published Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Alabama, Georgia largely mirror images

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron will lead the Crimson Tide offense against a Georgia defense that includes several NFL prospects in the SEC championship game Saturday.
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron will lead the Crimson Tide offense against a Georgia defense that includes several NFL prospects in the SEC championship game Saturday.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Three tidbits regarding No. 2 Alabama entering Saturday's SEC championship against No. 3 Georgia:

1. Alabama's fifth-year seniors have experienced 59 victories, breaking the SEC record of 58 set by Florida's fifth-year seniors in 2009.

2. Senior safety Robert Lester has 14 career interceptions, the most of any Crimson Tide player since Antonio Langham set the school standard at 19 from 1990 to '93.

3. AJ McCarron's 92-percent win clip as starting quarterback (23-2) is second in school history behind the 93.4-percent rate Jay Barker (35-2-1) achieved from 1991 to '94.

Efficient quarterbacks. Tailback tandems. Injured receivers. A slew of defensive talent excelling in a 3-4 scheme.

This week's Southeastern Conference championship between No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia pits two teams that will enter the Georgia Dome as mirror images.

"There are a lot of similarities, but they have the type of football they play and we have ours," Alabama junior linebacker C.J. Mosley said Monday. "On Saturday, they are going to clash, and it will come down to who executes and eliminates the most mistakes in the game."

Parallels are abundant with the 11-1 teams that each went 7-1 in SEC play and 1-1 against teams in the top 10 of the BCS standings.

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and Alabama counterpart AJ McCarron rank 1-2 nationally in pass efficiency. Murray has thrown for more yards and touchdowns, while McCarron has a higher completion rate and fewer interceptions.

The tailbacks have performed to a virtual draw as well, with Georgia's Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall combining for 1,858 yards, just 10 more than the Crimson Tide duo of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.

"I think philosophically that there are a lot of similarities in how they try to win with balance, taking care of the ball and playing with a lot of physical toughness on both sides of the ball," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "There are not a whole lot of tricks and gimmicks with us or them in terms of trying to win with execution, and I think players like that. I think if you look at it from that standpoint, there are a lot of similarities.

"That's just philosophically what we believe in, and I think they must believe in the same things."

Georgia coach Mark Richt admits there is a likeness in the pro-style offensive attacks and the 3-4 defensive systems, but he said there is a desired intangible Alabama has that his Bulldogs lack.

"One thing they've done is that they've been national champions, and we have not," Richt said. "They've been SEC champions and we have not during the time frame of these kids' careers. That's the biggest difference I see right now."

More minor differences would be on the offensive line, where Alabama has more experience, and on defense, where Georgia has the experience edge but Alabama has been more productive.

Center Barrett Jones, left guard Chance Warmack and right tackle D.J. Fluker give Alabama three senior starters up front, while Georgia doesn't have any. The Bulldogs may have the most overachieving offensive line in the SEC as evidenced by their production, but the Crimson Tide have been viewed all season as being the best.

"They're a great group of guys who prepare hard and practice hard and play even harder," Lacy said. "They give us the holes that we need, and they also hold up in pass protection."

Defensively, Alabama is tops nationally in fewest points and fewest yards allowed. Yet Georgia could have eight or nine defensive players drafted in April should junior nose tackle Kwame Geathers and junior linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree elect to leave early.

Each team has a kickoff return for a touchdown this season, and neitherkicks a lot of field goals.

"These teams are very similar," Georgia senior linebacker Christian Robinson said. "They have great skill position players and a great quarterback who makes it all happen. They have multiple running backs who pound the ball and wear you down, like we have as well.

"When I look at them, I see a lot of comparisons to our offense, which gives us hope that we can prepare like we should for Saturday."

Odds and ends

Alabama and Georgia began preparations Monday, with the Crimson Tide working out for 90 minutes and Georgia for 60. ... Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was named Monday as one of five finalists for the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation's top assistant. ... The Bulldogs are up to 30 commitments after receiving a pledge from Gulf Coast (Miss.) Community College defensive back Kennar Johnson.

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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