaves the hot Aaron Murray and Georgia’s passing game as the lone threat to upsetting the Tide.
Unfortunately for Murray and the Bulldogs, the Crimson Tide are just as good locking down opposing receivers as they are shutting down opposing rushers.
Eight of Murray’s 31 touchdown passes this season have all been brought down by Tavarres King. King is fast and has decent size. He’s also leading the team with over 700 yards receiving while gaining more than 20 yards per catch. He’ll likely be matched up with Dee Milliner, the Tide’s NFL-bound corner.
Milliner gives up no size or speed to Tavarres. He just needs to go out and play with solid technique and keep Tavarres in front of him.