As No. 4 Georgia prepares to take on No. 1 Alabama Saturday in a rematch of last year’s national championship game, much of the talk surrounding the contest is centered around quarterbacks Jake Fromm and Tua Tagovailoa squaring off in the second round of last year’s overtime epic. Quarterback play will certainly be a major factor on Saturday, but equally important will be the players on the receiving end of Fromm and Tagovailoa’s passes.
The Crimson Tide’s group of Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and Jaylen Waddle have each accounted for at least 37 catches, 675 yards and six touchdowns — Jeudy leading the way with 56 grabs for 1,079 yards and 11 scores.
Alabama’s explosive receiving options have been instrumental in making the team the nation’s fourth best in terms of total offense.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Alabama’s wideouts,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “I think they’re tremendous. I think they’re probably the best unit we’ve faced. They’re talented, and they can get vertical.”
And while Georgia’s receiving corps has not been quite as heralded a group, the unit has gotten the job done throughout the year. The Bulldogs leading trio — Mecole Hardman, Riley Ridley and Jeremiah Holloman — have each accounted for at least five scores. Terry Godwin, who was the top returning option coming into the year, chipped in three touchdowns on limited playing time due to an early-season injury.
Diving even deeper down the roster, Tyler Simmons has hauled in a pair of scores on only eight receptions and Demetris Robertson added a long rushing touchdown on an end around.
“We’ve got a good wide receiver corps,” Smart said. “We’ve got a deep wide receiver corps across the board. A lot of guys have stepped up, and Jake allows them to make plays. Comparing them (to Alabama), I think it’s hard to say.”
And while Smart said he wasn’t a proponent of comparing units between the teams, the players did not shy away from expressing their thoughts on the matter.
Junior running back Elijah Holyfield acknowledged how impressive the Crimson Tide’s group has been this year, but he was insistent that Georgia’s receivers could go toe to toe with just about any other squad college football has to offer.
“I think our receiving corps is one of the best receiving corps in the nation,” Holyfield said. “I think they’re even better (than Alabama’s receivers).”
He added that his view of the work the Bulldogs’ receiving team has done this season is among the best there is.
“I get to see the throws and the catches from the back,” he said. “They all look pretty cool.”
Fromm had much the same to say, commending the group that has helped him connect on nearly 70 percent of his passes this year and accounts for all but three of his 24 passing touchdowns on the year.
“Our guys are great,” Fromm said. “We have a great group of guys in that receiving room who make some great plays. They’ve done it all year.”
Much like it was the last time Georgia played Alabama, the game could very easily be decided by which team’s receivers make more of those “great plays.”
And for Fromm, there’s no question which unit he’d rather have.
“I’ll take my guys in a street fight any day,” he said. “Let’s go out and prepare for battle.”
Nathan Berg is a sports writer for The Times. He can be reached at email@example.com or @NathanxBerg on Twitter.