No. 1 Georgia aims to knock No. 3 Alabama out of contention
To Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker, his team’s plan for the Southeastern Conference championship game against Alabama on Saturday is simple.
“I just think we have to continue doing what we have been doing all season and everything will go as planned,” he said of the contest at Atlanta. “That being said, we just have to keep rushing the passer and it will all fall in place.”
It has all fallen in place this year for the 12-0 Bulldogs, who look to maintain their No. 1 ranking heading into an almost certain trip to the College Football Playoff semifinals. Barring a lopsided loss, Georgia’s spot in the CFP appears to be a cinch.
Unlike most of the last decade-plus, the No. 3 Crimson Tide (11-1) look like they’re in a win-or-else situation. By recent Alabama standards, this is not a great team, although most other programs would gladly take 11-1 and a top-3 ranking.
There have been a few close calls, though, particularly in last week’s epic Iron Bowl against archrival Auburn. The Crimson Tide didn’t score until the middle of the fourth quarter and needed a 97-yard touchdown drive in the last two minutes just to force overtime, then survived four extra periods to beat the Tigers 24-22.
Given that escape, as well as narrow wins in November over LSU and Arkansas, Alabama is a touchdown underdog against the Bulldogs. It marks the first time in 92 games, dating back to Oct. 3, 2015, that the Tide hasn’t been favored to win.
Alabama hopes this game turns out as well as that occasion. It won 38-10 — at Georgia.
“It’s not often that Alabama is on the other side of that, but, hey, we have to control what we can control,” Crimson Tide left tackle Evan Neal said. “We’re approaching this game like any other game. We’re approaching this game with intentions to win.
“Obviously, Georgia is a great team, one of the best defenses we’ve seen all year. We’ve just got to prepare. Take it one day at a time so that on Saturday, we can go out there and execute.”
If the Tide are to do that, protecting quarterback Bryce Young is a top priority. Young absorbed seven sacks at Auburn, the fourth game this year in which he was sacked at least four times. Young has been sacked 33 times in 2021 and probably has avoided at least that many with his adroit movement in the pocket.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have had no close calls aside from a season-opening 10-3 win over Clemson in Charlotte. All of their other wins have been by at least 17 points, thanks to a defense that has yielded only 83 points.
While the magnitude of this game is clearly different from any other Georgia has played to this point, linebacker Quay Walker said coach Kirby Smart’s message to his team is to take care of business.
“Keeping the main thing the main thing,” Walker said. “Focus on what’s ahead of us and everything else is going to play out how it’s supposed to play.”
Alabama leads the all-time series 41-25-4, beating the Bulldogs 41-24 on Oct. 17, 2020, in Tuscaloosa in the latest meeting.
–Field Level Media