The regular season comes to a head this weekend in Atlanta when Eastern Division Champion Georgia takes on Western Division Champion Alabama for the SEC crown. In the past few years, this game has been a gateway to the BCS Championship game and usually the championship itself (except when a certain team backdoored their way into the game).
For Georgia, and specifically Mark Richt, it is a chance to finally silence all doubters. Since arriving in Athens, Richt has averaged 9.8 wins per year in his 12 seasons, won or tied for the Eastern division six times, and outright won the league twice. However, before last season Richt was on the hot seat following an 8-5 and 6-7 seasons. Richt got the heat off by going on to win the SEC East in 2011, but
was blown out by LSU in the championship game 42-10. Now, for the first time, Richt is playing for a spot in the national championship game. Just by beating Alabama he would get a huge monkey off of his, and the program’s, back.
For Georgia to have a shot at beating Alabama it will all be on quarterback Aaron Murray. Murray is currently the number one quarterback in the nation in passing efficiency, and he is currently passing for 66.56% with 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
While those are spectacular numbers, Murray has not played against many elite defenses. Georgia opponents averaged around 50th in pass defense. However, when Georgia played the elite passing defenses on their schedule, Vandy at 10, South Carolina at 18, and Florida at 16, Murray averaged 55% passing, with just three touchdowns and four interceptions. That has been the theme with Murray; he struggles with good to elite defenses.
For Alabama, it is business as usual. They have been in this spot before. They won the SEC in 2009, and many of the current players were on that team and have won a BCS Championship. To Alabama, they are supposed to be in this position to win the SEC and win the national title. Anything else is abject failure.
Alabama comes in sporting the number three pass defense in the country; however, the Crimson Tide have been susceptible to the pass, most notably against LSU and Texas A&M. Between the two teams the Tide gave up 73% pass completions, 276 ypg, and three touchdowns through the air. The opportunity will be there for Georgia, but the question is whether or not Murray can take advantage.
For Alabama to win, they need to stick with what brought them to the dance: the defense. The Tide are number one in total and scoring defense, second in rushing defense, and third in pass defense. The Alabama defense has dominated every team they have faced this year, with only LSU and Texas A&M challenging them. Those two teams were also the best two teams Alabama faced all year. Georgia is definitely of the same caliber of those two and with their balanced offense, they could put pressure on the Tide defense.
These teams are evenly matched across the board. Both will try to take away the run of the other and put the game in the hands of their respective quarterback. Murray’s struggle with good defenses is documented, but Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron has struggled with the best defenses he has faced this year. Outside of a miraculous drive at LSU, McCarron was anemic against the Tigers and threw his only interceptions on the year against the Aggies.
The opposing defense will give each quarterback fits, and the game will be tight. In such a close game, AJ McCarron should have the edge with his experience in clutch situations, but this game will define Aaron Murray’s legacy, and he knows it. Murray will finally make the plays needed in a big game.
The Georgia Bulldogs will win the 2012 SEC Championship on the arm of Aaron Murray, making plays just when the Bulldogs need him. 20-17 will be your score in what should be a very good football game.
What do you think of our prediction? Who do you like: Georgia or Alabama? Let us know in the comments!