ATLANTA—Welcome to the Georgia Dome for the national semifinal matchup between Georgia and Alabama, otherwise known as the Southeastern Conference championship game.
One of those teams will be styling in South Beach. The other will be playing in a non-BCS bowl.
Georgia and Alabama haven’t met since the 2008 season in Athens when a Bulldogs team that featured Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno and was preseason No. 1 trailed at halftime 31-0 and lost 41-30.
Georgia’s schedule—no LSU or Alabama again in the regular season for the second straight year—and a 1-1 record against ranked teams (35-7 loss to No. 6 South Carolina and 17-9 win against No. 3 Florida) has some questioning how good the Bulldogs really are.
“For us to take out a team like Alabama, I think it will be a big statement to the world,” Georgia senior cornerback Sanders Commings said. “I think we would get respect in the college football world.”
Alabama is playing in its first SEC title game since 2009, but won the BCS title last year without winning the SEC West.
“I don’t know if it will be an advantage over Alabama, but I think it’s good to have guys that have experienced this before and know a little bit about what it is about and it’s more about getting excited and coming out of the gate fast,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “It’s going to take more than that. So hopefully that will help us.”
Everybody expected Georgia to be in this spot after going 6-7 just two years ago, right?
“I’m thankful that our administration believed in us and gave us an opportunity to make sure that we could get back in it and could continue to fight,” Richt said. “There were some things that we feet like we had to change and we do that, every year, whether you’re winning or losing, you’re always evaluating what you do on a year‑to‑year basis and try to decide what is the best course of action in the future. But most of the principles that we use to get back in it were the ones we’ve been using all along and we just didn’t lose faith. We didn’t panic. We stayed the course and it worked out for us.”
Some pregame tidbits:
–Herschel Walker, Hines Ward (remember all that talk this spring that he was a future Georgia assistant coach) and Bill Goldberg will be on the Georgia sideline today, according to Chuck Dunlap of the SEC. Julio Jones and Mark Ingram will be with the Tide.
–A stat I heard Todd Grantham mention this week that I checked on:Georgia’s yard per rush given up in SEC games is 3.3. Let’s see how that holds againstAlabama’s experienced offensive line and Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.
–Jordan Jenkins, who has four sacks, will have a chance to go up againstAlabamaleft tackle Cyrus Kouandijo. He got a chance to watch the 6-foot-6, 311-pound sophomore at anAlabamapractice when he was being recruited by the Crimson Tide,
“I remember watching him when I came up for a couple of visits watching Xzavier Dickson go against him,” Jenkins said. “My junior year I said `OK, Yeah, he’s going to be legit.” He’s going to set some records and do some big things there. He’s a tall kind of length guy. He’s not as heavy. He’s really athletic for his size. He can move and he’s long as crap too.”
–Christian Robinson on the Alabama 0-line and running game: “You don’t see a lot of missed assignments. You see hat on a hat. If you get a hat on a hat, that means the running back finds the hole and is able to get to that second level a lot faster than some other teams we’ve maybe played in the past. Both of those backs are able to hit it up and spin, and turn for those extra yards that a lot of other backs that we’ve faced to this point haven’t been able to do. So you’ve got to gang tackle.”
–Aaron Murray seems to be the player most are saying needs to perform well today for Georgia to win after his big-game struggles.
“He knows it’s a big game, and we all know it’s a big game,” Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “I want Aaron Murray to be himself and cut it loose. I want him to play aggressive. I want him to play like I know he can play and like we all know he can play. There are going to be mistakes that happen in this game, because these defenses are going to make plays. We might have to punt several times, but we have to stay confident and keep playing.”
–No surprises on the travel roster. Injured receivers Marlon Brown and Michael Bennett are here. Bennett was on the field in his No. 82 jersey. Some players redshirting didn’t make the trip such as receiver Blake Tibbs and offensive lineman Greg Pyke.
-More updates leading up to kickoff.
–Please follow me at Twitter.com/marcweiszer