The Facts: Alabama's offense averages 39 ppg. Georgia's offense averages 38 ppg. They're essentially equal in their prowess. Alabama's defense allows 9.3 ppg on average. You have to be a really good offense to score enough on us to win the game even if our offense is playing poorly (Texas A&M hit the gold nugget on this one: they are both our worst defensive performance AND our worst offensive performance. Despite this glaring fact, they did not meet their average offensive output of 44 ppg. They got closer than anyone else has (within 35% of it) but couldn't sustain the momentum they brought into the game. Thankfully, our offense couldn't keep the ball in our hands long enough to finish drives and only managed to score about 6% (24 pts) more than what Texas A&M normally allows (22.5 ppg).
The true liability in this game is Georgia's defense. It's not that they can't get the job done. They have excellent talent that they have put to use. It's just that this isn't a sense of consistency with them. There have been four games against every level of competition where Georgia's opponent actually scored more than their avg per game (Tennessee and South Carolina one might expect, but Buffalo and Kentucky??)... Don't get too excited though, because for every game Georgia's D derps, there's just as many that they have performed masterfully (Florida, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, and most recently Georgia Tech, a team that averages 36.2 ppg... except against Georgia, when they managed only 10).
So, here are the 14 scores I came up with for the game:
0: ALABAMA scores a goose-egg. This is not very likely at all given that our worst raw number score was 21 (against LSU, whose defense is better than Georgia's). But Georgia did manage to keep Auburn from scoring (hehe), so I have to include the possibility that they somehow get possessed by the ghost of Catfish Smith.
0: GEORGIA can't score a point. Only slightly more likely in that Alabama has managed to goose-egg three teams instead of just one (doesn't Auburn count as a team?), the most impressive came against Western Kentucky (28.8 ppg). I don't really see us being that dominant, though. Even Georgia's worst offense performance (against South Carolina) ended with at least one touchdown.
3.72: GEORGIA at their worst against South Carolina, but adjusted to match Alabama's defense. Something like a field-goal given up, basically. It wouldn't be unprecedented that they come out in a big-game with a lot on the line and just completely fall flat on their face.
12.92: GEORGIA. Alabama's defense typically makes their opponent's do an average of 66% worse than their normal average output. Mind you, this is an average taken from all opponents (including Auburn), so it's also fairly close to wishful thinking, but it is not unprecedented. Georgia's offense scores 38 ppg. This is Georgia at roughly 34% of their normal output, which is what Alabama's defense typically does to teams across the board.
13.29: GEORGIA. Georgia's offense typically does 43% better than their opponent's defense typically allows. (note: this includes Auburn's. I feel like I have to bring that up each time). This is what Georgia scores if Alabama's 9.3 ppg defense bends to support a 43% upswing.
18.76: ALABAMA at their worst against Texas A&M, but adjusted to match Georgia's defense. Georgia allows an avg of 17.7 a game to Texas A&M's 22.5, so this is us at our worst, scoring only 6% more than our opponent's average D typically allows.
23.65: GEORGIA. This is Georgia's average expected offensive output (38 ppg), matched against Alabama's average expected defensive effort (9.3 ppg). This is generally what can be expected from Georgia if both teams bring their A-game.
24.30: GEORGIA at their best against Vanderbilt, but adjusted to match Alabama's defense. Vanderbilt allows an average of 18.3 ppg, almost twice as many as Alabama. Georgia dropped 48 points on them in one of those random, everything-is-working-properly-here-for-once games in which Georgia destroyed Vandy 48-3 (it's also their best defensive performance). It's interesting that Georgia's O and D has played their best and worst games together as a unit (their worst, of course, was against South Carolina, when they lost 35-7).
24.70: GEORGIA if they play us at our worst (against Texas A&M). Texas A&M averages 44.8 ppg and we held them to 29, a 35% drop. If we suck it up against Georgia to that extent, this is how much Georgia will drop on us, based on their 38 ppg avg output. In case you're wondering, our second worst performance was Ole Miss (19 at 30.9 ppg) and third was LSU (17 at 30.3), a 38% and 43% drop respectively.
