During game week the staff at Dawg News Daily previews the matchup between the Bulldogs and their opponent. We focus in on 3 key position matchups or players that we believe will be the difference makers in Saturday's game.
DAWG NEWS DAILY'S 3 & OUT REPORT:
1) UGA Tight Ends / Running backs Vs. Alabama Linebackers:
UGA's Tight ends have been a mismatch nightmare for everyone all season. Freshman Brock Bowers' combination of size and speed has been Quarterback Stetson Bennett's Go-To receiver this season, leading the Bulldogs with 37 catches, 652 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. The "other" Tight end is Darnell Washington who is all of 6'7" and is a HUGE target over the middle. Washington was hampered at the beginning of the season with a foot injury but is averaging over 17 yards per catch. Another factor is James Cook and Kenny McIntosh's ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Georgia can put the Alabama LB’s into conflict a lot on Saturday.
You’ll recall OC Todd Monken picked on Linebacker Henry Too’too with McIntosh in the passing game against Tennessee last year. Expect UGA to take advantage of Linebacker Christian Harris, who is know more for stopping the Run and Too’too early and often this week. Harris has been targeted 46 times this season and given up 36 receptions for 435 YDS and 5 TD’s. Against UF/A&M/ARK he gave up 13 catches on 15 targets for 170 YDS and 2 TD’s. Too’too has been targeted 34 times this year and has given up catches on 27 of those targets. Arkansas hit him for 4 catches on 4 targets for 58 YDs and a TD. UGA has more weapons to take advantage of the Bama ILB’s than anyone they’ve faced all year, and Monken is superb at getting Bowers and his HB’s into those man-to-man matchups.
2) Alabama Offensive Line vs. UGA Front Seven:
Auburn gave a blueprint to disrupting Alabama's offense this past weekend by bringing pressure up the middle. Auburn totaled Seven (7) sacks, Eight (QB Hurries), and (11) Eleven Tackles for Loss. On the season, Alabama has given up 36 sacks, which is 3 sacks per game and ranks 112th out of 130 teams in terms of fewest sacks allowed. Keep in mind, Alabama has arguably the most elusive quarterback in the country and has still given up more sacks than every SEC team except LSU and Tennessee. Alabama has struggled at Right Tackle with
Center and right tackle have been the sore spots for the Alabama Offensive Line. Chris Owens was the returning starter at center from Alabama’s 2020 playoff run, but he started at right tackle for much of this season. He has had his share of struggles and was eventually replaced at both positions. Darrian Dalcourt has started at center for the majority of the year, and has had issues of his own, whether it be blocking or snapping the ball.
Damieon George recently took Owens’ starting spot at right tackle. George didn’t play much better than Owens, but he is still a very young player in his second year in the program. George is a more natural fit at the right tackle position and, therefore, has a much higher ceiling.
However, he continued to make changes during the Iron Bowl. He plugged Owens back in at right tackle and replaced a hobbled Dalcourt with Seth McLaughlin at center.
Look for Georgia's Front Seven to take advantage of these 2 rotating doors on the Bama O-line. As you saw toward the end of the year, Defensive line Coach Tray Scott put DT Trayvon Scott over the center to add the athleticism across the line and use speed to pressure up front. Georgia has overwhelmed offensive lines with the speed of linebackers Channing Tindall, Nakobe Dean, Nolan Smith, and Quay Walker. Combined with the demanded double teams from defensive tackles Jalen Carter, Devontae Wyatt and Jordan Davis the Bulldogs defense is suffocating to offense's looking to have clock-eating long drives.
As good as the Georgia defense is, it has yet to face a passing offense as volatile as Alabama’s. Quite frankly, Georgia’s secondary hasn't faced a tandem like John Metchie and Jameson Williams this season. Other teams (South Carolina & Arkansas) would have 1 strong wideout but not two.
For example on their explosiveness:
Alabama's John Metchie & Jameson Williams: 151 rec on 213 targets, 2,304 yards, 20 TDs
UGA's Top 7 Pass Catchers: 151 rec on 194 targets, 2,237 yards, 26 TDs
Georgia will depend on its pass rush to get to QB Bryce Young and get Alabama behind the chains, or, at the very least, generate enough pressure to throw off the rhythm and timing of the passing game. The offensive line will have an extremely tough task in keeping the Bulldogs at bay, but if they can give Bryce Young ample time to throw, the passing game could be an advantage for the Crimson Tide. That s a Big "IF" to ask of the Bama O-line that has struggled against underwhelming defenses.
3) Stetson Bennett
Here is the chance for Stetson Bennett to quiet all his doubters. All season spectators questioned if Bennett could lead the Bulldogs to an SEC championship. So far, he's passed the test. Not only is this game for the SEC Championship and an automatic birth to the CFB playoffs, but it gives Bennett a chance to makeup for a tough outing against the Crimson Tide last season. Bennett lead the Bulldogs to a 24-20 halftime lead last season, but would throw 2 game-changing interceptions in the 3rd quarter to help Alabama pull away from the Bulldogs 41-24 in Tuscaloosa. Last season, the moment seemed "too big" for Bennett, So far this season Bennett has been cool, calm, and collective behind center but hasn't had to lead a second half comeback or even had a tight game in the second half.
Stetson Bennett's 4th quarter numbers in 2021: 6-10, 83 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
For Comparison, Bryce Young Averages 17 passes in the 4th quarter.
This will be a 2nd half game and Coach Monken will need to put Bennett in "winning" situations to put away the Crimson Tide. If Bennett can make the throws and put the team in the "right" plays, expect a Bulldog win. The question is can he?
DND's Score Prediction:
Georgia is a better team across the board at every position besides one, Quarterback. If Georgia can keep Young contained and lessen the deep shots down field by applying pressure, UGA wins this game by 2 scores. Alabama's defense has struggled with pre-snap motion so expect to see Monken dial up some tight end and slot motions to keep the Bama linebackers guessing. I can't see Alabama scoring over 24 points, the number to get to if you are Georgia is 30, Hit 30 points and you win!
Georgia 31-20 (Line: Georgia -6)
*PLAYER OF THE GAME: James Cook / Brock Bowers
FORMER DAWGS SCORE PREDICTIONS:-
*Former LB Jordan Jenkins: Georgia, 48-21
*Former Georgia HC Mark Richt: Georgia, 24-10
*Former LB Rennie Curran: Georgia, 28-14