Tide readies for Bulldogs
TUSCALOOSA | The University of Alabama will play in its eighth Southeastern Conference Championship Game Saturday, but for the first time, the Crimson Tide will be facing an opponent other than Florida. SEC East champion Georgia will give Alabama fans something other than orange and blue to look at across the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
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But in some ways, it will be like looking at a mirror.
Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham once coached under Nick Saban at Michigan State, and employs a 3-4 defense similar to the one Saban's staff uses.
"There are some similarities in the system and scheme they use, relative to what we use. He's done a really good job," Saban said of Grantham. "He has his own ideas and methods in how he does it. His players play extremely well, and that always has something to do with the coach and the system and how it's taught. If you're going to rank assistants, he's one of the two or three best I've ever had on our staff."
A strong nose guard who can command a double team is where the 3-4 defense begins, and the Bulldogs will present UA center Barrett Jones with a stiff challenge in nose guard John Jenkins. At 358 pounds, Jenkins has anchored the UGA defensive line against the run. He's made 44 tackles, had 11 against Georgia Tech's option offense Saturday, and has added 12 quarterback hurries.
"He's hard to block. Anytime you play an odd defense, a 3-4 defense, if you can't block the nose guard it makes it hard to run a lot of plays," Saban said. "He reminds me a lot of (Terrence) Cody when we had him here. He's really a hard guy to block."
Georgia and Alabama have identical records as well (11-1). The latest BCS standings, released last night, ranked unbeaten Notre Dame (12-0) at No. 1, followed by Alabama at No. 2 and Georgia at No. 3. The Alabama-Georgia winner is expected to face the Irish in the BCS title game in Miami.
Offensively, not unlike Alabama, the Bulldogs have a balanced offense.
Freshman running back Todd Gurley made Georgia fans quickly forget dismissed running back Isaiah Crowell with 1,138 rushing yards, with a 6.5-yard average and 14 touchdowns. Quarterback Aaron Murray has had a dynamic season with 3,201 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and only seven interceptions while completing 66.6 percent of his passes.
"Their freshman running backs, both of them - Todd's obviously played the most - but those guys are really good players," Saban said. "They've got a good offensive line that creates a tremendous amount of balance, with a good quarterback who is able to complete a high percentage of his passes with a lot of rhythm type throws that certainly complement their running game."
Black still redshirting?
Saban indicated that the UA coaching staff may reconsider whether to redshirt freshman receiver Chris Black in light of the season-ending injury to receiver Kenny Bell sustained against Auburn. Black missed the regular season while recovering from a shoulder injury, but has practiced on a non-contact basis in recent weeks.
"Chris Black is a guy that's been cleared medically to maybe come back and play," Saban said. "He has been practicing for two or three weeks. We may have to revisit whether we decide to redshirt him or go ahead and let him play."
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Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com or at 205 722 0196.