There are still eight games remaining on each team’s schedule, but Alabama and Georgia’s Week 5 matchup will dictate the rest of the SEC regular season.
If the Crimson Tide lose, it’s highly unlikely they will find themselves in Atlanta the first week of December. If the Bulldogs go down at home, they will have missed a crucial chance to impress the College Football Playoff committee.
This is by far the biggest game left on UGA’s schedule — and perhaps the last ranked opponent they play the rest of the way.
Here’s what else you need to know about Saturday’s biggest game:
No. 13 Alabama Crimson Tide (3-1) at No. 8 Georgia Bulldogs (4-0)
Kickoff: Sat., Oct. 3, 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
Weather: 63 degrees, 100 percent chance of rain (Weather.com)
Line: Georgia -2
By the numbers
72 – The number of games that have passed since Alabama was last an underdog. The incredible streak (which began after the 2009 SEC Championship Game against Florida) came to an end this week. Georgia is a two-point favorite in several Vegas books.
10.6 – Georgia’s yards per pass attempt, tied for fourth-best in the country. Alabama has struggled mightily in its passing game, posting just 6.3 yards per pass attempt, 108th in the NCAA. UGA has thrown 75 fewer passes than Alabama this year, but has totaled only 96 fewer yards through the air.
3 – Years since these teams last squared off. Georgia was just yards away from claiming its first SEC championship in seven years when a Tide lineman deflected Aaron Murray’s pass into the arms of UGA receiver Chris Conley. The sophomore fell short of the goal line, time expired and ‘Bama escaped, 32-28.
Storylines to watch
How will rain affect the game?
This has developed into the biggest late-week talking point. We offered a recent weather update (not looking good) and discussed how inclement weather might affect both teams’ gameplans. Essentially: Be ready to watch plenty of Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb. The muddier the field gets, the more those two will touch the football.
How will Alabama quarterback Jake Coker handle his first road start?
The senior started against Wisconsin in Arlington, Texas, to open the season, but this will be his first time in a hostile environment. Look for the Crimson Tide to take baby steps with their passing approach, especially if there’s a heavy downpour. Alabama would do well to lean on the running game. It has two excellent backs — Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake — plus 5-star freshman Bo Scarbrough, who just finished serving a four-game suspension.
Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt squares off against former recruits
Earlier this week, a reporter asked Pruitt — Alabama’s secondary coach from 2010-2012 — if he regretted recruiting Derrick Henry. His answer: “I regret recruiting a lot of them.” That was a joke, but game planning against several of the 4-and-5-star athletes he signed up at ‘Bama could not have been a fun task. He even recruited Jake Coker while at Florida State. “Jake can make all the throws,” Pruitt said. “All the throws.”
Georgia quarterback Greyson Lambert faces first real test
The senior has gotten off to a fast start in Athens. He set the NCAA record for single-game completion percentage (24-of-25, 96.0 percent) in a 52-20 win over South Carolina two weeks ago. But coach Mark Richt noted earlier this week that Lambert has not faced much in-game adversity. “He hasn’t even thrown an interception yet,” Richt said, “so there will be some things that will come up that he’ll have to deal with and react to.”
Prediction: Alabama 27, Georgia 21
The Crimson Tide have struggled against fast-paced offenses this year, but the Bulldogs like to pound their way through defenses on the ground with Heisman candidate Nick Chubb. Alabama has proved time and again that it can handle that style of ‘O,’ with the most recent example being a season-opening win over Wisconsin.
Plenty of attention will be placed on ‘Bama quarterback Jake Coker, but it’s Dawgs signal-caller Greyson Lambert who will come undone in Athens. UGA will get the crowd going with an early 7-0 lead before fading in the second half.