The final word Alabama vs. Georgia preview — Evaluation, prediction and extra

As a result of 2020 has to have a component of surreality always, the most important sport of the 2020 faculty soccer season thus far will happen with out probably the most profitable energetic coach within the sport. With Nick Saban testing optimistic for COVID-19, No. 2 Alabama’s battle with No. 3 Georgia on Saturday night will pit his former right-hand man (UGA’s Kirby Sensible) in opposition to his present right-hand man, offensive coordinator and appearing Bama head coach Steve Sarkisian.

It will likely be titanic both approach. After surviving a take a look at from yet one more former Saban assistant (Lane Kiffin) final week — Bama 63, Ole Miss 48 — Saban’s present workforce will face a Bulldogs squad that principally represents the Ghost of Bama’s Previous. The Crimson Tide have the No. 1 offense within the nation per SP+, and Sensible’s Dawgs have the No. 1 protection.

We clearly do not know the place these groups will end, however the groups with the most effective year-end offense and protection have performed solely six instances prior to now 70 years. The workforce with the most effective protection gained 5 of six … the lone exception final 12 months when Georgia misplaced to Joe Burrow and LSU within the 2019 SEC championship sport.

Let’s stroll by what makes these two top-ranked items so particular and what may determine this large soccer sport.

2020 Georgia vs. 2011 Bama

Georgia completed a simple first in defensive SP+ final 12 months, then returned nearly all of final 12 months’s two-deep in 2020. Among the many 76 groups which have performed up to now, its defensive SP+ score of seven.1 adjusted factors per sport is 8.3 factors forward of second-place Clemson. That is about the identical distance as what stands between Clemson’s and Florida State’s defenses.

It has been 21 video games since a workforce topped its full-season yards-per-play common in opposition to the Dawgs — because of All-American receiver Andy Isabella, UMass averaged 7.2 yards per play in opposition to UGA in 2018, when it averaged 6.4 per play for the season.

It has been 25 video games since somebody topped Georgia’s season scoring common — LSU averaged 32.4 factors per sport in 2018 and scored 36 on UGA. Within the span since these video games, solely two groups have averaged greater than 5.5 yards per play on the Dawgs, and just one has topped 21 factors.

Over the previous 10 years, solely 2011 Alabama and 2017 Alabama high Georgia’s present defensive SP+ score. Sensible, after all, was the defensive coordinator for that 2011 unit, and it stays the gold normal for what Sensible desires to perform.

The Tide that 12 months ranked not solely first in success fee, however first in each major iteration of success fee (dashing, passing, normal downs and passing downs), they usually did so and not using a ton of disruption — they had been 107th in sack fee and 61st in passing downs sack fee. They may play the strain card after they wished, however they did not have to; they merely allow you to declare what you had been doing, swarmed to the ball with alarming velocity and dogpiled 245-pound tacklers on high of the man with the ball. We all the time consider high-tempo offenses as exhausting for opposing defenses, however Bama was exhausting for offenses. The Tide knocked your wind out on each play, and since they weren’t overcommitting to invading the backfield, they usually had been good and quick as hell, they did not enable large performs, both. Their ending transfer wasn’t a flying elbow drop; it was a bear hug.

Partly as a result of it has performed two SP+ top-25 groups in three video games (No. 14 Auburn, No. 24 Tennessee), Georgia’s uncooked stats aren’t fairly as dominant after three video games. The Dawgs are merely second in success fee (behind an Air Force workforce that has performed one sport) — fourth in opposition to the run and move, third on normal downs, ninth on passing downs. Like 2011 Bama, although, they’re a distant first in yards allowed per drive, they usually do not enable large performs: They’ve allowed simply two good points of 30-plus yards in three video games. Solely Baylor (none in two) has averaged fewer.

Like Dont’a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw and firm 9 years in the past, Georgia’s linebackers swarm with abandon. Azeez Ojulari (6-foot-3, 240) has been concerned in a sort out on 16% of his snaps up to now, Monty Rice (6-1, 235) 14%, Quay Walker (6-4, 240) 14% and Nolan Smith (6-3, 235) 14%. And with Ojulari main the best way, they will additionally ramp up the strain when they should. They sacked Tennessee’s poor Jarrett Guarantano 5 instances, they usually rank third total in strain fee.

