Matt Hinton, in his excellent SECCG preview, reminds of something about last year’s UGA-Alabama face off:
Like LSU this year, Alabama last year arrived in Atlanta unbeaten and essentially unchallenged, with a transformative offense whose combination of raw talent and downfield audacity had seemingly hacked the system. Instead of a coronation, though, the Tide were forced to eke out an ugly win that left their star QB hobbled and the rest of the team looking vulnerable for the first time, foreshadowing their exposure vs. Clemson in the national title game. Even in a win, just how closely LSU resembles its usual, prolific self will have implications well beyond this weekend.
In other words, this isn’t Kirby Smart’s first rodeo. As Matt notes there, enough of what he did to slow Alabama’s offense was on point that Clemson borrowed from it in the championship game. He’s going to have some answers to that daunting LSU attack.
He’s got plenty of tools at his disposal for that, too.
The Bulldogs obviously have the athletes up front to penetrate and disrupt plays in the backfield, but the mentality is more akin to building a wall along the line of scrimmage: Occupying gaps, setting edges, shedding blocks, pursuing as a team, etc. The middle linebackers, Monty Rice and Tae Crowder, are the leading tacklers, but there are no real headliners and virtually no end to the number of bodies UGA is able to rotate in without suffering a significant drop off — 17 players have started at least 1 game this season and 22 have been credited with double-digit tackles.
More important, there are no apparent weak links. It’s as fundamentally sound a unit as any in the country, and if it can keep Burrow in predictable passing situations the deep well of edge-rushing talent could give him more problems in the pocket than the pedestrian sack numbers suggest. Outside ‘backers Azeez Ojulari, Malik Herring, Nolan Smith, Adam Anderson and Quay Walker are all former top-200 recruits who have been credited with at least 8 QB hurries apiece.
Can Georgia make it a line of scrimmage game? If so, I like the Dawgs’ chances.