Keep in mind this isn’t Phil’s computer talking, it’s his gut, but here’s what he says about Saturday’s game:
In what is, in essence, a national title semifinal, the winner here will advance to play #1 Notre Dame in the national champ game in Miami on January 7th. These two have not played since ‘08 when #8 Bama beat #3 Georgia on the road 41-30, a game that many Bama fans point to as one of the key wins which got the Crimson Tide’s recent run of dominance started. The Tide/Bulldogs have played just 6 times in the last 20 years (3-3 split) and have not met here in the SEC Championship game. In fact, this is the Tide’s 8th appearance in the SEC Title game (3-4) but first against a team other than UF. UGA makes its second straight trip here and its fifth appearance in the Richt era (2-2). While not many can argue that these two don’t deserve to be here as Bama beat LSU on the road 21-17 and UGA handed UF its only loss 17-9 (thanks to 6 UF TO’s), it should be noted that both benefitted from rather fortunate SEC scheduling as UGA skipped out on the top 3 teams in the West (Bama, LSU and A&M) while Bama didn’t play the top 3 teams in the East (UGA, UF and SC). Both come in off blowout wins of their rivals as Bama crushed Auburn 49-0 (most lopsided Iron Bowl in 64 years) rolling up 25-7 FD and 483-163 yard edges and led 42-0 at the half. Meanwhile, UGA rolled to a 42-10 win over GT as they led 42-3 midway through the 3Q but were outgained 426-379 and outFD’d 26-18. They did average an astonishing 10.5 yards per play in the 1H. Both teams are led by veteran QB’s as Murray and McCarron are #1-2 in the NCAA in pass eff and have combined for a 55-9 ratio! They also have stout D’s as while Bama’s ranks #1 in most categories, one could argue that UGA’s is more talented and since S Williams called out the D prior to the UF game, they’ve allowed just 9 ppg in the last 5 games. The Bama D did give up 400+ yards in back-to-back games vs LSU/A&M earlier this year while UGA OC Bobo has called this UGA offense the best he’s ever seen as they are avg a school record 38 ppg. While each has Top 20 units on both offense and defense, Bama does have the significant ST’s edge (#22-71) and Saban is 7-2 in his last 9 games vs Top 20 teams while Richt is 1-6 in his last 7.
PHIL’S FORECAST: ALABAMA 27 GEORGIA 23
As a summary goes, that’s pretty fair. And he’s picking Georgia to cover, so there’s that. But I’ve got to get to something he says that echoes what a number of others have said or written: “UGA handed UF its only loss 17-9 (thanks to 6 UF TO’s)”. This drives me crazy. I was at that game and I wonder if I missed something. Did the Gators politely hand the ball to their opponent and bow? You’d think from the sound of it, that the Dawgs were mere bystanders to a series of Florida gaffes that basically occurred in a vacuum. (Come to think of it, that’s actually a pretty apt description of Murray’s third interception. But I digress.)
Here’s the reality. One reason Florida finished the regular season 11-1 – one of the main reasons it did so – is that it turned in a stellar turnover ratio of +17. The Gators lost a total of twelve turnovers all season. Look at the game log. Only one of Florida’s other opponents, LSU, forced more than one turnover. In other words, Florida was in the habit of holding on to the ball.
This year’s Georgia-Florida game, particularly the first quarter, was the most physical football game I’ve watched those two schools ever play. No quarter was asked and none was given. Was there a sloppy exchange or two? Sure, but there was also a lot of hard contact and smart play (Rambo’s pick, for example). By and large, those turnovers were earned.
This has all the sound of the excuse of Tebow’s shoulder in the 2007 game. Florida didn’t lose because it was outplayed; it lost because of forces beyond its control.
To be fair, I’ve not heard Muschamp making excuses. But there are plenty of others out there who keep trotting out this six turnover stuff to diminish the Georgia win. Funny how none of those folks have much to say about the turnover margins in Florida’s games against South Carolina and FSU.