Down 21-17 to Tennessee on the half, because of a fumble restoration rating and a short-field landing drive, Georgia’s linebackers utterly modified the sport. Ojulari sacked and stripped Guarantano on the opening drive of the second half, then recovered the fumble as well. After Georgia’s offense settled for a discipline purpose, a closely pressured Guarantano threw a silly move, which nook Eric Stokes picked off. Ojulari compelled one other Guarantano fumble later within the quarter, and after permitting 143 yards within the first half, the Dawgs allowed a paltry 71 within the second.

ESPN Each day podcast: Connelly joins the show to talk everything Alabama-Georgia.

What scoring drives in opposition to Georgia seem like

In three video games, Georgia has allowed six scoring drives: three touchdowns and three discipline objectives. (Tennessee scored a defensive landing early in final Saturday’s sport, as effectively.)

  • Two of these drives started with nice discipline place — one Arkansas drive started at midfield, and Tennessee’s first TD drive final week started on the Georgia 36 after a turnover on downs.

  • Inside these drives had been 4 15-yard Georgia penalties — two move interference flags and two private fouls (together with one, unusually sufficient, on George Pickens, an offensive participant).

  • These six drives additionally included almost half of all third-down conversions Georgia has allowed this 12 months — opponents transformed six third downs in these drives and 7 in all different possessions.

Principally, you want Georgia’s assist to attain, both through good discipline place or penalty. And if or when the Dawgs are benevolent sufficient to will let you convert a 3rd down, you completely, positively should flip that into factors. They don’t seem to be going to be that beneficiant fairly often.

Mac vs. Tua (and current Bama vs. previous Bama)

Saban has had loads of good offenses by the years; between 2010 and 2014, his Crimson Tide ranked within the high 10 in offensive SP+ 4 instances, they usually have not ranked exterior of the highest 25 since 2007, his first 12 months in Tuscaloosa.

With Tua Tagovailoa taking management of the offense in 2018, nevertheless, the Tide rose to second. They remained second in 2019 regardless of Tagovailoa’s midseason harm and are presently first in 2020. After rating larger on offense than protection, per SP+, solely as soon as in Saban’s first 11 seasons, they’re effectively on their solution to doing so for a 3rd consecutive 12 months.

Regardless of a complete lack of nonconference warm-up video games, quarterback Mac Jones‘ stats are absurd: 80% completion fee, 16.7 yards per completion, just one interception and two sacks in over 100 dropbacks, and a Whole QBR that ranks second within the nation.

Jones by no means appeared to get the credit score he deserved for his performance last fall. He began 4 video games instead of the injured Tagovailoa and produced stats that had been straight in keeping with what Tagovailoa produced in 2018 as a first-time starter. He had a passer score higher than Burrow’s in opposition to Auburn and Ohio State’s Justin Fields‘ in opposition to Michigan.

Jones actually made solely two rookie-level errors final fall, however each had been punished severely — he threw two pick-sixes in opposition to Auburn that probably stored the Tide out of the School Soccer Playoff.

Many in each the recruiting and fan communities thought incoming blue-chipper Bryce Young had an excellent shot at overtaking Jones as starter, and whereas the coronavirus-related lack of spring observe probably value Younger any probability of that, Jones had proven no inkling of giving up his job, both. In comparison with Tagovailoa, Jones threw less difficult passes behind the road of scrimmage in 2019 and thrived on passes eleven-plus yards downfield (18.3 yards per move). He had a little bit of a blind spot on the shorter, extra timing-based passes, finishing simply 59% of throws between zero and 10 yards downfield with a 26.1 QBR.

The shorter passes are nonetheless a little bit of a blind spot, particularly when throwing to his proper — an issue for lots of right-handed QBs. However who wants intermediate throws once you’re hitting quick passes for fast, simple yards (33% of Bama’s passes have been to or behind the road of scrimmage, seventh-most within the nation) and also you’re throwing the prettiest, only deep ball within the sport? On passes eleven-plus yards downfield, Jones is 26-for-36 for 760 yards, 5 touchdowns and no interceptions. That is downright unfair.

Additionally unfair: Stretching linebackers and safeties each horizontally and vertically has created all types of operating lanes for Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr.

On what Sports activities Data Options defines as “inside rushes,” Alabama ranks a distant first in FBS in success fee (64%) and sixth in yards per carry (6.5). The 230-pound Harris has all the time been a load to convey down, and now he is getting a operating begin — amongst operating backs with no less than 50 rushes, Harris is each eighth in yards per carry earlier than contact (3.1) and third in yards per carry after contact (3.6). He is by no means going to be probably the most explosive again on this planet, however he was a person possessed final week in opposition to Ole Miss. With the Bama protection struggling to make stops and the Ole Miss protection sporting down, the Tide leaned on Harris. Within the second half, he rushed 12 instances for 160 yards and added a 24-yard reception.

