By the Numbers: 2012 SEC Championship Game Preview

Alabama CB Dee Milliner celebrates with teammates during a win over rival LSU. (Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE)

Well, this is it. It all comes down to this Saturday. After thirteen exciting weeks of football, the national champion will be decided this weekend in Atlanta between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs.

What? This isn’t the national championship game? … Notre Dame? Are you serious?

Well, apparently neither of these teams are No. 1 because Notre Dame breezed through all those “tough” games against Michigan State (Big 10, 6-6), Michigan (Big 10, 8-4), and USC (Pac 12, 7-5).  Granted, they did beat two tough opponents in Oklahoma and Stanford. Wait a minute. They didn’t beat Stanford. The refs beat Stanford. He crossed the goal line before his forward progress was stopped.  At least Notre Dame will be brought back down to Earth next year when they begin their ACC schedule.  There are a ton of great teams in the ACC.  Wait a minute, will there even be an ACC next year?

[Related: College football bowl projections]

Ok.  So, for [kicks] and giggles, let’s call this a de facto national semifinal game, because the winner will have to go to Miami and take on a tough Notre Dame defense.  Who has the upper hand in the SEC championship game?  The Gamedayr Statistics Department breaks down each team to determine who will win this Saturday in Atlanta.

Quarterback Play

The complete 2012 season stats say Aaron Murray and the Georgia passing game take it easily over the Tide.  Murray has thrown for 700 more yards and five more touchdowns than A.J. McCarron, with 0.5 more yards per attempt.  However, a break down of the individual games tells a different story.

Murray has buckled under the pressure this season, and put up goose eggs in his only two games against top defenses.  At South Carolina, Murray was 11-of-31 for 109 yards and a pick.  At a neutral site against Florida, he completed 12-of-24 for 150 yards, one touchdown, and three picks.  It’s hard to trust a quarterback who puts up those kinds of numbers, and is playing against another great defense in Alabama this week.

[Related: Is Aaron Murray still in the Heisman race?]

McCarron is not asked to do as much in his offense, but what he is asked to do, he does incredibly well.  As long as McCarron keeps the ball away from Bulldogs defenders, he is basically doing his job.  When he limits the turnovers, the run game and defense are usually good enough to win.  He has thrown just two interceptions all season, both of which came against Texas A&M – the only loss for the Tide.

The test will be whether or not McCarron can hold onto the ball against a defense as tough as the Bulldogs.  It’s hard to see either quarterback putting up big numbers or staying mistake free against the two quality defenses in this game.

Advantage: Georgia – Murray has the play calling on his side, while McCarron is limited in that respect.

Running Game

Both teams have two-headed monsters at running back.  Alabama features a big, ground-and-pound back in Eddie Lacy and speedster T.J. Yeldon, while Georgia has two “diaper dandies” in Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.  The Alabama duo has 1,848 yards and 24 touchdowns on the year, while “Gurshall” has 1,858 yards and 22 touchdowns.  Both Georgia rushers performed well all year, despite disappearing in the team’s lone loss to South Carolina, but that is mainly because the team was forced to abandon the run game after falling behind early.  Lacy performed well in most games this year, but Yeldon may in fact be the more important back to the Alabama offense.  In the loss to Texas A&M, Lacy ran 16 times for 92 yards, but Yeldon had 10 rushes for just 29 yards.  Look for Saban to try to get Yeldon some runs early on in this one to get his freshman on a roll.

Advantage: Alabama – Lacy has been the best and most consistent of the four backs.

The Trenches

This game, like most low-scoring, defensive SEC battles, will be won in the trenches.  The big matchup to watch is between the Georgia defensive line and the Alabama offensive line.  Both sides feature NFL talent across the board, so ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, and all of us will have fun watching the big men battle it out inside all afternoon.  The Georgia defense features multiple first round picks: outside linebacker Jarvis Jones is one of the deadliest pass rushers in the nation, inside linebacker Alec Ogeltree finds the ball and gets to it as fast as anyone in the nation, and defensive tackle Jonathan Jenkins clogs up space in the middle of the line and eats up any runs between the tackles.  And if Alabama ever does manage to get the ball past the line of scrimmage, the Bulldogs have one of the best safeties in the country in Baccari Rambo waiting for them.  Would you want to run into a guy named Rambo?

On the other side, the Alabama offensive line may just be the best in the country.  Center Barrett Jones is a finalist for the Outland award, given to the best interior lineman in the country, and he will have his hands full with Jenkins all day.  Lined up next to Jones will be Chance Warmack, who is a probable top 10 pick in next year’s NFL draft.  Look for Mark Richt to dial up some blitzes so that his best rushers cannot be double-teamed.  On the other side, expect Saban to keep backs and tight ends in to help out in pass protection.

I expect the Alabama running game to force the Bulldogs pass rush to slow their roll, and they will not be as effective as they have been against weaker offenses.  Alabama coach Nick Saban does a great job of scheming to take away his opponent’s strength, and he will not let this Georgia defensive line dominate the game.

Advantage: Alabama

Defensive Backfield

If you thought both teams had playmakers on the line, just wait until you see what the secondaries can do.  Alabama seemingly grows linebackers on trees year after year, but after most of 2011’s linebacking corps left for the NFL, their strength this year may lie in their cornerbacks.  The Tide boasts the best shut down corner in all of college football, according to most scouts, in Dee Milliner.  He will match up against Georgia receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who managed 74 yards and a touchdown against the suffocating Florida defense.

Alabama is third in the nation in pass defense, allowing just 156.7 pass yards per game, while Georgia is ninth, allowing 174.4 pass yards per game.  Alabama has allowed just six touchdowns through the air, and forced 16 interceptions.  Georgia has allowed ten touchdowns, and forced 10 interceptions.  The Crimson Tide clearly have the better secondary, and they should dominate the game defensively.

Advantage: Alabama


On offense, Alabama has the advantage in the ground game, while Georgia has the advantage through the air.  Alabama also takes the cake in the front four, mainly because of their unbelievable coaching.  Saban uses his six days between games better than any coach in the nation, while Richt has repeatedly been outcoached in the big games.  Expect Alabama to dominate the time of possession, and limit Georgia’s big play potential.

Final: Alabama 27, Georgia 23

What’s your prediction? Let us know below!

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  • Carlton Miller

    What kind of tea are you drinking?

  • Jeremy Taco Patterson

    I expect this to go the way of Bama vs LSU. UGA strikes early, Bama matches them score-for-score and defensive stop-for-defensive stop until the 4th quarter.

    IF (HUGE IF) Bama’s offense has managed to give the defense some rest through the game, expect a Gassed UGA squad to fall apart VERY, allowing McCarron, Cooper, Lacy and Norwood to throw together a stellar 2-minute drive for the go-ahead score late. Bama wins, 24-21

  • Trevuh

    Georgia takes the lead in the first half 21-10 and Alabama fights back but still gets a loss 28-24

  • Jimmy

    Don’t have a clue – depends on which teams show up, who does not drop passes and who doesn’t fumble . . .

  • Bama sports nut

    Georgia’s offensive line is young and have not seen anything like the Alabama defensive line. Georgia also has play makers on defense. I expect to see a heavy dose of the Alabama run game, eventually wearing down Georgia’s defense. Bama wins 27-20! RTR!

  • Rock

    Bama doesn’t turn the ball over much. Bama 31-UGA 17