How the Tide changed

Ge­or­gia looks more like Alabama of old

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - College Football -

Ge­or­gia’s de­fense throt­tles op­pos­ing run­ning backs, boast­ing a deep and for­mi­da­ble front, play­mak­ing lineback­ers and star de­fen­sive backs. The of­fense has a solid run­ning game and a quar­ter­back who sel­dom makes big mis­takes.

The third- ranked Bull­dogs, in fact, look more like vin­tage Alabama than Alabama these days.

The sec­ond- ranked Crim­son Tide en­ters Satur­day night for a South­east­ern Con­fer­ence game with a soar­ing pass­ing game and a de­fense that is much more gen­er­ous than in the “old” days, circa 2013. Ge­or­gia is more old- school.

“I would agree they’re a lit­tle more like the old Alabama way, a lit­tle more grind it out,” said Mis­sis­sippi coach Lane Kif­fin, who helped trans­form the Tide into a more ex­plo­sive, passhappy of­fense start­ing in 2014. “Not as ex­plo­sive. Then play

phe­nom­e­nal de­fense.”

The sim­i­lar­i­ties are no co­in­ci­dence, of course. Ge­or­gia coach Kirby Smart was de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor for four Alabama na­tional cham­pi­onship teams and some of the most dom­i­nant de­fenses in re­cent mem­ory.

But Sa­ban has piv­oted from his old ways and built cham­pi­onship­cal­iber teams em­ploy­ing a much dif­fer­ent for­mula em­pha­siz­ing tempo and down­field pass­ing more while the de­fense suf­fers partly as a re­sult.

Alabama also leads Foot­ball Bowl Sub­di­vi­sion in scor­ing of­fense at 51 points per game.

Ge­or­gia, by con­trast, has FBS’ top run de­fense and yield’s the sec­ond- fewest points per game at 12.3. That’s about a quar­ter’s work for Alabama so far.

“There’s some sim­i­lar­i­ties” to those Tide de­fenses, Sa­ban said Thurs­day night on his ra­dio show. “I think they’ve pro­gressed and they do some things that are a lit­tle more unique than what we did back in that time, be­cause it’s been about five years ago.

“But we had those kind of play­ers on de­fense. And we did a lot of the same ba­sic things. I think they’ve added some things, es­pe­cially on third down, that have been very ef­fec­tive for them.”

Smart has faced po­tent Alabama of­fenses in the Jan­uary 2018 na­tional cham­pi­onship — an over­time Tide win — and the SEC ti­tle game later that year. Alabama ral­lied to win that one, 35- 28, with Jalen Hurts re­plac­ing an in­jured Heis­man Tro­phy fi­nal­ist Tua Tago­v­ailoa.

“I feel like the last two times we’ve played [ Alabama], they were scor­ing that many points,” Smart said. “The time we played them with Tua, we went into the game think­ing they may score a thousand.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

Alabama quar­ter­back Mac Jones throws a 3- yard touch­down pass to tight end Miller For­ristall in the sec­ond half of the Crim­son Tide’s 63- 48 win last Satur­day in Ox­ford, Miss.

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