Two SEC powerhouses with College Football Playoff aspirations go head-to-head when the No.-13 Alabama Crimson Tide visit the undefeated No. 8 Georgia Bulldogs Saturday afternoon at Sanford Stadium.
Though the two programs haven’t met since 2012’s SEC title game, a victory for the Bulldogs would provide a significant boost to their title hopes. Mark Richt's squad was ranked as high as No. 6 in 2014, but a heartbreaking road loss to South Carolina derailed a promising season. With No. 25 Florida as the lone ranked team on the schedule, Georgia may be in position to cruise to the 2015 SEC title game with a win over Alabama.
The Tide, who are coming off a win over Louisiana-Monroe, are still in need of a boost with some tough games looming ahead. After enduring a 43-27 meltdown to Ole Miss, Nick Saban's squad tumbled 10 spots in the national rankings and have dates against No. 14 Texas A&M, No. 9 LSU, No. 21 Mississippi State and Auburn.
The close loss to Ole Miss may still be lingering for the Tide. Despite quarterback Jake Coker’s late efforts in the fourth quarter against the Rebels, Alabama was plagued by five turnovers and gave up 341 passing yards at 9.7 yards per attempt. The loss also highlighted glaring weaknesses on both sides of the ball -- ones they must and can cleanup against Georgia. The Tide’s pass rush was practically non-existent in the first three games of the season, tallying only 5.0 sacks, and the secondary forced only two interceptions.
However, there have been plenty of bright spots for Alabama. Running back Derrick Henry has been impressive the entire season, with eight touchdowns and 422 yards. Tight end O.J. Howard is on pace for a big season, with 13 receptions for 183 yards. Making up for the loss of Blake Sims and Amari Cooper, the Crimson Tide offense may be poised to hit their stride after some uneven performances.
On the flip side, the Bulldogs have ripped off four straight wins and held steady in the top 10. After walking past Louisiana-Monroe, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and Southern, Georgia finally test their talent against an elite program.
Heisman Trophy candidate Nick Chubb, and the country’s No. 13 ranked defense, have been a big reason for the early success. The defense is led by linebackers Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins, who combined for 10 tackles for a loss and five sacks. The unit has allowed opponents to convert just five of their trips to the red zone into a touchdown, the ninth-best mark in the country.
Georgia’s offense has also hummed through its first four games. Notching his 12th consecutive game with more than 100 yards, Chubb unloaded 131 more yards and two touchdowns against Southern and is now fifth in the nation with 599 rushing yards.
Junior quarterback Greyson Lambert and senior receiver Malcolm Mitchell have formed a lethal alliance, with Lambert connecting on 76.5 percent of his attempts and missing just two throws in the last two games. Mitchell is tied for the team lead with three receiving scores, and he’s found his groove with 218 of his 306 yards coming in the last two games.
How Chubb, Lambert, and Mitchell perform against a sturdy Alabama defense may shape the course of the season.
Betting Line: Georgia -2
Over/Under: 52.5 points
Prediction: Alabama over Georgia, 27-24