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Brian’s Prediction for the SEC Championship

Brian’s Prediction for the SEC Championship

ATHENS, Georgia – The two premiere programs in college football will clash once again in the SEC Championship.

Alabama and Nick Saban had the upper hand over Georgia and Kirby Smart for about a decade before UGA finally broke through the last two seasons to claim the crown.

Familiar Journeys

These teams have had somewhat similar journeys to arrive in Atlanta, vying for a spot in the playoff. Alabama struggled mightily at the beginning of the year.

At one point, it seemed like the wheels were coming off of the program after a loss to Texas and an ugly, narrow victory over South Florida.

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Quarterback Jalen Milroe had been benched. Bama was on the ropes. And slowly, surely, the Tide had rolled on and improved to become in my estimation one of the top 4 most dangerous teams in the nation. No one should want to play them right now.

UGA also started slowly this year as Carson Beck settled in his first year as a starter.

After two come from behind wins against South Carolina and Auburn, it appeared that UGA was not the same offensive team without Stetson Bennett and Carson Beck.

Over the season, and despite a flurry of injuries to key players, Beck has grown in confidence to become one of the best in his position in the nation. UGA’s offensive line struggles also have righted themselves, and they rode Beck and strong offensive line performances to victories over three consecutive ranked opponents.

After both teams struggled during rivalry week against their respective opponents, we find ourselves back where many would have guessed we would end up at the start of the year.

I was kind of down on Bama, thinking that losing Bryce Young and Will Anderson would keep Bama on a slide from the top. Now, I’m concerned Georgia won’t be able to stop them.

Can Georgia Attack the Edge?

The biggest issue is simple. Georgia’s greatest weaknesses this entire year has been letting teams attack the edge in the run game, containing mobile QBs and giving up shot plays in the passing game.

Alabama excels at all of that. All Milroe can really do is run and throw a nice deep ball. And that may just be enough if Georgia can’t stop it.

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Alabama has multiple weapons to make defense pay down the field. Dawg fans will know Jermaine Burton, who bailed on the Dawgs after the ‘21 championship to join a more pass-oriented offense.

Let’s be honest, it hasn’t turned out well for him, as his career trajectory hasn’t improved and UGA’s offense has become far more dangerous in the passing game than Alabama’s.

After a bad year last year, he has become Bama’s go-to receiver with games where he had crazy numbers this year. He still only has 33 grabs this year. Not the ideal workload for a guy who seemingly viewed himself as a first round talent.

Burton plays alongside Isaiah Bond, a Georgia-native. Bond is a speedster you can’t let get behind you or you’ll pay. Plus Kendrick Law is emerging, and can be used in a variety of fashions. No one of those guys terrifies a defense, but these weapons combined are tough to manage.

Alabama’s starting running back is doubtful for the game. Jase McClellan picked up an injury at the Auburn game. He likely will be out. Roydell Williams will carry the load instead. His best games are the games where the offense has struggled the most. More than worrying about Williams, UGA will be far more concerned about Milroe’s running ability.

Containing Milroe

So let’s address it. After bad performances containing QB’s against Auburn and Tech, Georgia fans have reason to be concerned about their ability to contain a much more dangerous player in Milroe. They should be.

However, Alabama doesn’t run the same kind of plays as Auburn and Tech. Tech and Auburn were running plays similar in nature to a triple option. They used loads of motion and misdirection to make linebackers guess and hesitate while the QB reads defenders and decides where to distribute or keep the ball.

Defensively, if you stick to your assignment and act decisively, you can cover it well. It’s far easier said than done, and this year Georgia has not consistently done that when they needed to.

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Alabama doesn’t rely on misdirection and confusion to run the ball. Milroe does designed runs or scrambles, not reads. Part of why Alabama struggled so much earlier in the season is because they were asking Milroe to read defenses in the run game and he couldn’t process quickly enough.

Milroe will look to his primary read, if it’s not there, he is likely to bail and run. Milroe is so fast and big, that he’s hard to bring down and even if he can be a one read and run QB many times, it still can devastate defenses.

Just know while UGA does have its hands full in stopping Milroe running and keeping him from completing shot plays downfield, UGA isn’t facing the same struggle of reading and reacting on defense. Therefore, stopping the run while rest more on the defensive line than the linebackers in this one.

