Elliott from the Bama Sports Report and I are exchanging scouting reports on Alabama and Georgia for this weekend. Specifically, we wanted to put ourselves in the shoes of Mark Richt and Nick Saban and figure out the best ways to attack our opponents. So, without further fanfare, I'm putting on the perma-scowl because I don't have time for this shit: here's how to beat Georgia:
1. Deploy crazy stunts from the defensive front seven. This is the biggest advantage for Alabama in this game. Bama runs a 3-4 defense, which is relatively unusual in college football, and it's masterminded by a coach who knows how to stop Mark Richt's offense. (See: LSU 17 Georgia 10 and LSU 34 Georgia 13 in 2003.) Georgia has an inexperienced offensive line that has been shuffled around on account of injuries. If I'm Nick Saban, I'm throwing every crazy stunt, twist, and elaborate blitz is my arsenal at the Georgia offensive line in an effort to win the battle up front. If Alabama has early success at confusing Georgia's blocking assignments, then they'll force Richt and Mike Bobo to leave extra blockers in for pass plays. They'll also create the chance to force turnovers, which the Tide are going to need because their offense isn't going to have great success.
2. Press Georgia's receivers, especially A.J. Green. A.J. Green is the best receiver of the Mark Richt era, but he's also a stick-thin freshman. His technique at getting off of a bump can't be that good. Arizona State gave Green a big cushion and he killed them. Saban can't make that mistake. He needs his corners to be physical with Green and then leave a safety over top.
3. Force Georgia to drive the length of the field. Georgia is not very good in the red zone, which has been the weakness of the Georgia offense under Mark Richt. (Again, recall the red zone issues that Georgia had in the 2003 game against Saban's LSU team in Baton Rouge.) The Dawgs are missing Brannan Southerland, so they aren't as good in short yardage as they were last year. Finally, the Dawgs have been penalty-prone this year, so if Bama forces Georgia to be patient, they're likely to get a situation where Georgia will commit a penalty and find itself in long yardage. If you put 2 and 3 together, you get the idea that Bama's approach should be to be conservative with its safeties and force Knowshon Moreno to beat the Tide instead of Matthew Stafford. That sounds weird because Moreno is the most hyped player on the Georgia team, but Saban should prefer a bunch of five-yard carries to giving Stafford chances to hit big plays down the field.
4. Jump on Georgia early. In a weird way, this game reminds me of the 2004 Georgia-Tennessee game. If the players are anything like the fans, Georgia spent the offseason anticipating its trip to play Arizona State in the desert in prime time. That's not quite the same as playing the defending national champions from Baton Rouge, but it's in the same ballpark. After demolishing LSU in 2004, Georgia came out flat against Tennessee and spotted the Vols a big early lead. Georgia dominated the second half, but came up short. Tennessee used some funky combo routes on its first drive to push the Georgia safeties out of position and give Erik Ainge open targets deep. If Alabama has some similar plays in its arsenal, they need to go to them on the first drive. This is not a game in which Saban wants to be feeling Georgia out in the first quarter. Getting the lead and taking advantage of a potential let-down situation are critical.
5. Pray for a Julio Jones-Prince Miller Match-up. Asher Allen is an outstanding corner, but there is a drop off from Allen to Miller and Georgia's remaining corners. John Parker Wilson is not a very good quarterback (the biggest mismatch in this game is the gap between the two quarterbacks), but he can complete the occasional deep ball. JPW needs to get instructions that any time he sees Jones on a corner other than Allen and there's no obvious safety over top, the ball is going to Jones deep. I might also put Jones in the slot on occasion to get him away from Allen.
Elliott's scouting report on the Tide is here. I'm quite partial to the idea of Willie Martinez forcing John Parker Wilson to win the game.