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Jumbo Package: Steve Sarkisian looks to become Georgia’s latest backup nightmare

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Alabama The Tuscaloosa News-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday, everyone. Tomorrow Georgia travels to Tuscaloosa to play in the annual regular season Alabama game that people are hyping as the Most Anticipated Matchup in the conference since, I don’t know, last November I guess.

Your previews:

Alabama (-6) vs. Georgia, 8 p.m.

The game of the week takes place in Tuscaloosa. Nick Saban has never lost to one of his former assistants, and that likely will not happen again this weekend. Georgia is fully capable of covering this line for much of the game, but Alabama’s receivers will manage to find the end zone for a backbreaking score to pad the Alabama lead in the fourth quarter. Good teams win, great teams cover. This week, Alabama will be a great team. Alabama 30, Georgia 23

Georgia will come up with more than enough stops to keep this from ever getting out of hand, and this certainly won’t be the Bama-Ole Miss game with haymakers being traded, but after last week the Tide defense will be better and the offense will still be the offense.

Georgia, though, will have its chances to come through, but it’ll settle for a few second half field goals when it’ll need touchdowns.

By the way, this might be the first of three meetings – these two could hook up in the SEC Championship and again in the College Football Playoff. Both of them are just that good.

Alabama 27, Georgia 23

Give me the Crimson Tide to win and cover. I don’t care that Saban isn’t there. His philosophy, scheme, game plan and coaching staff all are, which means all that Steve Sarkisian has to do is not screw things up. He won’t. Jones and Co. will have enough success to get to 30 points against the Georgia defense and force the Bulldogs to keep up more than they’ve had to do so far this season. It won’t happen. Alabama’s defense isn’t as bad as it played last week and will make life miserable for Bennett. Pick: Alabama (-4)

Georgia boasts one of the top defenses in the country while questions linger about how first-year starting QB Stetson Bennett will perform on the biggest stage. Alabama has questions of its own. The Tide, which will not have Saban on the sideline after his positive COVID-19 test, saw its defense was torched last week by Ole Miss to the tune of 48 points and 647 yards. It was still an Alabama win, but it’s not a style of football that the Tide is used to playing. The Alabama offense is obviously equipped to play in a shootout like that but the Georgia defense will provide much more resistance than Ole Miss’ porous unit.

Sam: Georgia +6, Nick: Georgia +6

Barton: Do you feel like we are giving Stetson Bennett the benefit of the doubt? Everyone expected him to be terrible, but he’s not. But this is a whole different ball of wax. It’s a different stage. Mac Jones has been there and is a little more battle tested. And I think he has a little more ability as well. I think the way Alabama wins this is Bennett is asked to do like three percent more than he is capable of doing.

Bud: Georgia’s pass protection has also not been great, relative to the pass rushes they have faced. This could be a really big game for a Will Anderson or whomever can get pressure for Alabama.

I’m excited to watch this go down. I am picking Alabama, but I can see it going either way and with this much talent on the field, it’s going to be must watch.

Picking this game really boils down to this: How much do you believe in this Alabama offense, and more specifically Mac Jones?

Back in 2015, an Alabama defense that was littered with NFL talent at all three levels, and had Kirby Smart as its coordinator, easily finished #1 in all of the key advanced metrics but had to hang on for dear life to beat Clemson 45-40 in the national title game after allowing 550 yards. In 2016 an even more loaded Alabama defense lost while yielding 35 points on 511 yards to Clemson, and both of those units were lit up for 40+ points by then-healthy Ole Miss squads. In 2017, Georgia had an outstanding defense that carried it to the national title game, but Baker Mayfield and Tua Tagovailoa each had his way with them.

In 2019, the two best defenses in the country met when Clemson faced Ohio State in the semifinals. Clemson prevailed 29-21, but only because a defense that allowed over 500 yards of offense managed to grab three turnovers. That was the same formula used by Tigers DC Brent Venables to hold Alabama’s score down in the previous national title game, but those two games seemed more good fortune than groundbreaking when Joe Burrow and LSU lit Clemson up for 600 yards and 42 points. As sad as it is to see for an Alabama fan, it’s tough to remember a recent high profile game where an elite defense truly shut down an elite offense. I will always love college football, but I hate this trend and I suspect that Nick Saban does, too.

