ATHENS, Ga. --- After a decisive 42-10 win against in-state rival Georgia Tech, the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs shift focus to the SEC Championship game and the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide.
“We had the big rival game last weekend against Georgia Tech,” said head coach Mark Richt. “I think our guys really did a super job of preparing for them. I thought our defense did a really good job. Offensively, we were ready to go. I thought all of our phases of the game really played a good game.”
Alabama also faced its in-state rival, Auburn, this past Saturday and clinched the SEC West with a 49-0 victory.
While the Bulldogs have not faced Alabama this year, they have faced a No. 2 ranked team.
“We’ve already played the No. 2 team in the country once this year and had a good day against Florida,” Richt said. “We’ll be well prepared, and they will too.”
There are a lot of similarities between the Georgia and Alabama teams, which Richt pointed out.
“I think there are some similarities,” said Richt. “We both run a pro style attack offensively, run a 3-4 defense and have quarterbacks that have been highly efficient and played in some big games over their careers.”
Richt expanded on the similarities between Aaron Murray and AJ McCarron.
“I think they’re No. 1 and No. 2 in the country in pass efficiency,” continued Richt. “I think they’ve both had great seasons to this point and are tremendous leaders for their programs. No quarterback has success without his teammates, so the game will certainly come down to a lot of things, but the quarterback play is very crucial. Guys can get in the middle of the game and make some great plays, but guys can get in the middle of the game, try to do too much and put their team in a bad situation. It’s going to be a matter of making good decisions and managing the situations as they go. I think everyone’s going to have to be a little patient in this game because there are going to be two really fine defenses playing. Everybody’s not just going to have a ball offensively; they’re going to have to work hard to earn everything they get.”
In facing Alabama’s talented defense, Richt knows that every possession will count.
“Every single drive is going to be crucial,” said Richt. “Every series is going to be very, very important. It’s a game where we feel like we’re going to have to be very patient offensively and that we’re playing a defense that’s the best in the country. We’ve got to be patient and look for opportunities to make plays.”
Richt is also looking for Georgia’s defense, including nose guards John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers, to affect Alabama’s offense.
“When you’re running a 3-4, it is key to have a big man inside that will force you to have to use more than one blocker on him in the run game,” said Richt. “If he stays in there for the passing game, his job is to push the pocket back into the face of the quarterback so that when he steps up into the pocket, he has no where to go. Jenkins has done a very good job of that, and Geathers has done well there as well. They are two big nose guards that can eat up a lot of space and force double teams. I’m pleased with what those guys are doing.”
In the end, Richt is looking at the overall performance of his team as the key to success.
“I think we’ve been playing pretty solid football on both sides of the ball,” said Richt. “I think our special teams have been solid. That’s what you’ve got to do; you’ve got to play a good, solid game. You’ve got to be able to run the ball good enough to make your play action pass worth it. You’ve got to gain enough yards on first and second downs so you’re not sitting there with third-and-long situations all day long. Defensively, you’ve got to be able to get after people, and in the red zone, force field goals instead of allowing touchdowns. I think we’re doing a lot of the things you need to do to be able to compete in a game like this. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens Saturday.”
The SEC Championship game will be played on Saturday, Dec. 1 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Kickoff is set for 4:00 p.m. The Bulldogs have played in the SEC Championship game four times and have a record of 2-2. Georgia last played for the championship in 2011, when it lost to LSU.
The Bulldogs have not faced the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship game. The last time the two teams met was in 2008 in Athens when Alabama won 41-30. While Alabama owns a 36-25-4 record in the series, the last five games have an even 5-5 record.