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Five Questions with ESPN’s Laura Rutledge

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Arkansas vs Texas

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RBR’s Brad Kanning had a chance to talk with ESPN’s Laura Rutledge and get her thoughts on Saturday’s matchup in Atlanta. We’d like to thank Pilot Flying J for making Laura available to answer some questions. Pilot Flying J, the largest operator of travel centers in North America and the “Official Travel Center of the SEC,” is in its second year of a four-year sponsorship with the Conference.

After the game in January, how crazy and awesome will the atmosphere and tailgating experience be Saturday in Atlanta?

Laura: Even without January, I think the atmosphere and the experience is going to be incredible! It’s a huge game and it has the potential to be a very good game like before. Georgia could get back to the playoffs with a win, and Alabama may not be out with a close loss.

Last year we spoke before the Iron Bowl, and you laid out a scenario of how Alabama could still make the playoffs if they lost to Auburn — you even talked about how both UGA and ‘Bama could be if Alabama lost the Iron Bowl. You were correct on both those scenarios. So is this weekend like that too? Is it as cut and dry that Alabama will still make the playoffs even with a loss to Georgia on Saturday, like most people in the country think?

Laura: *laughs about being right last year* I think so. I mean, outside of Alabama getting blown out to Georgia, which I don’t think will happen, I think they can still get in the Playoff with a close loss to Georgia Saturday. I think this game may be another classic game. This is definitely the most talented team Alabama has faced all year and they can certainly test Alabama.

Outside of special teams, is there anywhere that Georgia has a clear advantage over Alabama?

Laura: No, I think you’re right. Georgia definitely has the advantage with Rodrigo Blankenship, and that’s not a knock against Alabama’s kicker. Kicking in all of college football and even the NFL has been crazy, but I do think they have the advantage with special teams but I don’t think they have an advantage anywhere else.

So, I want you to give me your X-factors for the game. Who is the X-factor for Georgia and who’s the X-factor for Alabama in this game?

Laura: For Georgia, I think the X-factor is Jake Fromm. He is very efficient and showed last year that he can have success against Alabama. D’Andre Swift is playing better and seems to be fully healthy, which is a big weapon for Jake Fromm in this game. If Georgia can buy him enough time in the pocket, I think he is their X-factor. For Alabama, it’s on the other side of the ball. I think the d-line as a whole is the X-factor in this game. Can they (Quinnen Williams) get to Jake Fromm and force him into some errors? If so, I think that will set the tone for this game. I think both teams will obviously score, but those two parts are the most important factors to me.

We appreciate Laura for taking the time to talk with Brad and preview the game. Be sure to catch her on ESPN, SEC Nation and The Paul Finebaum Show. Thanks again to Pilot Flying J for setting this up, and our apologies to Laura for the technical difficulties. We’ve transcribed this as accurately as we can, despite the gremlins.