Hate to start off like a Negative Nelly, but I’ve got two big concerns about Saturday’s game. The first is “duh” obvious: how Georgia’s offensive line holds up against Alabama’s defensive front seven. The good news, if you want to call it that, is that the ‘Bama defensive line isn’t as overwhelmingly daunting as either LSU’s was last year, or as this year’s South Carolina line played. The bad news is that it’s still pretty damned imposing.
And that makes for a tall task for Will Friend’s troops. And for Mike Bobo’s playcalling. I thought Bobo did a masterful job in the first half of last year’s SECCG keeping Chavis off-balance with a kitchen sink approach to his playbook. Had the player execution kept up, there’s no telling how that game might have played out. He’s going to have to scheme like crazy against a well-coached and talented Alabama defense to keep Murray upright and functional. One thing he’s got in his favor this year is a realistic running threat with the two fabulous freshmen. That should help keep Saban/Smart honest about how they defend the Georgia attack.
All that ties into my second worry. This one may not be so obvious: Georgia’s ability to hit big plays. Yeah, the Dawgs are seventh in the country in offensive plays of 20 or more yards. But when you break it down a little, there’s a good reason for concern. Through the first five games of the year, Georgia ranked first in those plays. Then came October. Georgia’s ranking that month? 107th. Now some of that can be attributed to the Dawgs having only played three games that month. But most of it has to be chalked up to the opposition – that’s the month Georgia took on South Carolina and Florida. November saw a decent bounce back, as Georgia finished 23rd nationally, but it’s not as if the Dawgs took on a defense as good as the ones they saw the month before.
I’m sure you know what’s coming next. Alabama ranks sixth nationally in opponents’ offensive plays of 20+ yards, which is better than Florida (11th) and South Carolina (30th). (If you’re looking for a silver lining in that cloud, the Tide dropped to 41st in the month that Texas A&M showed up to play.) The challenge is clear.
Big plays are a big deal for this Georgia team. Aside from the obvious – you’re picking up significant yardage, of course – it’s a good sign when Georgia’s busting out that play action is working, which means that the running game is clicking. Besides that, it’s part of Georgia’s identity on offense. It doesn’t mean that they can’t scrap and plug away to win (remember Florida), but it makes it tougher and puts a lot more pressure on the other parts of the team to hold things together. If you’ll recall, that’s the exact way the wheels came off the wagon in last year’s SECCG.
Anyway, that’s what’s making me fret mid-week. What are you guys worrying about?