No. 2 Alabama (11-1) VS. No. 3 Georgia (11-1)
Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon needs 44 rushing yards to tie the school freshman season record. (AP photo by David Goldman)
When: 3 p.m., today
Line: Alabama by 7.5
1. Stakes: The winner will go to the BCS National Championship Game and play No. 1 Notre Dame. There are more games on the schedule and another round of polls and computer rankings, but even a lightning strike of those computers won’t change that. Both Alabama and Georgia have a history with Notre Dame. Alabama lost to Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl on Dec. 31, 1973, to lose The Associated Press national title. Seven years later, Georgia beat Notre Dame in the same bowl to clinch its last national crown.
2. Efficient quarterbacks: Georgia’s Aaron Murray ranks first nationally in passing efficiency with a 177.15 rating, while Alabama’s AJ McCarron sits at No. 2, not far behind at 176.26. For comparison, when Florida’s Tim Tebow led the nation in that statistic in 2009, his rating was 164.17. If McCarron has an edge, however, it’s in interceptions. Murray has throw 29 in 39 career starts, including seven this year, while McCarron has seven in 25 starts, with only two this season.
3. Keep up with Jones: Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones ranks fourth in the nation with 10.5 quarterback sacks, although Alabama coach Nick Saban said it’s just as important how often he affects the quarterback. He has 30 quarterback pressures. Although that’s a statistic that rarely is scored the same from school to school and game to game, consider that Alabama’s leader is defensive end Damion Square with eight. Alabama faced the nation’s leader in sacks, Western Kentucky defensive lineman Quanterus Smith, who got three of his season total of 13 against the Tide.
4. Stopping the run: These two teams have the two top running back combos in the SEC. Georgia’s Todd Gurley (1,138 rushing yards) and Keith Marshall (720) have only 10 more yards combined than Alabama’s Eddie Lacy (1,001) and T.J. Yeldon (847). The Crimson Tide has an advantage, however: Alabama is ranked No. 2 nationally in stopping the run, while Georgia is 67th.
Alabama center Barrett Jones vs. Georgia noseguard John Jenkins: This matchup probably won’t decide the game, but it might be the most interesting and intriguing. Jones at 6-foot-5 and 302 pounds, while Jenkins is 6-3 and 351 pounds. If nothing else, they’ll throw a lot of weight around. But they also are two of the best at their positions. Jenkins hasn’t faced a center as good, smart and sound as Jones. Meanwhile, Jones hasn’t faced a noseguard as active and productive as Jenkins. If the rest of the action didn’t promise to be so exciting, it would be fun to keep the cameras trained on these two guys going at it.
Player of the week
AJ McCarron, QB, Jr., 6-4, 210: McCarron hammered away at a reeling Auburn squad last week by completing 15 of 21 passes for 216 yards and four touchdowns. It marked the fourth time in two years he has thrown four scoring passes in a game, which is his career high. Most importantly, he quarterbacked seven series, and Alabama scored a touchdown on all of them in a 49-0 win.
By the numbers
2: Today marks the second time these two teams have met while both are ranked in the top three. In 1942, No. 2 Georgia beat No. 3 Alabama in Athens 21-10. The Bulldogs went on to win the Rose Bowl.
6: If you don’t like Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson, this hasn’t been a good season for you. Today is the sixth time they’ll broadcast an Alabama game this season for CBS.
44: Yeldon needs that many yards to match Terry Grant‘s school freshman rushing record, which was set in 2007.
70: Successful kicks out of 70 tries by Alabama’s Jeremy Shelley, including 60 extra points and 10 field goals. To be fair, he doesn’t attempt field goals of more than 45 yards, which are left to Cade Foster, who has made 4 of 8.
This game has the makings of one of the best SEC Championship Games, matching up with Alabama’s 28-21 win over Florida in 1992, Florida’s 24-23 win over Alabama in 1994 and Tennessee’s 30-29 win over Auburn in 1997. Both teams are good and play similar physical styles with balanced offenses. They’re playing for a spot in the national title game, just just the conference crown. This should prove a terrific showcase for SEC football. Alabama 24, Georgia 23
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