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Jumbo Package: Looking forward to another Rainy Night in Georgia

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This one is going to be closer than the last, though.

NCAA FOOTBALL: OCT 03 Alabama at Georgia Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images

Happy Friday, everyone. After a much shorter layoff than that before the last game, only one weekend separates us from game day. Let’s start with the official trailer, shall we?

It’s almost time.

If you are going to the game, don’t forget that the Tide basketball team plays at Georgia on Saturday. Athens is a bit over an hour from the Benz, so it’s a great opportunity to take in two games.

Also, you may have heard that the weather in Atlanta is scheduled to be pretty rough on Monday, with the dreaded freezing rain in the forecast. At least one local meteorologist is optimistic.

Indeed, if you are going, bring the rain gear.

Because we like good music around here, this seems like a good opportunity to listen to a classic.

Practice reports:

-- After spending the early stages of Wednesday’s workout on a stationary bike, freshman linebacker Dylan Moseswas in full gear -- albeit in a black non-contact jersey -- and with the inside linebackers. Moses spent most of the period consulting with head athletic trainer Jeff Allen.

-- With Anfernee Jennings out of the mix at outside linebacker, the first six players in line for drills at the position on Thursday consisted of Christian Miller, Jamey Mosley, Mekhi Brown, Terrell Lewis, Christopher Allen and Ben Davis.

-- Again, starting right guard Lester Cotton was not spotted. J.C. Hassenauer was in his place, just like in the Sugar Bowl when the senior entered for the injured Cotton. Saban hasn’t addressed Cotton’s injury since the bowl game and it looks like Hassenauer is a strong possibility for Monday night’s championship game with Georgia.

-- Injured offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy was off the bike and practicing some snaps off to the side. He’s out for the season.

Meanwhile, junior running back Damien Harris was being held out of drills. He told reporters earlier Thursday that he was still sore after having a career-high 19 carries against Clemson.

“It was fun, I guess,” Harris said. “I never complain about getting too many carries. That’s what it was. I just did what they asked me to do.”

No reason to be concerned about Minkah or Damien. Saban just isn’t taking any chances with them, a prudent move considering the fragility of the Tide feet this season. On that front, might we see young Dylan make a cameo? Sounds possible.

Previews:

Coaches seem to agree on a few things here: Alabama’s three defensive interior spots are better than the anchors for Georgia. The Bulldogs’ edge pass rushers are better than what the Tide bring to the table. If Alabama is healthy, the inside linebackers are practically a push. But given Alabama isn’t healthy, Roquan Smith and friends likely get a slight edge. Meanwhile, there’s a clear agreement that Alabama has an advantage in the secondary.

Have to agree that Lorenzo Carter provides an edge to Georgia overall, though I’m not sure I’d take Jack LB Davin Bellamy over now-healthy counterpart Terrell Lewis. Of course, any pass rush advantage for the Dawgs is somewhat mitigated by the fact that Jalen Hurts (and Tua Tagovailoa, should he enter the game) is mobile while Jake Fromm is not. Like the Sugar Bowl, the biggest advantage in this game looks to be the Tide secondary vs. the Georgia receivers. If the Tide are able to play man free the whole game with a safety in the box and a sitting target in the pocket, it’s tough to imagine where Georgia will find many points against a Tide defense that ranks #1 in the country in opponent yards per carry, opponent passer rating, rushing S&P+ and overall defense S&P+.

On the other side, Georgia’s defense has been excellent across the board, but they have been run on slightly more than both Clemson and Auburn this season, and the Tide were able to find some success on the ground against both. Their defense has been #10 overall in success rate, but very pedestrian in havoc rate and they have been somewhat susceptible to the big play, ranking #17 in IsoPPP defense. Like last week, the predictive stats point to Alabama being more likely to force a turnover and more likely to find a game changing big play on offense.

The numbers also point to an awful lot of punting, and for once the Tide don’t hold a clear advantage there. Georgia ranks #5 nationally in net punting at 44.9 per punt and has allowed only 63 return yards. Poor J.K. Scott fell all the way to #27 after the Clemson game because he averaged 35.3 punting on short fields the whole game. He did manage to place three of his six punts inside the 20, and just missed a fourth as a punt from the Clemson 37 landed on the goal line.

