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Jumbo Package: Teaching the Bulldogs to Behave

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Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

NCAA Football: Auburn at Alabama John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday, everyone. With a win on Saturday, Alabama can put a cherry on top of perhaps the finest regular season in program history. It would be a shame if this season didn’t end up with a 13-0 record and #1 seed in the playoff, so let’s make it so, shall we? Your previews:

SEC Championship: No. 1 Alabama 32, No. 4 Georgia (+13.5) 29 (Dec. 1, 4:00 PM ET, CBS)

This game was clinched nearly a month ago, and we’ve been waiting to see if either stumbles before the finish line. They did not.

Alabama was slightly less dominant in November than earlier, but the Tide have been remarkable at erasing hope. Per their SB Nation stat profile, their post-game win expectancy (a statistical look at in-game dominance) was 100 percent in all 12 wins. For comparison, 12-0 Clemson hit that mark nine times, 11-0 UCF six times, and 12-0 Notre Dame just three times. Bama’s been on a different level this year.

Georgia has too, of late. The Dawgs have been at 96 percent post-game win expectancy or higher in 10 of 11 wins (only the Missouri game was in any doubt) and averaged 98 percent since losing to LSU. If they can finish drives with touchdowns instead of field goals, they can give Bama a battle.

Score: Alabama 33, Georgia 24

We’ve all wondered it prior to this season. What would a Nick Saban-coached Alabama team look like with one of the best quarterbacks in the country?

The answer is all-time special. But this team’s legacy hinges on winning its next three games.

In my national power rankings, Clemson is No. 2, Georgia is No. 3, Oklahoma is No. 5 and Ohio State is No. 6. Assuming Alabama wins Saturday, it will get the No. 1 overall seed in the College Football Playoff, likely against Oklahoma or Ohio State.

Alabama is going to dominate this game. Sure, it could be close for a quarter or two, but the Tide is just so much better than every other team in college football this season. Saban has never had a quarterback as talented as Tagovailoa. It wasn’t fair for Alabama to be as good as it was during any season of the past decade, but this team is a completely different level. The Crimson Tide will win in blowout fashion and knock Georgia out of the College Football Playoff picture.

Georgia will have success in the first half of the game on the ground, and Fromm will be terrific at taking advantage of the short-to-midrange throws no one seems able to hit on the Tide lately. But the Bama defensive front will start to generate more pressure in the second half, Tua Tagovaolia will shake off a mediocre first 30 minutes, and the game will slip away from the Bulldogs after two empty trips.

Alabama will win, but the final score won’t be indicative of how tough this will be.

“I think Georgia’s defense is going to have a very hard time slowing down this Alabama attack. They don’t rush the quarterback well, they don’t penetrate the line of scrimmage and get into the backfield in the run game and because of that, they are going to have to be aggressive blitzing to get pressure. Bringing safeties, bringing linebackers and I think that kinda plays into the hands of what Alabama wants you to do.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tua make some big plays early in this game, makes some throws, get the passing game going to set up their running game. Very balanced attack on both sides. I expect, I don’t know if it’s going to be the shootout that went into overtime in the national title game last year but I expect points by both sides. It’s going to be very competitive game. I like ‘Bama to win it but I think they are going to get pushed by Georgia.”

The message from Saban doesn’t change even when the stakes rise: Last season won’t affect this season.

“He mentions that about every game we played,” safety Xavier McKinney said. “If we play a team this year that we played last year, he’ll say that last year’s game doesn’t matter. That’s very true.”

Part of Saban’s philosophy at Alabama has centered on looking forward rather than backward. The 2017 season ended in January. The story for the 2018 season is still being written.

“This is a new year,” Tagovailoa said. “This is a new team. There’s new challenges that we’re faced with.”

No. 4 Georgia vs. No. 1 Alabama, 4 p.m. ET, CBS, WSB Radio 95.5 FM/750 AM

It’s the game of the weekend and most likely the game of the season. I believe that Alabama is in the college football Playoff regardless of the result this weekend, but I’m not sure if that will lead Alabama to an uninspired performance. The best team in football doesn’t always win. Sometimes a team can put together a great 60-minute performance and overcome a superior team. I think Georgia is going to do that on Saturday, as Kirby Smart throw everything he has into this game. Georgia 34 (+13.5), Alabama 26

That last one is from Dawgnation of the AJC.

