2018 was yet another big football season for the Southeastern Conference. Eight of the 14 members in the conference have been ranked in this week’s College Football Playoff Top 25 Poll, with four teams ranked in the top 10. The SEC has also produced 11 bowl-eligible teams who will represent the conference come bowl season — the most of any conference. New faces led storied programs this season, including head coaches Jimbo Fisher, Dan Mullen, Joe Moorhead, Chad Morris, Jeremy Pruitt and Matt Luke, who all took over their respective programs for the first time this year. All in all, the SEC has proved to be the nation’s top conference once again, and all eyes are focused on this year’s rematch between No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Georgia for the conference title. Here’s a look at the upcoming SEC Championship:
Offense: This matchup pits the top offenses from both the Eastern and Western divisions against one another. Alabama enters as the No. 4 offense in the nation, averaging 538 yards per game. The Tide has maintained a perfect record behind an average margin of victory of 35 points. Alabama’s offensive proficiency is due in part to the outstanding performance of sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa leads the nation’s Heisman discussion with 3,189 passing yards, 36 touchdowns and only two interceptions. Meanwhile, Georgia ranks 13th nationally in total offense and averages 480 yards per game. Sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm leads the Bulldogs with 2,236 passing yards and 24 touchdowns. Fromm’s ability was questioned after Georgia’s loss to LSU, but he responded with big wins over Florida and Kentucky on the way to the division title. Both squads will be evenly matched, so it will come down to consistency and preventing turnovers.
Defense: Both teams feature stout defenses that rank in the top tier of the nation. Alabama ranks sixth in the nation and only allows 282 yards per game to opposing offenses. The Tide’s defense also displayed its true potential in back-to-back shutout performances against LSU and Mississippi State. Meanwhile, Georgia’s defensive unit has dominated nearly everyone it faces. The Bulldogs are ranked 12th nationally in total defense and are first in the Eastern division. Georgia has a younger unit that is capable of making big plays and has held opposing teams to 303 yards per game on average. The Bulldog’s defense could pose a significant problem for Alabama, which showed some slight weakness against a similar defense in Mississippi State. If the Bulldogs can slow the Tide, especially in the air, then this game could swing either way.
Keys to Win: The key for Alabama’s success is the same as it’s been all season — Tua Tagovailoa. The Heisman frontrunner has transformed Alabama’s offense into a dominant air attack and also has the ability to make plays on his feet. If Tagovailoa feels comfortable and finds a rhythm, then Alabama will complete their journey to the College Football Playoff in dominant fashion. On the other hand, the key for Georgia’s success is how well they play defense. When it comes to playing the Crimson Tide, it’s very difficult to match their offensive output. That is why it’s crucial to try and slow their offensive attack and make the game a defensive struggle. Mississippi State successfully slowed Alabama but couldn’t score, and Georgia could very well take advantage of their opportunities.
Prediction: Alabama 38, Georgia 21