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November 18, 2011
The Call: Georgia Southern
It's hard to handicap this one. Georgia Southern has one of the best option offenses in the nation, but plays at a level below Division I. The Eagles have an excellent pass-run trigger man in Jaybo Shaw, but they don't have a Trent Richardson in the backfield. Alabama's offensive line may still be ailing with Barrett Jones' status not settled by late in the week, so UA may not be 100 percent up front. This would be a good time to remember Michael Williams and the tight ends in the passing game.
Georgia Southern has been holding opponents to 18 points per game, but that's in the Football Championship Subdivision. The Eagles have created 19 turnovers and allow just 3.6 yards per carry, but, again, the competition hasn't exactly been SEC-ready. Alabama's defense gave up its first touchdown in 14 quarters last wekend, and will be looking to get a new streak started this week. Mark Barron will be important in pass and run support this week against a tricky option offense.
Advantage: Georgia Southern
The Eagles are superior in every special teams category. Adrian Mora is 12-for-12 on field goals with a long of 49 yards, and is perfect on 48 extra-point attempts. Punter Charlie Edwards has a 42.2-yard average. Return men Laron Scott and Darreion Robinson are both game-breakers. And if that's not enough, Georgia Southern blocked two extra points a couple of weeks ago in a 14-12 win over The Citadel. Alabama's woes on field goals are well noted, but Marquis Maze can make a difference as a returner.
Georgia Southern has six national championships at its level in 30 years of football, and second-year head coach Jeff Monken was part of that tradition as an assistant before becoming head coach. He's an up-and-comer in coaching circles to keep on eye on, for sure. Nick Saban, on the other hand, is an old hand who has proven his merit at the championship level. Saban knows how to hire good assistants, and Jeremy Pruitt is proving himself as the hands-on coach of the defensive secondary.
Advantage: Georgia Southern
Alot of fans are looking ahead to next weekend's showdown with Auburn, and there may be even more interested in the outcome of the LSU-Arkansas and Oklahoma-Oklahoma State games in college football's stretch run. Georgia State has an offense that isn't easy to prepare for, especially on a one-week turnaround, and may not have Alabama's full attention. It wasn't that long ago that Appalachian State upset Michigan, and Alabama doesn't want to be that team.
Prediction: Alabama 38, Georgia Southern 6
All the national pundits will know about this game is the final score, so a Crimson Tide team that may need style points in the national championship hunt can't afford to let this one be too close. Georgia Southern is a fine program, but depth will tell in the second half.