The Crimson Tide Defense

Alabama’s defense is the most impressive UGA has faced. Their secondary is arguably the best in the nation UGA has seen with Terrion Arnold and Kool-Aid McKinstry being two day one NFL picks at corner

. Their leading tackler on defense is far and away true freshman Caleb Downs, another Georgia-native. Downs still hasn’t fully developed into his body yet, but he’s already a force at safety. He’s a future first rounder.

Plus, they have Dallas Turner at the edge. If you don’t know Dallas Turner, what are you doing? But also, go back and watch that ‘21 National Championship. Turner was a true freshman and abused UGA’s line a handful of times.

He had at least two sacks in that game. All that to say, UGA has not faced Bama’s level of talent or depth this year. Missouri and shockingly Auburn, might be the two best comparisons and UGA only managed to score 30 in one of those games.

How Can Georgia Attack the Tide?

Georgia can attack this Alabama defense in a couple of ways. Unsurprisingly, their biggest weapon is Brock Bowers, but not just because he’s Brock Bowers.

Watch for UGA to line up Bowers in formations that get him one-on-one with a safety or nickel corner, If Georgia, for instance, uses trips to one side but has Bowers line up as the only receiver on the opposite end of the line or as an H-back, Bama historically will only leave one defender to cover it.

The formation itself will create a match up advantage for UGA. Of course, UGA has also used Ladd McConkey and Bowers lined up next to one another to expose defenses this year too. Georgia will need, and should be able to, establish the run game against Alabama.

Kendal Milton is the hot hand with stellar performances in recent games, but my gut tells me to watch for Daijun Edwards to have the key runs early and for the Dawgs to turn to Milton later. Bama’s interior defensive line is good, not great, and the strength of Georgia’s O line is in the interior.

Georgia holds the advantage here. Texas was able to attack Bama’s defense with a lot of screens, and I’ll be curious if Georgia looks to Dillon Bell and Dom Lovett in the screen game.

Injuries, Always

Health is a major concern for the Dawgs in this one, particularly on offense. With Bowers, McConkey, RaRa Thomas, and Tate Ratledge all dealing with injuries, the Dawgs have 4 offensive starters that won’t be at 100% and may not play.

There have been numerous reports about their health, but I keep seeing conflicting information on the status of these guys. It appears that Bowers and Ratledge are in the best condition and definitely will play, although I’ve read a few implications that Ratledge will be limited.

I’ve read everything from RaRa is out and won’t play at all to he’s full go. McConkey will play, but how comfortable he’ll feel is definitely in question. His ankle seems to be a tweak away from taking him out. His health in particular is crucial. Georgia has to have a receiver that will win one on one consistently in this game.

Alabama will make Georgia prove their receivers can beat their corners. If they can’t, Bama gets to run man coverage and bring pressure all day to disrupt Beck and stuff the run. If Georgia can win one-on-one with one or two matchups, Georgia will be in a great position to score enough to win.


I don’t like the feeling that I have about this game.

I’m well aware of the problems that Milroe can create for UGA, and I can see an outcome where Milroe breaks a big run early to score and then hits a deep ball early.

UGA gets down two scores and can’t claw their way back. I also firmly believe that UGA is just better and if we knew that if one of McConkey or RaRa were 100%, we should have enough offensive fire power to win.

I give Bama the slight edge on defense in this game. The Tide have only allowed one QB to hit 300 yards on them all year, and that resulted in their single loss. Beck averages right at 300, and if he goes over that mark or perhaps even close to it, UGA wins. The bottom line is that Georgia’s offense is just better than Bama’s.

They have way more methods to succeed and weapons to use than Alabama does. Unless they self-destruct (and they have at times this year) they should score enough points to win. Since 2019, UGA is 56-1 when allowing less than 300 yards passing. Do you see Milroe throwing for 300 on us? He’s only managed it once this year in a close win over A&M.

Bama may well win this game because of one or two key match ups that go heavily in their favor. If Nick Saban wasn’t the coach of this roster, I wouldn’t be nearly as scared as I am about this game. However, if Georgia rises to the occasion in this game, and they have now in every big game for over two seasons, I think they will win by more than one score. I hate that I’m predicting this and my inner Larry Munson is screaming at me.

Prediction: Dawgs win 34-21.

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