What does Alabama have to do to beat Georgia? One blueprint is out there. Score 45 points and then, with the ball and the lead in your hands in the back half of the fourth quarter, actually put the ball in your hands of your Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and let him win or lose the game for you.
Wait, sorry. That was a different game. That blueprint doesn’t apply to Alabama.
Here’s something Alabama can do, and it’s the same thing that Georgia will need to do to beat Alabama: Do what Auburn did.
And what did Auburn do to the Dawgs? They loaded up against the run and made Jake Fromm beat them. The same duo that ran through Oklahoma like water through a tissue was wholly ineffective in Georgia’s only loss of the season, combining to rush 20 times for 48 yards. That ineffectiveness but the game in Fromm’s hands, and Auburn feasted on him. He was sacked four times and threw 28 passes, completing 13 for 184 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.
In fact, Fromm has thrown the ball 28 or 29 times three times this season, and they happen to be Georgia’s three most competitive games of the year — a 1-point win at Notre Dame in Fromm’s first start, the Auburn loss and the double-overtime escape against Oklahoma. That doesn’t necessarily mean Fromm was bad in those games, it just means that every play Fromm drops back to pass is a play Chubb or Michel aren’t charging toward the line of scrimmage.
Alabama will be without Dylan Moses and Anfernee Jennings, but if any team can survive the loss of those two, it’s Alabama.
On the flip side, Alabama’s offensive game plan is the opposite of its defensive plan: Run the ball and stay out of 3rd and long. Hurts has thrown all of 13 passes on 3rd down with between 7 and 9 yards to go — including five games where he didn’t throw a single such pass — completing five. On 3rd and medium (between four and six yards), Hurts is 15-of-27 for 210 yards, good for an efficiency rating that ranks 84th nationally.
Not surprisingly, Auburn’s offensive line won the line of scrimmage in its 40-17 win over Georgia back in November. The Tigers ran the ball 46 times and threw it 25. Jarrett Stidham threw 23 of those passes and was highly effective, averaging 9.3 yards per attempt with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
It’s a simple game plan, yes, but that’s the point. This is a throwback game, a first-to-20-wins type of slug fest. And if Alabama is going to win on the scoreboard, it’ll first have to win at the line of scrimmage.