25.84: ALABAMA. Alabama's offense typically does 46% better than their opponent's defense typically allows. This is basically how much Georgia's defense would allow (17.7), adjusted for Alabama's typical upswing (46%).
26.91: ALABAMA. Georgia's defense typically stymies their opponent's average offense by 31%. This is Alabama's offense (39 ppg), when adjusted for that downward trend (-31%). Interesting to see how closely these numbers are to matching. Not sure if it means anything, since college football teams, like tornados, are almost never typical, but it's something to consider.
28.35: ALABAMA. This is the average expected output of our 39 ppg offense going up against their 17.7 ppg defense. So, if you want the free and easy 'duh' score: Alabama- 28, Georgia- 24. It's paralizingly close, isn't it? If you do this for the Texas A&M game, we win 31-27. So much can happen in a game.
38.58: ALABAMA. Our best offensive output was against Michigan, when we scored 41 points on a team that typically only allows 18.8, adjusted for Georgia's 17.7. Should our offense perform at our A-game and Georgia's D not, this is what will happen, a 118% upswing. Basically, it's Georgia's nightmare scenario: the South Carolina game all over again.... or is it?
52.26: ALABAMA. This is Georgia's nightmare scenario, because South Carolina wasn't their worst game defensively (and that score adjusted would be 43, just for point of fact). Their absolute worst game was against Tennessee (a team we held to 13 points). Tennessee scored 44 against Georgia (a 21% upswing from TN's avg 36.2 ppg). Should they allow us a 21% upswing from our usual 39 ppg, then you're looking at a Georgia meltdown of Arkansas proportions. Now, to be fair, Georgia scored 51 pts in the Tennessee game to win that one 51-44. Of course, Tennessee was by far the worst defense Georgia faced (even worse than the Kentucky defense that they only scored 29 against somehow). TN allows, on average, 35.7 ppg, which is an upswing of 70% for Georgia. Good job. Against our defense, a 70% upswing gives them a whopping 15.81 points. So, if you take the Georgia-Tennessee game and swap out Alabama for Tennessee, the score of that game goes from 51-44 to probably 17-52. This probably won't happen, but it's fun to think about. The last time Georgia played for the SEC Championship, against LSU in 2011, the score was 42-10, LSU.
So, these are some likely scenarios (some more than others) of how many points each team could score given their opponent's tendencies to date. Of course, theoretically, anything could happen. Alabama could fall flat on its face and never recover. The score could be identical to Georgia's win over Vanderbilt, 48-3. Alabama could also come out and have their way with Georgia the same way they did over Auburn, with Georgia coughing up blood midway through the second quarter and the final score being determined by how well the backups did. But more than likely, it will something more like Georgia scoring between 2-3 touchdowns with maybe a field goal, and Alabama scoring between 3-4 touchdowns with maybe a field goal. With both teams playing at their average, Alabama wins by less than a touchdown.
But both teams don't play to their average, and without a doubt Alabama is largely the consistent of the two teams. Georgia's defense has as many horrid games (4) as it does stellar games (4, and Auburn). Alabama's defense has kept 8 teams 50% below their average score, and the three teams that did better than that never scored more than 30 (two scored less than 20).
Georgia's offense has played 2 games in which they performed horribly (South Carolina and Kentucky) and 4 games in which they performed 50% better than that team's defense usually allows, but only 1 of those games was against a solid defense (the 48 they put on Vanderbilt). Alabama's worst offensive effort was still 6% better than that defense typically allows, but that effort came against the best offense we've ever faced (#4 in the nation).
Bottom line: If we lose, it'll probably be close. If we win, it could also be close, but it wouldn't be unheard of if we took them behind the woodshed.
The numbers: 56% chance Alabama wins outright.
There's just a 12% chance Georgia wins outright.
But there's a 30% chance that it comes down to the final minute.
As OTS would put it, hope for the best. And in this case, hope for the likeliest.