Mind of Mike: Scattershooting the SEC title game
MIND OF MIKE: Scattershooting the Big Ten title game
... This is clearly the best matchup of all the title games with the two teams that recruit at the highest level. Alabama has won numerous recruiting titles under Nick Saban and Georgia just won the title this past year under Kirby Smart. The rosters are loaded with four- and five-star prospects.
... One of the biggest questions entering the season for the Bulldogs was trying to figure out who would try and replace Roquan Smith at inside linebacker. The steady play of Monty Rice, who is second on the team in tackles, has made this transition a little easier than expected. While he was held out of the Georgia Tech game due to an injury, he should be good to go this Saturday against Alabama. Rice was a mid-range three-star out of high school and is just starting to play beyond that ranking.
... Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses is interesting when it comes to his recruiting and ranking. He emerged as a middle school prospect with offers from LSU and Alabama and was originally evaluated as a great running back. He made the transition to linebacker as well but it was a slow one. Moses started off as the No. 2 prospect in the 2017 class behind Marvin Wilson but at one point fell out of five-star favor. However, a great week and game at Under Armour brought him back to five-star status. And, despite being an LSU lean early in the process, he surprised many and committed to Alabama. He’s now living up to that five-star status as one of the leaders of the Alabama defense.
... Alabama had plenty of talent returning on the defensive line, but one player who didn't receive too much preseason hype was Quinnen Williams. Fast forward to the present and Williams' has established himself as one of the top defensive linemen in the country with 58 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss and seven sacks. He was ranked No. 106 in the country coming out of high school as an undersized defensive tackle with only a handful of offers but has played beyond that ranking. He made his big rankings jump after a great showing at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game, where he was simply dominant.
... It is not often that a true freshman offensive lineman makes an impact in the SEC, but Georgia has been lucky enough to have two important contributors. Cade Mays and Trey Hill have been saviors in Athens this fall, with injuries to both Andrew Thomas and Ben Cleveland knocking them out during different parts of the season. While Mays is currently dealing with his own injury, it should be interesting to see if these two frosh will be relied on against Alabama. Mays was a no-brainer five-star while Hill was ranked No. 137 overall and has made an earlier impact than expected.
... I had questions about both quarterbacks in this game and it was clear I was wrong on both counts. Tua Tagovailoa was ranked as the No. 53 player in the country and No. 3 at dual-threat quarterback behind Kellen Mond (Texas A&M) and Tate Martell (Ohio State) and has clearly outplayed both of them. I’m not a big fan of lefty quarterbacks and I worried a bit about Tagovailoa’s consistency, but that looks foolish now. As for Jake Fromm, we made him a five-star in the end but I worried about his arm talent and overall ceiling. He was a great leader and a kid who made plays, but he didn’t wow me with his physical skills. That being said, having Tagovailoa and Fromm as Rivals100 prospects and four- and five-star prospects respectively is still good, but I did have my reservations.
... Damien Harris surprised some by returning for his senior season, and while he isn't having his best season statistically while sharing carries with Najee Harris and Joshua Jacobs, he is usually the back the Tide ride during the important drives. He was our No. 1 running back in 2015 and a can’t-miss prospect.
... In the preseason we listed Mecole Hardman as a former five-star who needed to step his game up. Well, he has done exactly that this fall, adding a new exciting dimension to the Georgia offense with 32 receptions, 519 yards and six touchdowns.
... While true freshman Tyson Campbell has had a promising season for the Bulldogs, and is a future star, the improved play of redshirt freshman Eric Stokes at cornerback has been a big factor in recent weeks. The Bulldogs will need as many capable defensive backs as possible against the Tide, so Stokes' recent play may play an important role on Saturday. Stokes was a mid-level three-star coming out of high school who could play on either side of the ball while Campbell was a sure-fire five-star.
... While Georgia has Campbell, the Tide have their own true freshman defensive back who is excelling after a five-star ranking. Patrick Surtain has grabbed the opportunity of early playing time and steadily improved his level of play throughout this season.
... While Quinnen Williams has excelled this season, Raekwon Davis has not produced at the level that many expected. However, he continues to flash brilliance, which immediately makes him a player who has the potential to excel on Saturday. Davis was a Rivals100 prospect and the rare 6-foot-7 defensive tackle who could play low out of high school. He, like Williams, didn’t have a ton of offers.
... Neither D'Andre Swift or Elijah Holyfield have stats that jump off the paper, but together they have formed an explosive duo with 1,858 yards and 16 touchdowns. It will be interesting to see how the carries are distributed against the Tide, but if you look at them as one running back, you have a Heisman contender. Both were four-stars and well-liked out of high school. Swift was in range of that coveted fifth star and just missed.
... One of the best match-ups of the game will likely be the one-on-one battle between Jerry Jeudy and Deandre Baker who both faced different experiences in high school. Jeudy was a five-star while Baker was a skinny, mid-range three-star prospect. Both players are now among the best at their positions in college football.
... One key for Georgia may be to put pressure on Tagovailoa, however the Bulldogs only have 17 sacks this season.
... Alabama has won every game this season by at least 22 points while, aside from the LSU loss, Georgia has won by an average of 26.8 points per game.
... Including TE Irvin Smith, the Tide have five receivers who average over 18 yards a reception.
... The focus of Alabama this season has been its offense, but the team's defense is third in the country, allowing only 13.1 points per game.
... Alabama has only played three ranked teams this season but shut out two of them (LSU and Mississippi State).
... This will be a close game for a little while and Alabama will run away with things in the second half.
... Prediction: Alabama 42, Georgia 21