SEC Championship 2012: 5 Biggest X-Factors in Alabama vs. Georgia Showdown

Alex Callos@@alexcallosCorrespondent IDecember 1, 2012

SEC Championship 2012: 5 Biggest X-Factors in Alabama vs. Georgia Showdown

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    It is no surprise that the biggest game of the college football season is the SEC Championship Game.

    When Georgia and Alabama square off in Atlanta, there will not only be the SEC title on the line, but also a spot in the BCS National Championship Game against Notre Dame.

    Vegas has Alabama as a slight favorite, but this game could go either way.

    Both teams come in with distinct advantages over the other, meaning this one could come down to the fourth quarter.

    But, what will be the difference in the game? Here are five X-factors or game-changers to look out for as Georgia takes on Alabama for all the marbles in Atlanta on Saturday night.

Aaron Murray

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    Aaron Murray is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the SEC, but so far this season, he has disappeared in big games.

    If there is any one player in this game that is an X-factor, it is Murray.

    In the 35-7 loss to South Carolina, Murray completed only 11-of-31 passes for 109 yards and an interception. 

    Even though Georgia beat Florida a few weeks later, Murray was virtually non-existent in that one as well, completing only 12-of-24 passes for 150 yards with a touchdown and three picks.

    Those were by far his two worst games of the season and they came against the two toughest defenses. The problem for Murray and Georgia is those defenses are not as good as what the Crimson Tide are going to put on the field.

    Georgia will need a big game from Murray to knock off Alabama.


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    Turnovers are the ultimate equalizer in any football game, no matter what level it is.

    Saturday night will be no different. While these teams are relatively evenly matched, whoever wins the turnover battle will almost certainly come out with the victory.

    Alabama is currently ninth in the country with a turnover margin of plus-1.17 per game.

    Georgia has also been solid in that department, ranking 19th in the country at plus-.75 per game.

    The two are evenly matched, but Georgia might be hard-pressed to force a few turnovers out of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron. He has only thrown two interceptions all season long.

Kirby Smart

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    Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has one of the brightest young minds in college football.

    He has currently been mentioned for the Auburn head coaching job and once again has orchestrated the best defense in the country.

    He has helped Alabama win a national championship in two of the past three seasons and in each of those years, the Crimson Tide have done it with defense.

    Aaron Murray and the Georgia running backs will have to find a way to solve the Alabama defensive game plan.

    If they can out-think Kirby Smart, it will be a good day for the Bulldogs in Atlanta.

3rd Down Conversions

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    There is no down in college football bigger than third and that will be on full display Saturday afternoon.

    In the only loss of the season for the Crimson Tide, they were just 7-of-15 on third-down conversions.

    Georgia was 7-of-16 in its lone loss of the season against South Carolina.

    Converting on third downs will be a key in this one. While neither team is exceptional in this category, both rank in the top 30 in the country nationally.

    Whoever wins the battle of third down will keep its defense off the field and have a distinct advantage in coming out with a victory.

Special Teams

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    Special teams played a huge role in the SEC title game last season as LSU manhandled Georgia in that category, led by Tyrann Mathieu.

    That was one of the main reasons the Bulldogs were blown out of the building and they will have to do a better job in that category to hang around in this one.

    If either of these teams gives up a big play on special teams, it will be hard to overcome.

    Good thing for Georgia there's no Tyrann Mathieu on the Crimson Tide.

    The special teams battle will certainly be key on Saturday.