ATHENS – Kirby Smart knows enough about football not to be fooled when it comes to plotting the Alabama offense.
Tide’s dynamic attacking X’s and Bones are one thing, but when Georgia’s head coach turns on the movie, he’s more impressed – and concerned – with the players running around in those crimson-colored jerseys.
“What makes (Alabama) successful is the players, they have great players,” Smart said on his Monday Zoom call. “Sark (Steve Sarkisian) is doing a great job of implementing the system…. it’s based on guys really to cover on the outside.
“They probably have one of the best full backs in the country, Najee (Harris) is leading the ball really strong, and they’re massive up front.
The Smart (3-0) No.3-seeded Bulldogs will travel to Tuscaloosa to face No.2-seeded Alabama and their No.1-seeded quarterback at 8 p.m. Saturday.
For all of the supporting players mentioned above, it’s junior quarterback Tide Redshirt Mac Jones who stirs the offensive elixir.
Jones has just seven starts under his belt, but he leads the nation in the QB standings (220.35), passing yards per attempt (13.3) and is No.2 in completion percentage (79.5 ).
Jones, surprisingly, is off to a convincing better start in seven games than his predecessors Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts.
And while Georgia’s offense still feels good with surprise starter Stetson Bennett making just his third start, a rotating fullfield and evolving receiving body, Alabama knows exactly who he is on offense.
It is Jones who passes to Harris or who seeks DeVonta Smith (27 catches, 316 yards) or Jaylen Waddle (19 catches 396 yards).
“Offensively they’re not built like some of those teams that go to the beat all the time and rush all the time,” said Smart. “They can turn up the tempo and they beat the tempo well, but they’re really big, they can take hits on the court with the explosive drops they have.
“They make you defend the whole field.”
Junior cornerback Eric Stokes said the Georgian defense, which continues to lead the SEC in all major statistical categories, look forward to the challenge.
“Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, they’re very explosive with their passing and running game,” said Stokes, who has had two interceptions in three games this season.
“(Jones) is a formidable quarterback. We have to be on our Ps and Qs, we can’t burst in the back. We have to watch the movie do all the little things that we did so that we don’t give up on that.
Smart said one of Georgia’s goals this week is to start quickly, which the team struggled with in two of the first three games.
The Bulldogs trailed behind Arkansas (7-5) and Tennessee (21-17) at halftime of those games before coming back for wins.
“It shows me what we can be if we do this all the time,” Smart said of the UGA who beat their opponents 62-6 in the second half.
“I’m focusing on the reasons why we haven’t been doing this from the start. Why don’t we perform better from the start and dominate the opponent instead of keeping people in the game?
“We have to do a better job of dominating from start to finish.”
Alabama have won 36 straight games after scoring in their first offensive stroke, which was the case in Saturday night’s 63-48 shootout win over Ole Miss.
The victory over the Kiffin Rebels saw Saban go 21-0 against former assistant coaches, two of those wins against Smart.
“Everyone’s always talking about assistants, and I’m always laughing because I don’t think anyone in the past 10 years has a very good record against them on this,” Smart said. “It’s not something I’m trying to focus on. I am focusing on what will allow us to play well.
Smart is indeed in no mood to be light, surely acknowledging that the UGA will lose most of the major components of that championship-caliber defense he has built after the season.
It is possible that the Bulldogs and Tide will meet again at the SEC Championship game on December 19 in Atlanta.
But amid the uncertainty of these COVID-19 times, not much can be taken for granted.
UGA tackle Jordan Davis said the Bulldogs know the task ahead.
” It’s a amazing challenge, I’m ready to go, ”said Davis. “I can’t say that I have (more) motivation, we take every game as a business trip. So we just want to focus on ourselves this week and go up there and hopefully do our thing.
Smart said his players have been in enough great games to know how to handle things.
« They don’t need motivation, ”said Smart. “It’s # 2 versus # 3. It’s Alabama versus Georgia. They realize what is at stake. ”
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