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Alabama photo by Kent Gidley / Alabama senior receiver DeVonta Smith had 13 catches for 164 yards and a touchdown during Saturday night's 63-48 win at Ole Miss.

There were pleasantries aplenty tossed back and forth Monday afternoon between Alabama football coach Nick Saban and Georgia counterpart Kirby Smart when it came to the Crimson Tide offense and the Bulldogs defense.

The reasons are obvious.

Entering Saturday night's showdown between the No. 2 Crimson Tide and the No. 3 Bulldogs inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, Alabama is averaging a robust 560.3 yards and 51.0 points per game. Georgia, meanwhile, is yielding 236.7 yards and 12.3 points a contest.

"They are probably the best defensive team in the country all the way around when you talk about stopping the run, having a good pass defense and getting off the field on third down," Saban said. "They've been very efficient and effective in every part of the game. They have good players who can rush the passer.

"They're a really good defensive team."

Georgia has yet to allow a second-half touchdown this season, while Alabama is coming off a 63-48 win at Ole Miss in which the Crimson Tide tallied six second-half touchdowns. The Crimson Tide currently boast two of the top five Heisman Trophy candidates with redshirt junior quarterback Mac Jones and senior running back Najee Harris, but Smart said defending issues start on the perimeter.

The receiver trio of senior DeVonta Smith, junior Jaylen Waddle and sophomore John Metchie combined on 23 catches for a whopping 359 yards in Oxford.

"Their offense is based on really hard guys to cover outside," Smart said. "They've got one of the best backs in the country with Najee, who runs the ball really hard, and they are massive up front. They are not built like some of these teams that go tempo and go hurry-up the whole time. They can go up-tempo and they do tempo well, but they are really big and can take shots down the field with the explosive wideouts they have.

"They make you defend the entire field."

Smart remembers Alabama senior tackle Alex Leatherwood from the national championship game of the 2017 season, when the Crimson Tide rallied from a 13-0 halftime deficit for a 26-23 overtime win. Georgia junior nose tackle Jordan Davis was introduced to the talent-filled matchup at the 2018 Southeastern Conference championship game, when Alabama scored the last 21 points of a 35-28 triumph.

"Alabama is always a tough, challenging game," Davis said. "I always take into consideration how well they're coached and how they push up front. It's an amazing challenge."

The Crimson Tide have scored 35 or more points in 16 consecutive games dating back to the start of last season, which broke the longest streak in major college history that was set at 15 by Oregon from November 2011 to November 2012. Clemson's 44-16 whipping of Alabama in the title game of the 2018 season is the last time the Crimson Tide didn't tally at least 35 points.

Saban sees similarities in the two defenses, a natural given that Smart spent eight seasons as his defensive coordinator from 2008-15, but he also sees the Bulldogs continuing to separate themselves from others.

"They've sort of progressed in what they do relative to the players they have, and I think they do it really, really well," Saban said. "They've got some new things and some different things they do, which is what we're all trying to grow and develop in. They have a veteran team, and when you have a veteran team on defense, I think you can do a little more.

"They've taken good advantage of having good players who have experience, and those guys execute those things extremely well."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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