Alabama Crimson Tide run defense must come up big against Georgia Bulldogs to avoid 0-2 SEC start.
(C+P) — There are chinks in the Alabama armor, especially after a 43-37 loss to No. 3 Ole Miss two weeks ago. Is it possible that a Nick Saban-coached Crimson Tide team could start the SEC season at 0-2? Of course it is, even though the last time it happened was 1990.
Alabama’s chief concern is at quarterback where senior Jake Coker has been anything but spectacular. He completed just 46.7 percent of his passes and threw two interceptions in the loss to Ole Miss. He followed up that performance with one where he had trouble against a mediocre defense in Louisiana-Monroe. Coker was 17-of-31 for just 158 yards against the Warhawks though he did throw three touchdown passes. For the season, Coker is completing 55.3 percent of his passes, which pales in comparison to the efficiency of last year’s quarterback Blake Sims (64.5).
Still, the Crimson Tide is built for a run at the SEC West Division title with a powerful running game led by junior Derrick Henry and senior Kenyan Drake. The 6-3, 240-pound Henry is averaging 6.3 yards per carry and has scored eight touchdowns in four games. Drake adds depth to the position and is averaging 5.8 yards every time he touches the ball. The Georgia front seven, a very good unit, will have its hands full trying to stop the Alabama running game.
Speaking of defense, Saban and the Tide, of course, are well-known for their brand of defensive football. On the other side, the Alabama offense should take note of the Bulldogs defense. Georgia has performed well defensively and actually ranks right with the Crimson Tide in most statistical categories. While the Bulldogs haven’t done much to pressure quarterbacks in wins over Southern and South Carolina, the pass rush must get to Coker. If Georgia can limit the Alabama running game, Saban will have to turn to Coker to make some plays. So far, the senior QB has yet to show that he can and this week he will have to do it against a Georgia defense that has yet to allow an opposing quarterback to complete at least half of his pass attempts.
The focus of this SEC matchup might be on the defenses, but anyone who overlooks Georgia quarterback Greyson Lambert and running back Nick Chubb will surely pay. Lambert, a junior, is putting together a season to remember. He is completing 76.5 percent of his passes (52-of-68), has thrown for 733 yards, has seven touchdowns, and has yet to throw an interception. He established an NCAA record in the Bulldogs win over South Carolina when he completed 96 percent of his passes (24-of-25).
Lambert is surely on the minds of Saban and the Tide defensive staff, but it is the running of Chubb that is most likely the primary focus of the game plan. Alabama’s Henry is impressive, but Chubb trumps him. The Georgia sophomore has 599 yards rushing and six TDs thus far this season. He is averaging a whopping 8.4 yards per carry and is the engine that makes the Bulldogs offense go. Like Henry, Chubb also has an adequate backup in fellow sophomore Sony Michel (32 attempts, 223 yards, four TDs) who averages nearly 7 yards a carry.
If the Bulldogs are able to run the football with success, it will allow Lambert to excel in the passing game. If that happens, it is highly likely that the Crimson Tide could begin the SEC season at 0-2.