By Michael Hicks
The marquee matchup this weekend will be in Athens, Georgia Saturday night when the third ranked Georgia Bulldogs host the eighth ranked Crimson Tide. Both teams come in undefeated with SEC and national title championships aspirations on the line.
Alabama is coming into the game on the rise after an impressive 49-14 routing of Arkansas; Georgia went coast-to-coast and beat the defending Pac 10 co-champion Arizona State Sun Devils 27-10.
This game will feature two of the nations best run defenses with Georgia third allowing 45.8 yards per game and Alabama eighth with 55.0.
Georgiaâ€™s young offensive line will have its hands full with this 3-4 Alabama defense. Nick Saban likes to use a lot of blitzes to confuse the quarterback and offensive line. Alabamaâ€™s defensive line is anchored by 6â€™5 360 pound Terrance Cody. Freshman center Ben Jones will be asked to block Cody a task that has been impossible so far this season.
Cody and the rest of the defense will be asked to slow down a Georgia offense led by quarterback Matthew Stafford and Heisman candidate Knowshon Moreno. Moreno leads the SEC with 455 yards rushing and is third in the nation with nine touchdowns. The pressure will be on Georgiaâ€™s inexperience offensive line to give him enough room to run.
The game will feature the top two freshmen at wide receiver in A.J. Green for Georgia and Julio Jones at Alabama. Green is averaging 18.8 yards per catch and had eight catches for 159 yards and a touchdown last week. Jones is Alabamaâ€™s leading receiver with 11 catches for 132 yards. Jones will face one of the best corners in Georgia’s preseason All-SEC defensive back Asher Allen.
It will be key for Alabama to establish the running game. Glen Coffee and freshman Mark Ingram have been a perfect duo at running back so far this season. Coffee had a career game against Arkansas rushing for 162 yards and two scores, setting a school record averaging 16.2 yards a carry. So far this season he is sixth in the country averaging 8.6 yards per carry.
This season John Parker Wilson has not been asked to do to much with the running game having so much success but going up against a tough Georgia defense he may have to stretch the field to give the backs some running room. He will get excellent protection playing behind an offensive line that averages 307 pounds and is one of the best in the SEC if not in the nation.
Look for Bama to get some free yardsâ€”Georgia is the nations most penalized team with 43 penalties for 356 yards so far this season.
If the game is close a big play on special teams by Alabamaâ€™s return specialist Javier Arenas could decide the game.
The crowd will be a huge factor as the Georgia seniors have called for another â€œBlackoutâ€ at Sanford Stadium Saturday night. This will be only the third time that Georgia has donned the black uniforms, having worn them twice last season against Auburn and Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl.