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Playoff Implications at their Peak when Georgia and Alabama Battle in the SEC Championship

Will Georgia keep Alabama out of the College Football Playoffs with a win today?

At 4 p.m. Saturday in Atlanta, the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs and the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide will meet in the SEC Championship, and the stakes extend well beyond deciding the conference winner.

For Alabama, their season is on the line. A loss would mean being kicked out of the top four and out of the college football playoff.

For Georgia, they are looking to maintain their undefeated season and solidify No. 1 spot in the college football playoff.

This is the best Georgia team we have seen in a long time. They seem nearly untouchable. Frankly, they seem like some of the Alabama teams we have watched the past couple years.

But let’s be clear, although this Alabama team is No. 3 and possesses a 11-1 record, this is not the same Alabama as prior seasons. It might not even be close. Alabama needed four overtimes to escape an upset loss against Auburn last week, and let’s not forget the 31-29 victory over Florida and how close the Gators were to tying that game late.

Yes, you can never count out a team coached by Nick Saban, but this Georgia team simply does not look like they are going to miss a beat.

Both team’s offenses average over 40 points a game (Georgia averages 40.7, Alabama averages 42.3), but the disparity is obvious with the defenses.

Georgia is still only allowing 6.9 points per game, a truly historic feat. Now, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young is a phenomenal player, right now he’s the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman trophy. The issue stems from the Alabama offensive line not beeing able to protect him.

Auburn was able to get home for seven sacks last week, and added eleven tackles for loss. You can bet the Georgia front has seen that and is licking their chops. Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart and Defensive Coordinator Dan Lanning love to dial up blitzes at every opportunity, so expect nothing less than constant pressure from them all game.

If the Alabama offensive line struggles as they did last week, the Crimson Tide have no shot. If they play average, Alabama’s offense could still struggle. They could be without star running back Brian Robinson Jr., who suffered a pull to his “lower body” last week. It’s likely that Robinson Jr. is good enough to suit up, but just being able to suit up and being healthy enough to run for success against Georgia are two completely different things.

If Robinson can provide stability in the backfield, and the offensive line can keep Young off the ground, it will allow Alabama and Young to air it out to Jameson Williams and John Metchie III. That’s where they’re most lethal and where they have to be in order to beat Georgia.

Offensively for Georgia, they will look to pound the football with the running game with the likes of Zamir White, James Cook and Kenny McIntosh. The Bulldogs are running for 202 yards per game, over 5.3 yards per carry.

Georgia doesn’t have two go-to receivers like Alabama does. Their leading receiver is currently freshman Brock Bowers, who has 37 catches for 652 and 10 touchdowns. Outside of Bowers, Stetson Bennett IV likes to spread the ball around to receivers, tight ends and running backs.

That could change Saturday, however, as star receiver George Pickens has made his return to the gridiron after tearing his ACL in spring practice.

Pickens saw his first action last week against Georgia Tech where he had one catch in limited time. If he’s fully healthy, this is a gamechanger against Alabama. Pickens caught 36 passess for 513 and six touchdowns in eight games last season, and had 49 catches for 727 yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games his freshman year.

When fully healthy, Pickens is undoubtedly Georgia’s best receiver, and may be one of the very best receivers in the country.

Georgia does not need Pickens to win this game. What is imperative is that Bennett take care of the football. He can’t turn the ball over, especially against a Nick Saban team.

Prediction

This is just Georgia’s year. The two teams have switched positions. This year, Georgia is the immortal team, steaming past every team on its way to a national championship. Alabama is the team that, all the while great, is susceptible to lapses that leave them short of the prize.

Georgia’s defense will have their way with the Alabama offensive line. Because of how little time Young has, he will not be able to consistently hit Williams and Metchie III for big gains. The most Georgia has allowed all year is 17 points.

As good as Alabama’s skill players are, without an offensive line doing its job to protect Young, it will not matter. Bennett IV won’t play great either, but well enough for Georgia’s running backs to do the heavy lifting. Yes, there are only two spots separating these teams in the rankings, but these two teams are not on the same level.

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Georgia will prove their superiority and that no team in the country can touch them.

Georgia 31 Alabama 17

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