We’ve got the game of the week on our hands, courtesy of the SEC, as No. 3 Georgia heads to Tuscaloosa to take on No. 2 Alabama. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 P.M. Saturday on CBS.
There is a chance this game does not happen, as Alabama head coach Nick Saban tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. The announcement that Saban won’t be on the sideline for this game has moved the line from Alabama -6 down to just a 3.5 point favorite.
As of this writing, the game is on, so let’s take a look at the matchup, sans Saban.
SEC Powers: Tale of Two Sides
Georgia (3-0) and Alabama (3-0) are two of the country’s top teams, again, and for a good reason.
The Bulldogs are led by their smothering defense, while the Crimson Tide are lighting it up behind a strong offensive line and one of the best running backs in college football, Najee Harris. Harris is averaging 6.7 yards per carry and already has ten touchdowns in just three games.
Couple their running success with star receiver Jaylen Waddle and superb quarterback play from Mac Jones, and the Crimson Tide find themselves as the nation’s top offense, averaging over 50 points per game. What makes this matchup so intriguing is the equally dominant defensive team of Georgia, who are giving up just over 12 points per game.
Georgia’s defense is stoutly built, with talent at all three levels. Up front is 6’6” DT Jordan Lewis, followed by a loaded linebacker corps and an experienced secondary. There is NFL-caliber talent at every level of the defense, and that type of skill allows for a varying assortment of schemes, an advantage which makes it tough to gameplan.
Get My Other Side
Turning towards these teams’ other units, the Alabama defense, in particular, lacks the juice that has traditionally been the calling card of the program. The Crimson Tide are coming off a dreadful defensive performance against Ole Miss, letting up 647 yards and 48 points.
For Georgia, the surprise of the season has been the emergence of former walk-on Stetson Bennett IV as this team’s starting QB. His steady play, including a 151.6 passer rating and no interceptions, has helped Georgia and their skill players find pay dirt en route to three wins.
Georgia’s offensive muscle is led by a pair of sophomores: running back Zamir White (209 yards, four touchdowns) and wide receiver Kearis Jackson (300 yards, one touchdown). There’s reason to believe this dynamic duo are in for another strong weekend when considering this Alabama defense is fresh off letting two Ole Miss rushers reach 100 yards, along with two receivers breaking the 100-yard mark.
If Bennett continues making smart decisions with the ball, head coach Kirby Smart has a chance to lead his team past his former mentor in Nick Saban.
Battle for Potential Playoff Spot: The Pick Is In
This game has massive implications, not just for the SEC, but for the national landscape. As the second- and third-ranked teams in the country, behind Clemson and Trevor Lawrence, a win here will provide one team with a serious statement on the College Football Playoff résumé.
With Georgia being in the SEC East and Alabama in the SEC West, there’s also a chance this could be an SEC Championship preview.
Alabama has had Georgia’s number as of late, winning their last five meetings dating back to 2008. It’s this history that may support the line of Alabama -3.5.
As I study the teams as currently constructed, it’s clear the battle between the explosive Alabama offense and stifling Georgia defense is must-see TV. If we consider these sides so evenly matched that it results in a push, I would turn my attention to what could be Alabama’s Achilles heel: their defensive struggles.
If Alabama can’t contain Georgia, a team that has shown itself very capable of scoring, I lean towards taking the Bulldogs to cover the 3.5 points.
Keep an eye on news out of Tuscaloosa Thursday before betting, as players undergo COVID-19 testing. The Florida-LSU game scheduled for this weekend was postponed as Florida deals with an outbreak of positive cases. If any tests come back positive for Alabama, it’s likely the game will be pushed.