Looking for a key to the game? Skipping past the obvious – if Georgia’s in negative territory in turnover margin, it’s hard to see how it wins and if the Dawgs are +3, it’s hard to see how they lose – and after careful consideration, I’m not going to point to a personnel grouping, but to a formation.
I think this game is going to come down to how much success Georgia has out of its one-back, three-WR sets. I base that on several factors. First, and this is a purely subjective observation on my part, I think the offense has been more productive out of that formation than it has been out of the I. Some of that is due to the flexibility Bobo has with deploying Murray from behind center, in the pistol or in straight shotgun. Some of that is due to giving the backs more room to run with the defense not crowding the box (think Tech).
Second, and, again, subjectively speaking, Murray seems more comfortable with formations that give him more receiving options, especially since the Florida game. He’s been better since with his check down options and that’s reflected in his passing numbers.
Third, it’s tactically advantageous for Bobo, as this post of Groo’s, ironically about ‘Bama wanting to do much the same thing, indicates. If anything, Georgia, which has greater depth at wide receiver and two legitimate options at tight end, can spin more variations out of those sets than the Tide can. The hope is that will cause more pressure to be put on Alabama’s defense – especially when mixed with the no-huddle – than it can handle, at least on a consistent basis.
That all sounds great, but there’s a catch. And it’s a pretty big one: Georgia loses a blocker in the backfield. I’m not so sure how much that matters in the running game, because Alabama in its base defense is extremely formidable in shutting down the run, fullback or no fullback, but I fear it could be huge in pass protection. If you’ll recall, Ole Miss pulled Georgia out of its three-wide sets by blitzing on almost every down in the first half of that game and sacking Murray repeatedly. And Clowney made Georgia wish it had gone max-protect from the get go in Columbia.
The good news is that Alabama doesn’t blitz that much and that its line isn’t as physically freakish as South Carolina’s is. But if the Tide’s secondary and linebacking corps are able to control Georgia’s receivers and/or confuse Murray, Saban’s defense will get to him just the same. And that will likely force Bobo into pulling back to protect Murray more. Unfortunately, I fear that’ll be the ball game.
Anyway, that’s what I’ll be watching in the Dome. What’s your take on what’s key on Saturday?