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For the past month we’ve all wondered if a rematch between Alabama and Georgia would happen, after the first meeting in the SEC Championship. Well, after both teams took care of business in the semifinals on Friday, the thought has become reality.
It went sideways for the Bulldogs in the first meeting, with Alabama finding multiple ways to cause the Bulldogs problems, on both sides of the ball. Going back to that first game, it was clear neither team was looking to establish a rushing attack, which was the main catalyst for Georgia going undefeated in the regular season. But in that game, the Bulldogs rushed only 18 times, putting it on Stetson Bennett to lead them to victory. Kirby Smart even mentioned after the first meeting that they decided to focus more on passing, knowing the rushing options would be limited.
But, now that we are headed toward another showdown between the two in Indianapolis, the mindset of both coaches could possibly change. We know Georgia has the running backs to carry the load, but it’s also up to the offensive line to open gaps, something they struggled to do in Atlanta. For guys like James Cook and Zamir White, it’s obvious that Georgia was working to get the ball into their hands against Michigan, any way possible. Stetson Bennett had the opportunity to use Cook out of the backfield, which caused a bad matchup with a linebacker that resulted in a touchdown. But even against Michigan, the Bulldogs didn’t feel like they needed to run the ball more than 20 times to find success.
It will be interesting to see how this type of strategy unfolds in the title game, especially if both Georgia can find success through the air against a beat up Alabama secondary. For the Bulldogs to gain traction on Alabama, they’ll have to get past players like Will Anderson, who was dominating on Friday afternoon against Cincinnati. Will the same type of offensive scheme work twice in two weeks? If Georgia is hell bent on passing the football more than they run it, it could look a lot like what we saw on Friday night, but maybe not with as much success.
The main takeaway from Georgia’s dominating win over Michigan was how much better they looked passing the football, especially given how much time the offensive line gave Stetson Bennett. Multiple times against a daunting Wolverines front seven, Bennett had time to find his receivers over the middle or on the boundaries, something we saw during the regular season. It was almost too easy for Bennett, with the Michigan defense not recording a sack and only notching two quarterback hurries.
Friday night proved if you give Bennett enough time in the pocket, he’ll pick you apart in space. His performance also proved he hasn’t let the noise get to his head since the loss to Alabama, and there was a lot of noise, especially with folks clamoring for JT Daniels. But as we heard all week long, this coaching staff has all the confidence in the world in Bennett, who proved them right again on Friday.
Now comes the challenge of putting together a game plan for the second game against an Alabama team that found ways to make the Bulldogs uncomfortable the first time. How can Dan Lanning dial up enough pressure on Bryce Young to force him into mistakes? Against Cincinnati, there were times where Young felt the pressure and forced a few throws into coverage that should’ve been picked off, besides his one interception. Can the Bulldogs take advantage of their skilled linebackers and defensive line to cause these same type of throws? These are questions that will be answered soon enough, but for the time being, Kirby Smart will be scouring game film in hopes of finding a few new wrinkles in the Alabama offense.
We’re going to hear most of the same conversations that were brought up before the first meeting, like Kirby Smart finally winning the big one or going up against his former boss in a big time matchup. But the main talking points should center around how this Georgia team responded to its first loss of the season by coming out three weeks later and shredding the Wolverines.
Most folks won’t care for a rematch between these two, but we’re getting the best two teams in college football one more time. The Bulldogs were hoping for one more shot against the Tide and now they’ve earned it.
Let’s see how this one plays out in Indianapolis.