Orange Bowl

Game of the Week: Championship Week

 
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The SEC championship could come down to the play of second year starter AJ McCarron.
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(not rated)

Ryan Trapp | Staff Writer
www.orangebowl.org

Game of the Week Preview: Alabama vs. Georgia

Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs are making their second straight appearance in the SEC Championship game, with hopes to avenge last year’s 42-10 loss to the LSU Tigers and earn the right to play for their first national championship in over 30 years. Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide are on a quest to win their second straight BCS National Championship (and third in four years). Standing in between these two teams and BCS glory is the SEC Championship Game, which we’ll take a closer look at in this week’s Orange Bowl Game of the Week.    

Typically known as a defensive juggernaut, Georgia’s relied on their high-powered offense to navigate through the turbulent SEC waters to the conference title game. At the helm is their prolific quarterback Aaron Murray. This season, Murray became the first quarterback in conference history to throw for more than 3,000 yards in three consecutive seasons, and he’s currently tied with former Tennessee-great Peyton Manning for second on the SEC touchdown list with 89. The junior leads the nation in passer rating (177.1), yards per attempt (10.0) and his 30 touchdown passes rank 10th in the country.  However, he’ll go against the nation’s top big-play defense in the Crimson Tide. Alabama has allowed only 89 plays of 10 or more yards this season, nine fewer than the closest FBS team.  The Bulldogs defense has been a different animal since scraping by Kentucky in a lethargic 29-24 win. Safety Shawn Williams impassioned speech lit a fire in Georgia’s belly, and have allowed just 10.6 points per game while forcing 15 turnovers in the five weeks since. Linebacker Jarvis Jones and safety Bacarri Rambo have been at the forefront of the defense’s resurgence, combining for 64 tackles, six sacks and three interceptions over that span.

Since their perfect season was derailed by Texas A&M three weeks ago, the Crimson Tide have gotten back on track thanks to a pair of 49-0 beat downs over Western Carolina and Auburn, where they allowed just 326 combined yards. For the second straight year, Alabama finished the regular season with the top-ranked scoring defense (9.3 points per game), and also sports the country’s top overall defense this season (233.7 yards per game). On offense, the running back tandem of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon make for one of the deadliest and most talented backfields in the country. They’ve combined for 1,847 yards and 24 touchdowns on the season, with Lacy tallying 230 yards and five scores in the past two contests alone. Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, fresh off a 249-yard, four-touchdown performance over the Tigers, is hoping to become the first starting quarterback to lead his team to two BCS titles. McCarron’s 176.3 passer rating ranks second in the nation, trailing only Murray in that category. He and the rest of Alabama’s offensive weapons have the luxury of playing behind one of the top offensive lines in college football, anchored by likely first round picks Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack.

It’s the first time these two schools have met since 2008, when running back Glen Coffee led the Crimson Tide past the Bulldogs and number one overall pick Matthew Stafford, 41-30. This weekend will also mark the first time the two have met in a conference championship game, giving Nick Saban and Mark Richt the opportunity to make history in a storied rivalry that features the likes of Bear Bryant and Vince Dooley.

 

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