SEC Championship Game: Tale of the tape

Who has the edge in the SEC title game? Breaking down Alabama and Georgia, position-by-position.

It’s ultimately a national semifinal, but Alabama and Georgia are insisting they’re focused on the SEC Championship Game.


The second-ranked Crimson Tide (11-1) and third-ranked Bulldogs (11-1) will meet for the conference title at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, but in all reality, the game is for the right to meet Notre Dame in the BCS Championship Game.


These programs haven’t met since 2008, so let’s see how they match up with each other:


Quarterback


Alabama: AJ McCarron is No. 2 in the country in passing efficiency, behind Georgia's Aaron Murray, but McCarron makes fewer mistakes. He’s thrown only two interceptions – both against Texas A&M – in the last 15 games and completes a higher percentage of his passes (67.2 percent to 66.6), but isn’t asked to do as much as Murray.


Georgia: Murray has been remarkable since halftime of the Florida game, with 14 touchdowns and no interceptions. He excused himself from media interviews this week to focus on studies and his preparation. Now is the time to shake off the label that he’s not a big-game QB.


Advantage: Even


Running backs


Alabama: Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon are one of the best combos in the country, and Alabama relies on them to move the offense. They have combined for 1,848 yards and 24 TDs, impressive numbers that compare favorably with predecessors Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson.


Georgia: Two freshmen have given the Bulldogs a strong ground presence to help Murray. Todd Gurley has 1,138 yards and 14 TDs and Keith Marshall has 720 and eight scores, earning the nickname “Gurshall,” in reference to Herschel Walker. Outstanding nickname for an outstanding pair.


Advantage: Alabama


Receivers


Alabama: Deep threat Kenny Bell is out after breaking his leg last week, the third Alabama receiver to be lost for the season. But none of them are named Amari Cooper, a freshman who has become the Tide’s top pass catcher. Georgia must make sure he doesn’t get loose.


Georgia: Like Alabama, injuries have claimed Marlon Brown and Michael Bennett, but Murray has options in Malcolm Mitchell, Tavarres King, Rantavious Wooten and Chris Conley.


Advantage: Georgia


Offensive line


Alabama: Alabama has three potential All-Americans in right tackle D.J. Fluker, center Barrett Jones and left guard Chance Warmack, so it’s tough for any team in the country to match up with the Tide's line. It’s crucial for Georgia to find ways to get to McCarron and slow the backs.


Georgia: Only two of Georgia’s linemen – center David Andrews and right tackle John Theus – have started all 12 games at the same position with the other three moving around two games because of injury. The line has improved immensely from a disastrous showing at South Carolina.


Advantage: Alabama


Defensive line


Alabama: The Crimson Tide are second in the nation against the run (allowing 77 yards a game), and it all starts up front. Nose guard Jesse Williams clogs up the middle, allowing the linebackers to roam and make tackles.


Georgia: John Jenkins serves that role for Georgia’s 3-4 defense. He’s amazingly active for a 358-pound nose guard and has 44 tackles. Georgia sometimes puts 355-pound Kwame Geathers at a defensive end position, which tilts the earth on its axis.


Advantage: Even


Linebackers


Alabama: C.J. Mosley has 92 tackles, 40 more than any other Alabama player, so he’s in most of the action, even blitzing from his inside LB position. Most of the pressure comes from Adrian Hubbard, who leads the team with five sacks.


Georgia: Jarvis Jones is one of the nation’s top LBs with 10½ sacks and Alec Ogletree covers more ground than grass, leading the Bulldogs with 87 tackles despite playing eight games. Both are projected as first-round picks, whenever they go pro.


Advantage: Georgia


Defensive backs


Alabama: They have been exploited by LSU’s Zach Mettenberger and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, but Alabama is still third in the FBS against the pass (156.7 yards a game). Murray is one of the best QBs they’ll see this season, and he loves to go deep.


Georgia: Position-by-position, Georgia is more talented, especially at safety, where Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams form one of the best combos in the country. The Bulldogs are ninth in the country against the pass.


Advantage: Georgia


Special teams


Alabama: Jeremy Shelley has been perfection (10-for-10 on field goal attempts and 60-for-60 on PATs). Christion Jones and Cyrus Jones are outstanding kickoff returners and punter Cody Mandell is a weapon with his 44.1-yard average.


Georgia: It has been kick-and-miss for the Bulldogs with K Marshall Morgan and P Collin Barber. Morgan has a 52-yard FG, but has missed four PATs, and Barber is 11th in the SEC in punting. The return game has been lackluster other than Gurley’s kickoff return for a TD in the season opener.


Advantage: Alabama


Coaching


Alabama: Nick Saban knows all about the SEC Championship Game. His teams are 3-1 in them and he’s won three BCS national titles. Saban is considered the best big-game coach in the country. Think Saban has the Crimson Tide focused? They have outscored two opponents 98-0 since their loss to Texas A&M.


Georgia: Mark Richt has brought the Bulldogs back to the title game for the second straight year. He’s 2-2 in this game, but Georgia barely tested LSU last year. A victory would put Richt in position to add a national championship to his impressive resume.


Advantage: Alabama