Georgia football: three advantages the Bulldogs have on Alabama

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Head coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs walks out of the tunnel with his players during warm ups prior to the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship presented by AT
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Head coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs walks out of the tunnel with his players during warm ups prior to the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship presented by AT /

Georgia football meets Alabama in Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the second time this calendar year this weekend. This time, with the SEC Championship on the line.

Georgia football enters the SEC Championship Game with Alabama as 10-point underdogs. Which would be the closest game the Tide will have played all year. However, the Dawgs are not without hope for Saturday’s game. There are three areas where Georgia may have a considerable advantage.

Field goals

Special teams have been a mixed bag for Alabama all year. They have two return touchdowns and both their kickoff and punt returners have solid averages. But their own kicking game has issues. Place kicker Joseph Bulovas has converted 12 of his 16 field goals this year. He doesn’t lack any leg strength, but his accuracy is sometimes off. He has one miss from under 30 yards and three misses from under 40 yards. He’s also missed five of his 68 extra point attempts.

His understudy Austin Jones isn’t much better. He kicked two field goals earlier this year and only made one of them. The kick he missed was just a 27-yarder. He’s also had problems kicking extra points, missing three of his 11 attempts.

Rodrigo Blankenship looks like an All-American in comparison. Hot Rod is perfect on 58 extra point attempts, and he’s only missed three of his 22 field goal tries. All of the misses, besides the blocked field goal at Missouri, were from beyond 40 yards. If the game comes down to field goals, Georgia is in luck, because Blankenship is much more reliable than either Bulovas or Jones.

Kirby Smart and rematches

If there’s one thing Kirby Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs have excelled at in his three years, it’s revenge games. Even though Smart says he doesn’t think about the revenge and neither does his team, they clearly have a knack for being more prepared for such games.

"“It’s not really about that for us,” Smart said. “The media will make it that way and everybody will make it about revenge. It’s not about that for us. It’s an SEC East championship team going against an SEC West championship team, playing in Atlanta for the SEC Championship. That’s what it is, obviously for a chance to continue on for somebody. Our team understands that. We’ve been on a do-or-die, playoff run since every game we’ve been playing. What’s the difference?"

All four possible rematches against teams Georgia lost to in 2016 were countered by blowouts in 2017. They answered the hail mary loss to Tennessee with a 43-0 win last year. The Vandy loss led to a 45-14 win. And the embarrassing defeats to rivals Florida and Georgia Tech were emphatically countered with victories of 42-7 and 38-7.

Then of course last year, after being ran over at Auburn 40-17, returned the favor in the SEC Championship to win 28-7. In five “revenge” games, Georgia is allowing an average of just seven points. That average will more than likely not hold after Saturday. But as long as the Georgia defense has a similar performance, the team will be good shape.

Georgia’s offense versus Alabama’s defense

Alabama has a great defense, don’t get me wrong. But they’re not fantastic by their standards. In some games, their run defense has been shoddy. Excluding the Citadel game because of their flexbone offense, Arkansas State, Texas A&M, Louisiana Lafayette and Arkansas each rushed for at least 4.6 yards per carry.

The Tide defense did dominate Missouri, LSU, Mississippi State and Tennessee’s rushing offenses however. So, how Georgia’s offensive line plays will likely be the fulcrum for how close the Dawgs are able to keep the game. If they have a typical performance and all their tailbacks run free against the Tide, Georgia has a good chance of pulling off an upset. If not, they’ll have to find other ways to keep the game close.

Fortunately, there is another way. Alabama has struggled at times playing the run, but their stats against the pass are troubling. Louisville, Arkansas State, Texas A&M, Arkansas and Tennessee all eclipsed 200 passing yards with a total of nine touchdowns. Even Missouri kept their game with Alabama close at halftime thanks to their passing game.

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Alabama is yet to see a passing attack as good as Georgia’s. Jake Fromm may not be the best quarterback in the SEC, but he’s up there and he’s throwing to the most dynamic receiving corps in the conference. There isn’t a receiving archetype that isn’t represented on this team.