Way back when, I posted some predictions for 2012 and they looked something like this:
From the East, I predicted the Dawgs:
1) Georgia Bulldogs [11-1 (7-1)] – Schedules mean something in the SEC and Georgia’s is very favorable. They’ll lose their showdown with South Carolina, but every other game goes in the win column. Their run game will be suspect again with the loss of Isaiah Crowell, but Ken Malcome and Keith Marshall will be enough the loss. Junior quarterback Aaron Murray is also one of the league’s best and the Dawg defense is nasty and will likely be the best unit in the league.
And from the West, the Tide:
1) Alabama Crimson Tide [11-1 (7-1)] – Don’t hold it against me, but I’m guessing a Tide loss to Arkansas. My real logic is this: I don’t think the Tide goes undefeated this year, but I don’t think they’ll lose to LSU. Make sense? Speaking of LSU, last year I predicted a Tide loss at home to the Tigers mainly because Bama would be sporting a first-year guy at QB. If that reasoning worked last year, it should this year as well. We should know a ton about this year’s team after the first three weeks.
Well, whaddya know? The predictions came true – although the details were somewhat suspect, and now #2 Bama and #3 Georgia are set to square off Saturday in the SEC Championship Game.
Do I have any grand predictions or detailed analysis that you won’t find anywhere else? Not really. Life is moving too fast right now to sit down and type like a 20 year old. I will add three thoughts to the mix, though, about how this game turns:
1) Third-Down Conversions: Can the Tide get off the field against a quite potent Georgia offense? To me, that’s the number one question of this ballgame. It’s not just a matter of how we play on third down, it’s also how we play on the other two. If we’re giving up three or four yards on first down – meaning we’re not stopping the run – and if Georgia consistently faces third-and-threes and third-and-fours, we won’t make it to Miami. Tide defenses under Saban have been known for this: stop the run and wreak havoc on third and long. In our two biggest games this year – LSU and Texas A&M – we had trouble on first and second down and third downs became a nightmare. If the Dawgs convert at similar rates as LSU and A&M – 50.00% and 61.11%, respectively, we won’t win.
2) Turnovers: Against LSU and A&M, our turnover margin was -5. Against the other 10 teams? +19. It should go without saying – though I’m saying it anyway – that in a game of this magnitude, turnovers are critical. The reason for stating the obvious, is that against our two toughest opponents, we gave up the ball easily and couldn’t take it away. I key takeaway against the Aggies or Tigers would’ve gotten our defense off the field the same as a third down stop.
3) Mental Edge: It’s been a long season – 12 games in 13 weeks, plus the off season, and now all the marbles are still on the table. Despite the loss each team endured, all of their goals are still within reach. Everything surrounding this game, including all of the so-called keys to the game, can be wrapped up into who is better prepared mentally for Saturday’s challenge. Is Georgia feeding off of disrespect and the chance to redeem themselves for last year’s beat down at the hands of LSU? Is Bama still feeding off of the challenge to defend their 2011 national championship? Right now, I’m having a hard time deciding which way this will ultimately go.