The #2 Alabama Crimson Tide has had a tough week from this past Saturday to now. Their defense faced heavy scrutiny from the fans and media after the Ole Miss game. On Wednesday, it was announced head coach Nick Saban along with athletic director Greg Byrne has been tested positive for COVID-19. This Saturday, the Crimson Tide have their biggest test of the season as they host the #3 Georgia Bulldogs (2-0). Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will step in for Saban and lead the team in pursuit of their first undefeated regular season since 2018. This will be the battle of the titans between the Tide and Bulldogs. The Tide come into this game with the number ranked scoring offense (51) while the Bulldogs have while the fifth-ranked defense in the nation (12.3). Here are the five keys for Alabama against Georgia this Saturday.
Tide Needs To Be Precise But Dominate In The Passing Game
The impact of Mac Jones’ passing game has been tremendous for the Crimson Tide. They are ranked third in the nation in passing yards per game (376). Jones can create a high-power passing offense by reading key matchups and coverage schemes. Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith are two of the best receivers in the nation due to their explosive, playmaking ability. The Bulldogs defense ranks 18th in the nation (first in the SEC) in passing yards allowed per game (171.3). They do not allow huge plays due to their stellar safety coverages. Bulldogs cornerback Tyson Campbell has accounted for three pass breakups as an efficient lockdown corner. Jones does not have to beat the Bulldogs reliable secondary with multiple deep throws. His precision and accuracy in mid-range passing plays can be tough for the Bulldogs to stop once the receivers run after the catch.
Alabama Needs To Assert The Running Game
In the last game against the Ole Miss Rebels, Crimson Tide running back Najee Harris had his biggest game of the season. Harris rushed for 206 yards and five touchdowns on 23 carries. Alabama will face a much more efficient defense against the running game in Georgia. The Bulldogs defense ranks first in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game (38.3). Georgia’s defense has accounted for 16 tackles for loss in just two games. Alabama’s offensive line will need to create a push at the line of scrimmage to create holes for Harris to run through. Harris has been a more effective back on the outside with pulling guards providing the way. Brian Robinson Jr. has been a more productive back for the Tide up the middle with his speed by quickly busting through the line of scrimmage.
Shut Down The Bulldogs Run Game
The Bulldogs have been historically known for having one of the more effective running games. This season, the Bulldogs are ranked 35th in the nation (fourth in the SEC) in rushing yards per game (172). This is with a stout offensive line that has given running back Zamir White enough room to dominate defensive fronts. White has rushed for 209 yards and four touchdowns on 54 carries in just two games this season. Crimson Tide defensive tackle DJ Dale and Phidarian Mathis have been big this season for Alabama by not allowing significant plays through the interior. The Tide are ranked 36th in the nation (ninth in the SEC) in rushing yards allowed per game (150.7). They will need their key run-supporting middle linebackers Dylan Moses and Christian Harris to either read the play quickly or get off blocks swiftly.
Focus On Pre-snap Matchups
The Crimson Tide defense was embarrassed this past Saturday night again by the Rebels defense. They gave up 647 total yards to Ole Miss, the most all-time in program history. The Rebels were beating the Crimson Tide before the play with their very fast tempo offense. This made calling a play from defensive coordinator Pete Golding highly difficult. There were times where receivers or running backs were left without a coverage player right when the play begins. For the Alabama defense to win against a Georgia offense that is efficient in winning matchups, the Tide needs to win those matchups before Georgia does.
Create More Intensity And focus On Defense
One of the biggest lacks of the defense last week was the lack of overall intensity and accountability. The Tide allowed some runners on screens and quick slants to take poor pursuit angles on the fast Rebels. The defenders failed to get off blocks to get for the ballcarrier. Finally, the missed tackles from even the best defenders such as Moses were extremely concerning for the Tide’s defense. The Tide cannot allow a game like that against a Bulldogs offense or they won’t have a chance to win. There needs to be more urgency in the remaining practice days and especially against the Bulldogs on Saturday.