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Jumbo Package: Most pundits lean Georgia headed into SEC Championship Game

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

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NCAA Football: CFP National Championship Game-Alabama vs Georgia Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday, everyone. The SEC Championship Game is on the line tomorrow. Your previews:

“I’m leaning Georgia in this one,” Klatt said. “I just think that the Georgia defense and Kirby Smart specifically, he’s going to know how to disrupt that rhythm of Jalen Milroe and once you disrupt that rhythm, now you’ve got him. I think he’s going to make a mistake and those mistakes we saw pop up against Texas because they took away the easy throws because they could rush four and get home.

“I think Alabama’s got to hold them under 30 to have any chance whatsoever. I think that Georgia probably gets to that 30-point mark, maybe just a bit over. Even though this is only a six-point spread, I like Georgia by double digits in this game by 10 or more.”

If Jalen Milroe wants serious Heisman Trophy consideration like he was proclaiming at the end of the Auburn game, then here is the chance to do it and that means getting the job done with his arm and feet. Georgia could probably lose and still make the playoffs, but the incentive for them is to show they are clearing the best team in the nation. The Bulldogs will start slow and then show its dominance in making this game a foregone conclusion in the second half and putting Milroe’s Heisman dreams to bed, while elevating Carson Beck into the final list of candidates, even though he won’t win. Georgia 35, Alabama 17.

Most other analytic models also predict Georgia will stay perfect this week.

That includes the College Football Power Index, a computer prediction model that uses data points from both teams to simulate games 20,000 times to pick winners.

The index forecasts that Georgia will win the game in 52.1 percent of its simulations, while Alabama comes out ahead in the remaining 47.9 percent of sims.

The computer predicts a very close game, expecting that Georgia will defeat Alabama by 0.5 points, or by 1 if we round up, not enough to cover the line.

Alabama 27, Georgia 23: The Bulldogs have the nation’s No. 8 offense in points per game, but it hasn’t faced a defense as good as this one. The Crimson Tide ranks No. 14, and the best defense Georgia’s offense faced so far this season was Ole Miss at No. 35 nationally. Nonetheless, this game figures to be a battle and could go either way. Still, Alabama’s tougher schedule prepares it to find a way to win vs. Georgia.

Backing Alabama as an underdog is the move to make and if I like an underdog it’s because I think they can win. This is the best offense Georgia has faced. The Bulldogs have allowed 20 points or more to opponents ranked outside the top 50 in total offense. Alabama is a different beast with the ninth-graded offense per PFF and it has been pushed more against tougher teams this season.

Milroe was put to the test in his second start against a Texas defensive front that is one of the best in the country. Milroe went score for score with the single-best college football player in the country, LSU’s Jayden Daniels. After getting wrecked in the first half against Tennessee (down 20-7), Bama shut the Vols down and overcame them to win, 34-20.

Those moments make Alabama ready for the biggest game of the year.

Wasserman: I think I’m going to lay the points here. I think that Georgia is going to win by a touchdown. I think it’s going to be a good game. I don’t 100 percent trust Alabama to be the perfect edition of what it would take to actually win this game. Nick Saban’s a genius. He’s a wizard. It’s hard to pick against him. But Jalen Milroe going against the 12th-ranked pass defense in the country, the fifth-ranked defense in yards per play. They’re going against a legitimate animal defense and I think that Georgia is a more complete team that I have less to worry about.

No. 1 Georgia is undefeated on the season and enters Saturday’s conference title game as a 5.5-point favorite over the No. 8 Crimson Tide. The Bulldogs are rolling yet again as they go after their third straight National Championship victory.

That being said, college football analyst Greg McElroy believes his former team will take home the trophy in this year’s SEC Championship game.

“I’m taking the Tide. I thinking it’s going to be a really close game. An all-time thriller. But I think Alabama will be able to control the line of scrimmage better than the Georgia Bulldogs,” McElroy said on his Always College Football show.

Gannett posted a compilation of predictions from its various college football writers around the country and 12 of 13 picked Georgia to win, though one of those was Nick Kelly and in a link above he picked Alabama. Most folks are clearly picking against Alabama.

In 2021, I picked Georgia by ten points headed into the SEC Championship Game, and that worked out quite well in the end. Alabama’s path to victory seems clear: neither defense allows the other offense to drive the field consistently, and Milroe’s penchant for big plays with both his arm and legs put the necessary points on the board to win.

It is true that Carson Beck hasn’t played a defense that compares to Alabama’s, and neither has Georgia’s offensive line. That of course doesn’t mean that they won’t fare well tomorrow, just that it will be the toughest test they have faced. Georgia’s offensive line will certainly be the best that Alabama’s defense has seen this season as well. Beck hasn’t been great when pressured this year, but it hasn’t happened often. Alabama’s ability to get pressure may well be the key to winning. Milroe has faced an elite defense in Texas, and he obviously threw a couple of critical interceptions in that game. Can he play a clean game against an elite defense this time?

On the injury front, Kirby Smart was playing coy about Ladd McConkey and Brock Bowers, but he ain’t fooling anyone with that. Both of those dudes are going to play. It does appear that the Bulldogs may be without starting LB Jamon Dumas-Johnson. They seemed to miss him last week as Georgia tech piled up 205 rushing yards, including 81 from QB Haynes King. Alabama appears to be without starting RB Jase McClellan. Will Justice Haynes get extended time against his old man’s alma mater?

So, what happens in the game?

Your guess is as good as mine. I do believe that Alabama’s secondary is orders of magnitude better than anything Beck has seen. All of the pressure is on Georgia in this game. They have a 30 game winning streak on the line, and a loss could conceivably keep them from making the playoffs. That’s a lot of expectations.

On the other side, Alabama seems to feed off of Milroe’s personality. He doesn’t seem to have any fear in him, just has himself a joyous time playing ball on Saturdays. Most importantly, Alabama’s offense has the advantage of the best athlete on the field touching the ball on every play.

Why not? Let’s say that Alabama gets those big plays, Caleb Downs makes a game changing interception, and Alabama causes playoff chaos with a 31-23 victory.

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

Poll

What will be the result of the SEC Championship?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    Tide rolls, Alabama by 7+
    (318 votes)
  • 41%
    Tide wins a nailbiter, Alabama by 1-6
    (440 votes)
  • 12%
    Dawgs win a close one, Georgia by 1-6
    (127 votes)
  • 15%
    The experts have it right, Georgia by 7+
    (168 votes)
1053 votes total Vote Now

Nick Saban was, of course, asked about playoff talk. He is primarily focused on the game.

“We’re not really worried about the committee. I’m not concerned about any of those things,” Saban revealed. “I mean, we’ve got a big challenge here in terms of trying to play the best football that we can play and prepare our team to play the best that they can play.

“I want our team to focus on the game because that’s what we can control. We really can’t control anything externally, but we can try to control how we play. I think that’s the most important thing for us to be focused on right now.”

Saban did give an answer about whether the SEC should be represented in the playoff.

“I think that the SEC is one of the best conferences in the country,” Saban said. “I think that Georgia is one of the best teams in the country — one of the best four teams in the country. I think that if we beat them, we’d be one of the best four teams in the country because teams do — there’s a transformation that goes through the season. So, how are you playing now? How is your team now? How good are you now? I think that all of those things come into play. I think it would be a disrespect to the SEC if there isn’t SEC representation in the final four. I do believe that.”

The committee seems to acknowledge the strength of the SEC with 5 of the top 13 teams in their rankings. Surely they wouldn’t leave the SEC Champion out. Right?

Right?

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

Roll Tide.