Alabama's ferocious front to challenge Georgia's ground game

Georgia running back Nick Chubb (27) tries to break free from South Carolina linebacker Skai Moore (10) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in Athens, Ga.
photo Alabama defensive linemen D.J. Pettway (57) and Jarran Reed (90) helped limit Louisiana-Monroe to 9 rushing yards this past Saturday.

SEC players of the week

OFFENSE: LSU running back Leonard Fournette, who rushed for a career-high 244 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries in the win at Syracuse. DEFENSE: Mississippi State junior inside linebacker Richie Brown, who racked up 13 tackles and collected two sacks in the 17-9 victory at Auburn. SPECIAL TEAMS: Texas A&M freshman receiver Christian Kirk, who had 77 yards on kickoff returns and 255 all-purpose yards against Arkansas. FRESHMAN: Florida receiver Antonio Callaway, who had five catches for 112 yards, including the deciding 64-yard touchdown with 1:26 remaining. OFFENSIVE LINEMAN: Ole Miss left tackle Fahn Cooper, who made his third consecutive start at the position usually held by touted Laremy Tunsil. DEFENSIVE LINEMAN: Kentucky's Cory "C.J." Johnson, who had a career-high 11 tackles as the surprising Wildcats defeated No. 25 Missouri 21-13.

photo Georgia head coach Mark Richt looks on from the sidelines during in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Southern on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, in Athens, Ga.

Rocket science is not required for determining the most intriguing aspect to Saturday's college football showdown between No. 8 Georgia and No. 13 Alabama inside Sanford Stadium.

The Bulldogs average 257.8 rushing yards a game and 6.87 yards per carry. The Crimson Tide allow 56.8 rushing yards per game and 2.0 yards per carry.

"It all starts up front, and they've got some big, strong guys," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "Their defense, as a whole, is a very veteran group. All their down linemen are returning starters, and they do a good job of freeing up the linebackers. They're just very stout, strong people."

Adding to the angle of the irresistible force vs. the immovable object is the fact Georgia super sophomore tailback Nick Chubb has 12 consecutive 100-yard rushing games and needs one more to tie the 13 straight Herschel Walker had during the 1980-81 seasons. Chubb rushed for 131 yards on 15 carries in last Saturday's 48-6 defeat of Southern, including six rushes for 100 yards in the third quarter.

Alabama has allowed just 10 100-yard rushers in its 112 games under coach Nick Saban.

"I have an excellent line that does a great job of blocking," Chubb said. "We struggle more against teams you wouldn't expect us to, but I'm sure we'll come out ready this week."

Georgia's offensive front of left tackle John Theus, left guard Isaiah Wynn, center Brandon Kublanow, right guard Greg Pyke and right tackle Kolton Houston is experienced, with Wynn the only new starter this season. That quintet, however, will be going up against an Alabama defensive front that is headed by the veteran trio of Jonathan Allen, Jarran Reed and A'Shawn Robinson and can employ eight or nine players.

"It is a big deal to have that kind of depth and to keep guys fresh, and it's good for morale, too," Richt said of the Tide. "When guys know they're going to play, they tend to practice harder, and they don't lose interest. When you have a bunch of guys rotating versus an offensive line that will pretty much stay intact for us, over the course of a ballgame it could make a difference."

In Alabama's 34-0 skunking of Louisiana-Monroe this past Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Crimson Tide held the Warhawks to 9 rushing yards on 31 carries. That's an average of 0.3 yard per rush.

Eight defensive linemen tallied stats for the Tide, with Reed racking up five tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack. Da'Shawn Hand and Dalvin Tomlinson also had five tackles, with Hand getting 1.5 for lost yardage, while Robinson, Allen, D.J. Pettway, Darren Lake and Daron Payne proved disruptive as well.

"I think our front guys did a really good job," Saban said after the game. "We rushed with four and played a lot of split-safety coverages, which really helped us, because they couldn't run the ball. The front allowed us to play the way we needed to play against a team like this who had us all spread out."

Georgia isn't about spreading out its opponents, but the Bulldogs can give different looks and have increased the tempo since defeating the same ULM team 51-14 in their opener. They are expected to challenge the Tide's talented defense with the same five up front, who hope to produce different results from what Alabama has experienced to this point.

The Bulldogs already have 14 rushing touchdowns. Alabama has allowed two.

"Alabama always has a strong front seven and always plays hard," Theus said. "I think we're used to playing all the snaps, and I think all offensive linemen are for the most part. It's kind of weird for us to have a rotation, honestly, but any time you've got the depth that they do, it's definitely something good for them.

"It means they've got a lot of guys who can play, and if they can do that, then that's awesome."

Odds and ends

Georgia's game next week at Tennessee will be televised by CBS at 3:30. Chubb and Theus will be offensive captains for Georgia this week, with linebacker Leonard Floyd representing the defense and returner Sony Michel the special teams.

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.