The Alabama Crimson Tide tasted sweet redemption Saturday in the 83rd Iron Bowl. Last season, the Auburn Tigers were able to tarnish the Tide’s perfect record with a 26-14 win. This year, Tua Tagovailoa was having none of it. In a performance that many believe sealed his selection for the 2018 Heisman Trophy, Alabama was able to crush the Tigers 52-21.
Tagovailoa dominated the Auburn Tigers on Saturday in a way no one has ever seen before. The Alabama sophomore quarterback picked the Tigers’ defense apart for 60 minutes. He threw 32 times and completed 25 of those attempts for 324 yards and five touchdowns. Tagovailoa also rushed four times for 26 yards and another touchdown. He accounted for all except two of the Tide’s scores, which was Jalen Hurt’s one pass that was completed for a 53-yard touchdown and a 30-yard field goal by Joseph Bulovas.
The win against Auburn was for pride, bragging rights, and one more step to secure the Crimson Tide’s spot in the College Football Playoff (CFP). Next up for Alabama is the team that gave the Tide all they wanted in last year’s National Championship, the Georgia Bulldogs. Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs have been waiting for this moment since January, and they are going to give everything that they have to beat Alabama and make their way into the CFP. It’s time for this week’s Know Your Foe.
Know Your Foe – SEC Championship Edition
As mentioned before, this is a rematch of last year’s National Championship. When these two teams met back in January, fans witnessed one of the best National Championship games ever played. Georgia looked poised to win against the Tide and carried a 13-0 lead into halftime. There was only one thing in the Bulldogs’ way, however, Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa started the second half after a poor showing by Jalen Hurts in the first half. The freshman quarterback took the Tide down the field on their second drive and connected with Ruggs for Alabama’s first points of the game. Tagovailoa seemed to spark more than the offense as the Alabama defense came to life and was able to intercept Jake Fromm when Georgia had the ball deep in Alabama territory.
Late in the fourth quarter, Tagovailoa was able to lead the Tide back and tie the game at 20. Alabama’s former kicker, Andy Pappanastos, missed what would have been the game-winning field goal for the Tide and the game went into overtime. The Alabama defense tightened down again and held the Bulldogs to a field goal. On the first play for the Alabama offense in overtime, Tagovailoa was sacked for a loss of 16 yards. The next play, an Alabama legend was born. On second down with 26 yards to go from the 41-yard line, Tua Tagovailoa found DeVonta Smith down the left sideline for the game-winning touchdown.
Most of the Georgia Bulldog players from that National Championship game returned for the 2018 season and are awaiting the Alabama Crimson Tide in Atlanta, Georgia for some unfinished business. Georgia has won 11 games this season and this past weekend blew out rival school Georgia Tech 45-21. The one blemish on the Bulldogs’ record came at the hands of the LSU Tigers back on October 13th when the Tigers totally dismantle the then No. 2 ranked Bulldogs 36-16.
Since that game, the Bulldogs have been beyond impressive and are currently ranked number five in the CFP rankings. After the #4 Michigan Wolverines’ loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday, the Bulldogs should move up to the #4 position when selections are made on Tuesday.
The Georgia offense is averaging 40 points per game this season which is not far from Alabama’s 49 points per game. The Bulldogs are averaging 260 rushing yards per game and 221 yards through the air this season. Here is a look at the playmakers for the Georgia offense:
Jake Fromm is a 6’2”, 220-pound sophomore. He has completed 161 of his 233 passes for 2,236 yards, 24 touchdowns, and five interceptions.
Justin Fields is a very capable backup for Fromm and has seen playing time in every game except one. He is a 6’3”, 225-pound Freshman. He has completed 27 of his 38 passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns but has not thrown an interception. Fields is also very dangerous out of the pocket and he has rushed 39 times for 260 yards and four touchdowns.
D’Andre Swift is a 5’9”, 215-pound sophomore. He has rushed 139 times for 962 yards and nine touchdowns. Swift is also a receiving threat out of the backfield. With 21 receptions for 204 yards and one touchdown, he ranks fifth on the team in receiving yardage.
Elijah Holyfield is the son on former boxer Evander Holyfield and has been a huge part of the “one-two punch” for the Bulldogs rushing game. He is a 5’11”, 215-pound junior. Holyfield has rushed 133 times for 896 yards and seven touchdowns. He also has four receptions for 36 yards.
Riley Ridley is a 6’2”, 200-pound junior. He has 34 receptions for 450 yards and eight touchdowns.
Mecole Hardman is a 5’11”, 183-pound junior. He has 32 receptions for 519 yards and six touchdowns.
Isaac Nauta is a 6’4”, 240-pound junior tight end. He has 25 receptions for 346 yards and two touchdowns.
Jeremiah Holloman is a 6’2”, 200-pound sophomore. He has 21 receptions for 350 yards and five touchdowns.
The Bulldogs defense has been great this season as well. Opponents have averaged on 17 points per game. They have allowed 128 rushing yards per game and 175 passing yards per game. All very comparable to the Crimson Tide. Here is a look at the playmakers for the Bulldogs’ defense:
Richard LeCounte III is a 5’11”, 190-pound sophomore defensive back. He leads the team with 64 tackles, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.
Monty Rice is a 6’1”, 235-pound sophomore linebacker. He has 59 tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble. Rice did not play against Georgia Tech on Saturday due to a foot injury. It is unsure if he will be available for the SEC Championship against Alabama.
J.R. Reed is a 6’1”, 194-pound Junior Defensive Back. He has 50 tackles and one sack.
Jonathan Ledbetter is a 6’4”, 280-pound senior defensive end. He has 49 tackles, one sack, two forced fumbles, and one interception.
D’Andre Walker is a 6’3”, 245-pound senior linebacker. He has 40 tackles and is the Bulldogs’ sack leader with six and a half sacks. He also has three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Tae Crowder (6’3”, 235-pound junior linebacker) and Deandre Baker (5’11”, 185-pound senior defensive back) both lead the team in interceptions with two each. Crowder has 41 tackles, one forced fumble/fumble recovery and one and a half sacks while Baker has 37 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Wrap Up and Prediction
Bulldogs’ head coach Kirby Smart is well-known by the Crimson Tide family. He served as Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator from 2008 until he took the head coaching job at Georgia in 2016. Smart is one of many of Saban’s assistants that is looking to defeat their mentor, but no one has accomplished that feat as of yet.
The Bulldogs have won the struggling SEC East two years in a row under Smart and look to win their first back-to-back SEC Championship since they were able to win three-straight from 1980 to 1982 under Coach Vince Dooley. This year will be no easy task as they are facing one of the best offenses that college football has ever seen in the Alabama Crimson Tide. This year’s SEC Championship will be one for the ages, but once again the Tide will roll 32-27.
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