WHO: No. 2 Alabama (11-1, 7-1) vs. No. 3 Georgia (11-1, 7-1)
GAME TIME: 4 p.m. at Atlanta (CBS) Saturday
LINE: Alabama by 71/2
AT STAKE: This is, in essence, a national semifinal game. The winner is assured of moving on to face top-ranked Notre Dame in the BCS championship game. Alabama is the defending national champion. A year ago, the Crimson Tide finished No. 1 without even making the SEC final. Georgia is trying to win its first SEC crown since 2005.
KEY MATCHUP: Alabamas defensive front, which has helped the Tide lead the nation in points allowed and total defense, against Georgias offensive line. The Bulldogs will have to find a way to give QB Aaron Murray enough time to throw and create running lanes for freshman backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. It wont be easy with a youthful line that includes a freshman (right tackle John Theus) and a sophomore (center David Andrews).
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Georgia LB Jarvis Jones is a finalist for numerous national awards, including the Nagurski, Lombardi, Butkus and Bednarik trophies. The 6-foot-3, 241-pound junior creates havoc in the Bulldogs 3-4 scheme, whether its rushing the passer or dropping back into coverage. Despite missing two games with nagging injuries, he leads the team with 10.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles behind the line. Alabama QB A.J. McCarron ranks second nationally in passing efficiency (behind Murray) and guides the Crimson Tides balanced offense with an experienced, steady hand. He has completed more than two-thirds of his passes with two interceptions, both in the loss to Texas A&M. If he can avoid major mistakes, Alabama will likely find itself in good shape to play for its third national title in four years.
ALSO: Alabama has won 22 SEC championships, more than any other school. Georgia is appearing in the SEC championship game for the fifth time in Mark Richts 12 years as coach. The Bulldogs are 2-2, winning titles in 2002 and 05, while losing in 03 and a year ago. Alabamas Nick Saban is the only coach to win three BCS titles and the first to accomplish the feat at different schools. Both teams have suffered heavy losses in the receiving corps. Georgias Michael Bennett and Marlon Brown went down with season-ending knee injuries, each while leading the team in receptions. Alabama lost deep threat Kenny Bell to a broken leg in last weeks victory over Auburn. DeAndrew White went down earlier with a season-ending knee injury. Murray may be the nations top-rated passer, but he struggled against Georgias two toughest opponents: 11 of 31 for 109 yards in the loss to South Carolina; 12 of 24 for 150 yards with three interceptions in a win over Florida. Gurley is the second true freshman in Georgia history to rush for 1,000 yards and is one away from tying the school mark for touchdowns by a first-year player Herschel Walkers 15 scores in 1980.
The Associated Press