Another year, another de facto BCS National Championship semifinal game takes place in Atlanta in early December.
My picks record on the year is 96-15.
This year's contest features two teams that dominated competition but also were caught looking one weekend and lost a game many experts thought should have gone the other way. Georgia (11-1) was shellacked by South Carolina earlier in the season when the Gamecocks were healthier but have rebounded well—even scoring a second straight win over rival Florida which hasn't happened much in the last two decades. Alabama's (11-1) one misstep was underestimating what Johnny Football and Texas A&M could do, in falling behind early at home and having the go-ahead touchdown pass picked off in the end zone late in the fourth quarter. Neither of those scenarios are bad losses and no one would rightly judge either team by such a measure.
Georgia is going to try and use their weapons (specifically seasoned quarterback Aaron Murray and freshman RBs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall) to replicate what the one team that beat Alabama did and that's score early and get the Crimson Tide out of their scheme. The problem with that is it's only happened one time, and Murray is talented but he's not the mobile threat that generally gives Nick Saban night sweats. Also, Alabama's rush defense is tops in the conference. So, to expect Gurley and Marshall to carry the mail a for a lot of success is expecting something that just doesn't happen. There's a reason Alabama's consistently tops in scoring defense and many other defensive categories year in and year out.
On the other hand, Alabama is about as balanced on offense as you can get, averaging 218 yards in the air and 214 on the ground. Those ground numbers are what you want to watch because that's the Achilles heel of the Georgia defense. It gives up 163 yards on the ground a game and that spells trouble against Alabama.
I expect this to be a close game early but I just don't think the match-ups favor Georgia over the long haul. If Alabama were somehow not interested in this game, I could see Georgia winning but with the National Championship game against Notre Dame in sight, I expect Alabama to be primed and ready. Georgia is a talented team but for the second year in a row, it is running into a better defensive team from the SEC West.
Defense wins championships, boys and girls.
Alabama 31, Georgia 16