Sarkisian has a humiliation of riches at his disposal, and he has known as some good video games up to now. Alabama is first in factors scored per drive, first in success fee (second in dashing, first in passing), fourth in marginal explosiveness (a measure of the magnitude of your profitable performs, adjusted for discipline place), sixth in factors per scoring alternative (first downs contained in the opponent’s 40 or touchdowns from exterior the 40) and even fourth in sack fee.

What unsuccessful Bama drives seem like

With Jones at quarterback, Alabama has gone scoreless on solely seven drives in three video games. One concerned a fumble on the opponent’s 1-yard line.

Of the opposite six scoreless possessions, 4 had been three-and-outs, squashed earlier than momentum might construct, and a fifth got here from an interception thrown on third-and-10. Alabama’s long-ball skill has distracted us from the truth that the Tide may be pushed into third-and-long conditions, particularly initially of a drive.

The Tide have gone three-and-out on 19% of their drives up to now — not unhealthy by any means, however 14th in FBS (versus all these classes for which they’re within the high 5), and 45% of their third downs have concerned seven or extra yards to go (twenty third). That is what constitutes a weak point for such an important offense, but it surely’s one which Georgia might theoretically benefit from.

What occurs when a virtually good offense faces a virtually good protection?

Towards Georgia’s top-ranked protection final 12 months, LSU scored 37 factors and averaged 6.5 yards per play. These are glorious totals, however LSU averaged 48.4 factors per sport and seven.9 yards per play for the season — the Dawgs held the Tigers far under their otherworldly season averages, they usually might need fared even higher had the sport state not gotten away from them.



UGA head coach Kirby Sensible commends Crimson Tide operating again Najee Harris, and Alabama’s Nick Saban believes the Bulldogs are efficient in all areas of the sport.

Georgia had compelled three-and-outs on two of LSU’s first 4 possessions, however the Bulldogs’ offense drove greater than 21 yards solely as soon as in its first 5 drives, and the rating was 14-0 LSU after the primary quarter. Issues snowballed within the second half because the Georgia protection was compelled to take extra dangers, but it surely nonetheless carried out higher than nearly anybody else in opposition to that devastating Tigers assault.

Listed here are the most important questions I’ve relating to whether or not Bama’s wonderful offense or Georgia’s wonderful protection find yourself deriving extra benefits:

1. Is Najee Harris gaining 2-3 yards or 4-5? One of the crucial telling issues to look at early in any sport is who’s getting a push up entrance. We all know Harris is superb at producing yards after contact, however when is that contact exhibiting up? On the line of scrimmage? A few yards downfield? Georgia’s line of defense has been immovable up to now, however the Bama O-line is fairly improbable, too. How Harris fares early may say lots about how Bama fares late.

2a. What occurs on third-and-long? The Bama offense stays on schedule effectively and begins bombing the ball downfield when it is behind the chains. It has labored superbly up to now and may work in opposition to many of the groups on the schedule. But when any protection can forestall these vertical seems, each with the strain it could create and with the expertise it has within the secondary, it is Georgia’s.

2b. What occurs when Jones will get pressured? Regardless of ready within the pocket to get receivers open deep, he hasn’t confronted a ton of strain this 12 months, and whereas he additionally made some unimaginable throws underneath duress final season, by far his worst second of 2019 was the purpose line interception he threw in opposition to Auburn — he confronted fast strain, made a panic throw to Harris (who wasn’t wanting) and Zakoby McClain plucked it off of Harris’ again and took it the size of the sector for a TD. Tennessee’s Guarantano appeared fairly good till Ojulari and firm bought a maintain of him final week. Does Jones make a number of unhealthy choices? Does Georgia punish him for them?

3. What can we learn about Will Reichard? Alabama’s place kicker hasn’t been requested to do a lot but. He has made all 21 of his PAT makes an attempt, however he has tried solely two garbage-time discipline objectives (a 34-yarder in opposition to Missouri and a 27-yarder in opposition to Texas A&M), and he was simply 4-for-7 on FG tries final 12 months. Place-kicking mishaps have beset Saban’s Tide on many events by the years, even in 2017’s nationwide title sport in opposition to Georgia — Andy Pappanastos missed a 36-yarder on the buzzer, which despatched the sport to OT and set the desk for Tua-to-Devonta. It is honest to imagine Georgia will cease a number of scoring possibilities in need of the tip zone, and it is honest to marvel if Reichard is prepared for a second that has tripped up many a Bama kicker.

