Georgia vs. Alabama
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Sanford Stadium, Athens
On TV: CBS
Alabama coach Nick Saban believes Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel stack up well against any tailback tandem in college football.
For his part, Chubb figures the 13th-ranked Crimson Tide has “probably the best (front) seven in America.” Those two groups will collide — a few dozen times, probably — Saturday when the eighth-ranked Bulldogs host Alabama.
Maybe the game will come down to former ACC quarterbacks Greyson Lambert of Georgia and Jake Coker of Alabama.
Receivers like the Bulldogs’ Malcolm Mitchell and ‘Bama’s ArDarius Stewart will have their say, too.
But the Southeastern Conference’s No. 2 rushing offense against the top run defense clearly is the most compelling matchup to watch. It’s strength versus strength, literally.
“The whole goal in running the football, up front anyway, is to get movement,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “Get guys moved back or get them moved sideways or something, but get them off the spot, get them out of their gap.
“But these guys are very big and strong and physical and they’re good fundamentally. It’s hard to move them.”
Alabama (3-1, 0-1 SEC) is allowing opponents to gain only 2.0 yards per carry, while Chubb is averaging four times that.
The Tide has allowed just two rushing touchdowns, Chubb has scored six.
His 599 yards trails only LSU’s Leonard Fournette in the SEC while Alabama has given up all of 227 in four games.
Chubb also has reached triple digits in rushing yards in 12 straight games.
It’s a streak Alabama would like to end.
“If that’s one of his goals, I hope he gets his goals, but it’s going to be very tough against our front,” said linebacker
Reggie Ragland, one of the stars of Alabama’s front seven.
The Tide’s starting defensive front averages 313 pounds, but Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart can send in reinforcements without much dropoff.
Defensive line backups include three former five-star prospects. Third-teamer Da’Shawn Hand has 2.5 sacks while defensive end Jonathan Allen, listed as a second-teamer, leads the team with three.
The up tempo styles that Alabama has faced since the opener against Wisconsin can limit Alabama’s defensive subbing.
“For the last three weeks we haven’t played against that kind of team, so we’re looking forward to the challenge of trying to get back to being able to play that kind of football,” Saban said.
Chubb, however, predicts the Bulldogs will speed things up more often for this game.
Georgia has plenty of backfield depth, too, in what Saban calls as strong a running team as the Tide has faced in a while.
Sony Michel has four rushing touchdowns and Keith Marshall three. Chubb and Michel have gotten the bulk of the carries, and Saban called them as good as any tailback duo in the nation..
“There’s no question in my mind about that,” he said.
Alabama’s run-stoppers will face the league’s No. 3 rusher, Arkansas’s Alex Collins, the following week. A month later, Fournette and LSU come to town.
These are the kind of ma tchups Ragland says the Tide defense savors.
“We love it. It just shows that we have to play fast and be mentally strong out there,” he said. “You can play mentally tough all day, but if you don’t have the right mindset and you’re not mentally strong out there and still looking at your keys and knowing what’s going on with the play and what call you’re in, it doesn’t matter.
“So you have to be out there and be really physical and want to accept the challenge. It’s going to be a very good physical game and I’m ready for it.”