The Georgia Bulldogs are certainly a worthy opponent, and it wouldn’t take a lot for this thing to swing in their favor. The last time these teams faced off in the SEC Championship Game, all of Phil Savage’s three keys to a Georgia upset happened: The Dawgs were able to run the ball with Todd Gurley, they were +1 in turnovers including an interception in the end zone, and the kicking game snafu was a disastrous one as LB Alec Ogletree returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown to put the Dawgs up by 13 in the third quarter. Of course, Alabama still managed to win the game despite all of that which really underscores the gap between those teams.

The gulf is a bit wider this time around. Both raw and advanced metrics favor the Tide, Vegas has installed them as solid two TD favorites, and Alabama has held four common opponents - Missouri, LSU, Tennessee, and Auburn - to 100 fewer yards and about six fewer points per game while scoring an additional 13 ppg against them.

Georgia’s running game is no secret. They have very good backs in D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield, and they ride them hard. Both players have significantly more carries than Tide leader Damien Harris, while Jake Fromm has thrown for nearly 1000 fewer yards than Tua Tagovailoa. If the Tide can limit the running game while keeping safeties deep, as LSU was able to do, they can effectively snuff out the play action game that Jim Chaney goes to for his explosive plays through the air. Their offensive line is banged up necessitating the start of a true freshman at one guard spot, which certainly won’t help in this regard. Then there is the question of Justin Fields. Has Georgia been saving him for this game, or will he see the same bit role he has all season?

Barring a fair amount of chaos, the Tide should be able to win another one in the new Bryant Denny East. Let’s call it 34-17 and then root for Notre Dame to land the four seed. Of course, that is just my opinion. Vote and give us your score in the comments.

Poll

What will be the result of the SEC Championship Game?

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    Dawgs beaten so badly that PETA gets involved, Tide by 21+
    (314 votes)
  • 42%
    Alabama covers, Tide by 14-20
    (416 votes)
  • 22%
    Dawgs play tough, Tide by 1-13
    (225 votes)
  • 3%
    Georgia pulls the upset (BANNED)
    (34 votes)
989 votes total Vote Now

Should the Tide drop this one, a lot of folks seem to think they’d get in anyway. It’s certainly not a sure thing though.

But while we’re talking about bodies of work and the eye test, reset for a moment: With a loss, Alabama’s aura of invincibility would, by definition, be gone. If Georgia was good enough to beat ‘Bama, why couldn’t some other playoff contender?

Would an Oklahoma or an Ohio State then be considered comparable enough that “conference championships won” would become a determining factor?

The Tide has been so good this year – which is why it’s hard to fathom a loss, and why if Alabama somehow lost, it’s not difficult to envision the Tide staying in the top four.

But unlike the growing narrative, it would not be a simple, easy decision. Alabama’s in, anyway? Sorry, it’s not a foregone conclusion.

These are the reasons that, going into the Auburn game, I had assumed that Alabama wouldn’t have a shot with a loss to Georgia. We only have four years of data to consider, but thus far no one-loss Power Five champion has missed the playoff in favor of a non-champion. If Alabama loses Saturday and still makes the playoff, it will likely mean that two such teams are left on the sideline. Should that happen, calls to expand the playoff would be at a fever pitch. Saban weighed in on expansion last night.

Every format has been discussed ad nauseum and on the whole I am against expansion, but could get on board if conference championship games were eliminated. As usual, three of the four games are snoozers this year. May as well pit top eight teams against one another instead. No autobids though, people.

Last, SBNation site Buffalo Rumblings did a nice profile piece on Robert Foster.

The Bills released Foster in October, then re-signed him to the practice squad before bringing him back up to the 53-man roster leading up to the Jets game.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Foster said the fact that the Bills cut him served as the ultimate motivation to pick up the slack and become a better receiver.

“I needed it. I needed to be cut because at the end of the day, it helped me,” said Foster, who recorded Buffalo’s first 100-yard game since Deonte Thompson on Oct. 22, 2017. “It made me work on things that I needed to work on. It made me do a lot more things that I could do to benefit the team.”

While Alabama’s limitations in the passing game certainly didn’t help Robert’s stock, it sounds like he had some maturity issues to work through as well. Hopefully the light bulb has gone off and he goes on to a great career.

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

Roll Tide.