So, again, what it boils down to is how much you believe in Mac Jones. He isn’t Deshaun Watson, Baker Mayfield, Tua Tagovailoa, Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, or Joe Burrow. He’s merely putting up better passing numbers than any of them, now with seven career starts under his belt. This Georgia defense will be by far the best he’s faced, but that was the case with every one of the above. You’d be hard pressed to argue that any of the aforementioned teams had a significantly better offensive line or skill talent around the QB as well.

On the other side of the ball, Georgia fans were rightfully encouraged by the success Ole Miss had running the ball against Alabama, and to be sure that is a concern. They also know, however, that there is talent on this defense. In week two Alabama was able to snuff out the interior run game of Texas A&M RB Isaiah Spiller, who ran all over Florida for 174 yards on 6.4 a pop last weekend after managing only a paltry 25 yards on 11 carries vs. the Tide. Kellen Mond had some success, but he earned every bit of what he got. Turnovers can certainly change the calculus, but thus far it appears more likely that Bennett is due for a couple of those.

Alabama was able to get Mond for a pick six, and Costello has thrown nine interceptions. Bennett having zero is a stroke of pure luck.

The Dawgs know that their offense has some limitations, and I haven’t seen any of them expecting their squad to get out of the 20s on the scoreboard. Neither do I.

Unless things completely fall apart on the sideline without Nick Saban in attendance, and I find that highly unlikely with the collective experience of the staff, look for recent trends to hold. Alabama will finish with somewhere in the neighborhood of 450 yards, with Mac Jones touching 300 through the air, as Steve Sarkisian improbably becomes the first Saban assistant to earn a head coaching win in a game involving Alabama. Let’s call it 31-24.

Of course, that is simply my opinion. Vote and give us yours in the comments.


What will be the result of the Alabama vs. Georgia game?

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    Mac lights ‘em up, Alabama covers 6
    (713 votes)
  • 20%
    Another instant classic, Tide by 1-5
    (197 votes)
  • 6%
    Georgia pulls the upset (FLAGGED!)
    (61 votes)
971 votes total Vote Now

Given the limited capacity, getting in won’t be cheap.

Folks, that is a lot of cash for week 4.

Athlon Sports discussed the top 5 games between these two teams, and that got me to thinking. Let’s do another poll:


What is your favorite Saban era win over Georgia?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    That time they all dressed in black and got smoked at home on national TV
    (264 votes)
  • 4%
    That time they blew a two-score second half lead and came up a yard short
    (32 votes)
  • 9%
    That time they were favored over Alabama and got stomped in the rain at home
    (76 votes)
  • 40%
    That time they blew a two-score second half lead and lost to a backup QB
    (313 votes)
  • 10%
    That other time they blew a two-score second half lead and lost to a backup QB
    (79 votes)
764 votes total Vote Now

It’s like picking a favorite child, isn’t it?

Saban is mad as hell about the asymptomatic Rona keeping him away.

“The protocol is, if you’re in quarantine, you can’t have any remote access to the sidelines and you can’t go to the game, even if they put you in an isolated area. So, never having thought much about that — and I’m not being critical here — if you’re the head coach, there ought to be a better way to do it.

“I don’t know exactly what that is. But there should be a better way to do that. You ought to have some kind of communication with the sidelines, just like I have communication with somebody on the field during practice. I can’t directly talk to a player, but I can say, ‘Tell 22, that he was supposed to re-route the guy,’ or whatever.

“You can’t have any of that. That doesn’t seem quite right. I think you could probably do without an assistant, if you had to. Maybe a little harder if it was a coordinator who calls the plays and maybe you don’t have somebody that is effective at doing that, or experienced at doing that, on your staff.”

I said a few times back in the summer that you probably couldn’t have a season if you were going to test everybody, and pull asymptomatic cases, rather than just checking for symptoms like they do at gyms and hair salons. Thus far it has gone reasonably well with only a few postponements, but these are the rules that everyone agreed to. That doesn’t make Nick any happier about missing the game when he ain’t sick.

Nate Oats said it’s a shame that Nick will miss such a big game, and probably ruffled a few feathers with this one.

Nate also spoke about the advantage he has this year with all the depth, and how that naturally brings more accountability.

Alabama fans are more excited about this basketball season than they have been in years, and it’s great to see.

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

Roll Tide.