Jake Rowe has a good list of key matchups for Saturday’s game here. It’s personnel oriented, and that’s why I think it’s missing what might be the biggest matchup of the day, Todd Monken versus Pete Golding.
I think that’s a face off that will have an even larger impact on which side comes out on top than will the Lanning/Sarkisian battle, simply because I expect ‘Bama will win some of those and Georgia will win some. But after watching replays of Georgia’s and Alabama’s wins from last weekend, I think there’s a shortcoming in the ‘Bama defense that Monken has the opportunity to exploit all game.
I’ve already discussed aspects of it in other posts this week, but to sum it up:
- Alabama’s pass defense is vulnerable to passes over the middle of the field.
- Stetson Bennett likes throwing to the middle of the field, and, more importantly, has been successful doing so.
Add to that, Nick Saban’s bout with COVID means he’s leaving Pete Golding out on an island to defend Georgia’s passing attack, so to speak, and I think that puts Monken in a position to make some real hay in the passing game.
Spend a few minutes watching The Battle Hymnal’s Alabama preview, and I think you’ll get a pretty good idea of what I mean.
Monken doesn’t run a variant of Art Briles’ Baylor scheme, as Ole Miss does, but that doesn’t mean he can’t find creative ways besides lining up wideouts next to the sidelines to create open space to give Bennett some easy pitch and catch opportunities. In fact, we’ve already seen plenty of that in Georgia’s first three games. After watching those clips, it’s not exactly crazy to picture an open tight end running down the seam, playing pitch and catch with Stetson.
Now, I don’t expect Georgia to go all Air Raid Saturday. Not that it needs to: Ole Miss ran the ball almost twice as often (57 carries) as it threw (29 passing attempts) en route to gaining 647 yards against that vaunted (once-vaunted?) Tide defense. Those are numbers that ought to warm the cockles of Kirby Smart’s stern heart.
And as far as pace goes, Kiffin got a lot of credit for going into hyperdrive last week, but if you look at the number of plays Ole Miss has run versus the number Georgia has, you might be a little surprised. On the season,
- Georgia: 239
- Ole Miss: 231
Georgia ran more plays against Arkansas than Ole Miss ran against Alabama.
The opportunity is there. In fact, I’ll go on record right now saying that if the Dawgs can generate an effective passing game, they’ll win.