January 4, 2018
Keys to the National Title for the Georgia Bulldogs
This year’s national title game, the Alabama Crimson Tide versus the Georgia Bulldogs, will be one of the slowest games to watch for the average fan. It will showcase two football teams that are similar in play style and throw the ball less than 25 times a game. Each team will run the ball, but here is what Georgia will need to do to win:
Georgia Bulldogs Defensive Keys
- Force Alabama to run the ball up the middle
- Take away the screen passes
- Shut down the middle of the field in the passing game
So let’s start with the first one, stopping the outside runs. Alabama is known for running the football and they do it by making their opponents account for the outside runs. As soon as opponents begin focus on that, they hit you up the middle with a simple inside zone with Damien Harris, their leading rusher with 983 yards and 11 touchdowns, or a QB power with Jalen Hurts. They do it very well with Jalen Hurts and some “change of pace” backs like Joshua Jacobs and Najee Harris. Each of these players has the ability to get to the outside and make the first tackler miss. Georgia has a top-tier defense and along with the best inside linebacker in college, in Roquan Smith. If they can take away these outside runs and force the Tide to run up the middle at Roquan, they should be successful in stopping the Tide’s run game.
Now, Alabama’s passing game is not great, but it’s good enough. Georgia they will need to shut down passes below 10 yards. Alabama runs a ton of screens, and does it well. It is another way for them to try and get playmakers the ball on the outside, such as Calvin Ridley, who is a top five receiver in this year’s draft class and Bo Scarbrough, a 6’2, 233 pound freak with good open field speed and tremendous strength for a running back. I do not think this will be the biggest concern for Georgia, but it should still be in the back of their minds on a 2nd and long situation. They have the speed and size on the outside with two corners north of 6’0” and 195 lbs. in Dominick Sanders and Deandre Baker, both of whom have multiple interceptions (4 for Sanders and 2 for Baker) and are very physical corners. That will be a tough matchup for Alabama, not having that pure deep threat receiver.
The last thing Georgia will need to do is take away the middle of the field in the passing game. Alabama loves to open up the field with screens and sweeps, then hit opponents with a play action pass to Calvin Ridley over the middle. We all know Jalen Hurts is not an extremely accurate passer, so I would imagine a lot of Cover 1 and man-to-man, as well as a lot of blitzes in between. If Georgia forces Jalen to sit back and throw tough passes to the outside, I can see them having great success, due to Hurts’ lack of accuracy.
Georgia Bulldogs Offensive Keys
- Run.The. Ball.
- Get Fromm throwing on early downs
- Control the tempo
When it comes to running back cores in college football, you cannot argue that Georgia is anything less than number one. They have two standouts in Sony Michel (129 yards, 8.0 yards per carry, and 16 touchdowns) and Nick Chubb (1,320 yards, 6.4 yards per carry, and 15 touchdowns). Not to mention, their third back, De’Andre Smith, has 603 rushing yards on the season. Georgia is averaging 267 yards per game on the ground along with 6 touchdowns a game. They have one of the most dominant running games in the nation. Against an Alabama defense that has struggled in stopping big-time runners, some of which is due to injuries at the linebacker spot, I would not be surprised to see Michel and Chubb with 100 yards or more, a piece. I know that is a bold statement, going up against a Nick Saban defense, but it’s very likely with this run game.
If Georgia executes its run game, Fromm will have a good game, too. They love to get him throwing off of play action and to Terry Godwin, a speedy threat, and Javon Wims, the standout 6’4, 215 pound freshman. If they can throw the ball early and often on first down, they can stretch the field and exploit the size mismatch with Wims down the field. If they can get Fromm active in this game, as well, it will not be pretty for the Tide.
Controlling the tempo is probably my favorite thing in football. I firmly believe that it is the key to winning games. You saw in the Alabama vs. Mississippi State game, State controlled the tempo throughout the whole game and barely lost in the final seconds. The same thing happened in the Auburn vs. Bama game. Auburn controlled the pace the whole game and it translated. With a team like the Tide, which loves to wear down defenses by running the ball and keeping opponent’s defense on the field, it will be great if they can keep the ball for 65 to 70 plays. If they do, they should see great success in the outcome of this game.
Georgia is a talented team, and definitely matches up well against Alabama. If they manage to execute on all of these points, the Tide will have a long night and not a pleasant one. Although, you can never count out Nick Saban and his record against former assistant coaches (11-0). Kirby Smart should have a handful, but do not count out the Dawgs in Atlanta this upcoming Monday night.