What did Ole Miss do to Bama (and the way a lot of it could Georgia do)?

Simply concerning the sexiest matchup in faculty soccer will happen at any time when Alabama has the ball, however Georgia’s clearly going to have half of the sport’s possessions as effectively, and the Bulldogs are taking up a protection that’s coming off perhaps the worst sport of Saban’s head-coaching profession.

Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss offense put up 689 yards and 48 factors on the Crimson Tide, numbers that might have been even worse if not for a few late purple zone stops. Matt Corral threw for 365 yards on 28 passes — the efficiency positioned him atop the Whole QBR listing, simply forward of Jones — and Snoop Conner and Jerrion Ealy rushed 40 instances for 248 yards and 4 scores.

Having to outlive no less than one loopy observe meet is turning into part of a national champion’s journey at this point, however whereas Alabama’s protection was first in defensive SP+ six instances in 9 years between 2009 and ’17, it is an awfully mortal twenty second proper now. The Tide had been often weak in opposition to each Texas A&M and Missouri, however the protection was so definitively crushed final week that it is value exploring what Ole Miss did that was so devastating … and the way a lot of it Georgia can imitate.

The offense Kiffin and Ole Miss offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby presently discipline is a depraved mixture of Kiffin’s personal move ideas, UCF-level tempo (Lebby was UCF’s offensive coordinator earlier than going to Oxford), and the acute unfold ideas Lebby discovered from the Artwork Briles teaching tree. In Corral, they’ve a rifle-armed former blue-chipper who can shortly wing the ball from sideline to sideline, they usually well provide a variety of movement, eye sweet and screens that drive defenses to thoughts each inch of the sector and open up massive areas into which receivers can run.

Ignoring the assertions of Ole Miss knowing Bama’s signals and whatnot, it is honest to imagine the Rebels have among the best and most dynamic offenses within the nation and that, even in Bama’s weak state, most groups will not be capable of do Ole Miss-level injury. However new Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken has completed some attention-grabbing issues to open up the area over the center that Corral bludgeoned Bama with final week.

Matt Corral’s move plot in opposition to Alabama:

The center of the sector is an space ripe for run-after-catch alternatives, and with Alabama stretched skinny and having to thoughts so many alternative choices, Corral accomplished 10 passes downfield and between the hash marks; 4 of them produced no less than 11 yards after catch, and two produced 40-plus.

Georgia has nonetheless proven an analogous choice to control the center of the sector, as mentioned by Richard Johnson and Brandon Boykin on the SEC Community’s “Considering Out Loud.”

The Dawgs don’t are inclined to unfold defenses out formationally like Kiffin and Lebby do, UGA quarterback Stetson Bennett does not have Corral’s rocket-powered arm and Sensible positively does not endorse Lebby-level tempo. You continue to see loads of Sensible’s defense-first tendencies in terms of run charges (Georgia runs about 3 share factors greater than the nationwide common on normal downs, 5 on passing downs) and the occasional third-and-long draw play. One figures the primary factor Sensible likes about Bennett — a former walk-on who has taken management of the job over former blue-chippers JT Daniels and D’Wan Mathis — will not be his play-making skill a lot as his skill to keep away from screwups. Sensible is infinitely extra risk-averse than Kiffin, and once you’ve bought the protection he has, that is smart. Bama ought to be capable of crowd the field greater than it might in opposition to Ole Miss.

If that area over the center of the sector turns into accessible, nevertheless, Georgia will attempt to take benefit.

Stetson Bennett’s 2020 move plot:

Among the many 11 completions in that middle circle, 4 generated no less than 10 yards after catch. You may see that Sensible and Monken aren’t asking Bennett to do main injury with the deep ball, and Georgia’s quick passing sport has not been almost as harmful as Ole Miss’ — on passes thrown behind the first-down sticks, Ole Miss has a 62% success fee to Georgia’s 37%. However if you happen to manipulate the sector simply effectively sufficient horizontally, you may be capable of create chunk performs in one other approach.

Georgia’s skill to create gashes by the air might be key as a result of it is exhausting to see the Dawgs doing it on the bottom — they rank 68th in dashing marginal explosiveness. Alabama’s protection could be shakier than ordinary, but it surely’s nonetheless going to be exhausting for Georgia to drive the size of the sector 4 or 5 yards at a time. If UGA cannot create discipline place benefits through particular groups or turnovers, it must create some large good points.