There hasn’t been a sequel yet that could match the original. Saban’s well-documented 11-0 record against his former assistants proves it.

Now here comes Kirby Smart with Georgia trying to buck that trend on the highest stage in Year Two of The Process: Athens. As good as the Bulldogs are, as much as Smart understands and channels Saban, it just seems foolish to predict they’ll get the job done for one simple reason.

It’s almost impossible to beat Alabama at its own clock-draining, soul-sucking, boa-constricting game.

Let it be written.

“Defensively, they are mirror images of each other,” he said. “Same philosophy, same concepts, a lot of the same run blitzes, pass pressures.”

”It will be a very disjointed, uneven, nonrhythmic for the two offenses. This won’t be a pretty game to watch because of the defensive speed and ability of both defenses to adjust.”

“It won’t be a thing of beauty by any stretch. I think it will be a very physical game. Ultimately, it probably comes down to who makes the fewest errors. So, there will probably be a big play on the negative side of the board that will end up determining the winner.”

This is about right. Both QBs have been very risk averse, and have pretty similar passing stats:

Fromm: 63.7%, 170 yards per game, 9.2 yards per attempt, 23 TD, 5 INT, 166.4 passer rating

Hurts: 61.3%, 163 yards per game, 8.6 yards per attempt, 17 TD, 1 INT, 155.1 passer rating

Hurts has added 808 rushing yards and 8 TDs to Fromm’s 94 and 3. As much as Jalen’s passing, or more specifically his reading of coverages, has been justifiably critiqued, the threat of him taking the ball out the back door has had a significant impact on the success of the Alabama run game.

When they rolled into Athens on Oct. 3, the Tide were still smarting from a 43–37 loss to Ole Miss that began with five Alabama turnovers and ended with a Tide comeback that fell just short. Georgia was 4–0 and hoping to re-establish itself as an SEC power. By halftime, it was clear the Bulldogs were nowhere near the Tide’s level. After starting the second quarter up 3-0, Alabama outgained Georgia 142 yards to 57 and opened up a 24–3 halftime lead. The Tide rolled to a 38-10 win.

The revenge factor will be in Georgia’s corner this time. They undoubtedly have plenty of upperclassmen who experienced that humiliation in their own stadium.

A comfortable double-digit win over the reigning national champions in the playoff was not enough to push the state of Alabama’s quarterback position to the back burner. On the day of the Sugar Bowl, AL.com reported that true freshman Tua Tagovailoa is “expected to play some, working in conjunction with starter Jalen Hurts” and that “the feeling at Alabama is that Tagovailoa could give the Tide a lift from a passing standpoint.” Tagovailoa ultimately didn’t take any snaps, but neither Hurts’s performance against Clemson nor his SEC Offensive Player of the Year award in 2016 nor his 25–2 record as a starter will stave off questions over whether the Crimson Tide are better off with someone else under center.

It will be interesting to see if Tua makes the surprise appearance this week that he was rumored to make last week. If there was ever a game where a change up in the passing department could make a big impact, this one would be it.

The senior was about to leave when the hardware came out. The fourth annual media good guy award presented by the beat writers who cover Alabama on a daily basis. Aaron Suttles of the Tuscaloosa News presented the plaque to a surprised Evans on Thursday afternoon.

”I feel great, man,” Evans said. “Shoot, I didn’t know I was that good at media. I appreciate that. I definitely remember all the times I got to talk to you guys.”

Congrats, Rashaan. Now go out there and show the world that you’re as good as Raquon Smith.

Monday evening’s College Football Playoff Championship game between the University of Georgia and the University of Alabama was already being treated as a high-level security event, so the president’s visit won’t imply much additional security, LeValley said.

College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock said the stadium already requires fans to comply with stringent security. He said he hadn’t heard from the White House about any additional measures as of Thursday afternoon.

Yeah, I’m sure all the bros with the concealed carry permits are going to take their handguns out of the glove box to suit the Atlanta PD. Good luck with that.

That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend and travel safe.

Roll Tide.