Saban’s absence will create an odd aura, however that is nonetheless Alabama-Georgia, and it is unattainable to consider these two groups enjoying with out two ideas effervescent to the floor:

1. These groups ought to play way more usually than they do. Their three postseason battles within the 2010s (2012, 2017, 2018) had been among the many most memorable video games of the last decade, however they’ve performed solely as soon as within the common season since 2008. That is an enormous disservice and a reminder that we should always have ditched divisions a long time ago.

2. How is Georgia going to determine easy methods to lose this one? Granted, this thought has been reserved principally for Georgia followers tortured by the best way the Dawgs managed to come back so achingly near a nationwide title, or no less than a shot at one, in 2012, 2017 and 2018. (They had been turned away by the Tide every time.) This rivalry has taken on an existential, nearly literary high quality with Georgia hiring Saban’s right-hand man however nonetheless struggling to get previous Bama.

This may not be the one time these groups meet in 2020 — they’re favorites to win their respective divisions, in spite of everything — however a technique or one other, that is the following chapter within the Saban-Sensible ebook, even with out Saban.

SP+ initiatives a 28-24 Alabama win, which inserts fairly effectively with the groups’ previous two conferences (26-23 and 35-28 Tide victories), however the prospects are infinite. The Dawgs might dictate an old-school defense-and-field-position slog, or the pure offensive expertise on show might drag these defenses right into a observe meet a la final 12 months’s Bama-LSU sport (46-41 LSU) or the 2015 CFP title sport with Clemson (45-40 Bama). What have these teaching staffs stored near the vest up to now? What may they nonetheless maintain near the vest for a attainable December sequel? We’ll discover out.

Week 7 playlist

Listed here are 10 weekend video games — no less than one from every time slot — it’s best to take note of if you wish to get absolutely the most out of the weekend, from each info and leisure views:

All instances Japanese.

Friday evening

No. 17 SMU at Tulane (6 p.m., ESPN). SMU might be with out star receiver Reggie Roberson Jr. and beginning RB TJ McDaniel the remainder of the season, however the Mustangs are nonetheless unbeaten and harmful. Tulane, in the meantime, is the streakiest workforce of 2020 up to now. The Inexperienced Wave are able to absolutely anything.

No. 14 BYU at Houston (9:30 p.m., ESPN). Houston appeared large in its long-awaited season debut, a 49-31 stomping of Tulane, whereas BYU is coming off of its shakiest efficiency of the season by far. Which set of Cougars nonetheless has large objectives and an unbeaten report on Saturday morning?

Early Saturday

No. 1 Clemson at Georgia Tech (midday, ABC). Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins will probably throw the kitchen sink at Trevor Lawrence and the Clemson offense. It in all probability will not work, but it surely needs to be a reasonably attention-grabbing problem for the Tigers.

Pitt at No. 13 Miami (midday, ACC Community). Miami’s blowout loss to Clemson had as a lot as something to do with Clemson wanting wonderful, however the Hurricanes need to keep away from a double letdown and care for enterprise in opposition to a Pitt workforce that’s flaky, however nonetheless harmful.

Kentucky at No. 18 Tennessee (midday, SEC Community). If Georgia loses on Saturday, the winner of this one could be tied for the lead within the SEC East. Kentucky holds the benefit on the bottom, Tennessee by the air.

Saturday afternoon

Louisville at No. 4 Notre Dame (2:30 p.m., NBC). Louisville is a disappointing 1-3, however the Cardinals are nonetheless able to main explosions within the run sport, and an environment friendly Notre Dame protection has been liable to the occasional big-play lapse.

UCF at Memphis (3:30 p.m., ABC). Every of those AAC rivals’ previous three head-to-head video games have been down-to-the-wire thrillers, and SP+ principally initiatives a tie (UCF by 0.1). What extra might you hope for on the Georgia-Bama undercard?

Marshall at Louisiana Tech (6 p.m., CBSSN). I wrote about Marshall’s defense on Monday; it is fairly spicy, however the Tech offense can produce its share of huge move performs, too.

Saturday night

No. 5 North Carolina at Florida State (7:30 p.m., ABC). That is UNC’s first sport as a top-five workforce since a loss to FSU in 1997, and the Heels are coming off a press release win over Virginia Tech. Twenty-three years is not too lengthy to proper a fallacious, proper?

No. 3 Georgia at No. 2 Alabama (8:00 p.m., CBS). However you already knew that.

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