Kirk Herbstreit did not make a pick on his weekly appearance on the “ESPN College Football Podcast.” He did, however, identify one factor which he thinks could make the difference in the outcome of Saturday’s much-anticipated matchup between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs.
Herbstreit and the rest of the ESPN “College Gameday” crew will be in Tuscaloosa this weekend as the No. 2 Crimson Tide host the No. 3 Bulldogs.
He sees what everyone else sees with the heavyweight matchup between the Alabama offense and the Georgia defense.
“The only thing I know for sure is that Mac Jones and the Alabama offense against the Georgia defense, that side of the ball is going to live up to its billing,” he said. “That is what you are going to this game to watch.”
The Crimson Tide enter the showdown against the Bulldogs leading the nation in scoring offense and ranking third in total offense. Quarterback Mac Jones is leading the nation in passing efficiency by a fairly wide margin. He is second in passing yards per completion, averaging nearly 17 yards per completion.
Herbstreit named Tide offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian his top-performing coach of the week for his unit’s effort against Ole Miss.
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The Bulldogs currently stand second in the country in total defense and fifth in scoring defense.
Yet, Herbstreit thinks another matchup could prove to be the key to the game.
“The other side of the ball may ultimately decide the outcome of the game,” he asserted. “How Stetson Bennett, with this new offense over the last couple of weeks, how they do against a defense that is reeling, could ultimately — the ball is in his hands in the fourth quarter and they’re down three or they’re down four and they need to go win the game — that ultimately could decide the outcome.”
Appearing on the podcast with Herbstreit, former Bulldog star David Pollack suggested that Bennett and the Georgia offense do not fit the bill of others which have given the Tide problems as recently as its shootout with Ole Miss.
“Alabama struggles with a mobile quarterback and tempo,” Pollack remarked. “Alabama couldn’t get lined up fast enough a lot of times because their tempo was so fast. And then the shifts, the motions, the pop passes, the play action, so many things to look at where it makes you think very fast, and Bama is the defense that wants to be in the perfect position all the time and it struggled to me. I didn’t understand why we can’t be more simplistic defensively and not have to try to do so much.”
Pollack sees a difference in style this weekend.
“Georgia isn’t that,” explained the former Bulldog defensive linemen. “Georgia doesn’t have Corral at quarterback who is a running back who can throw the football. Georgia doesn’t live in the tempo world. Styles make fights.”
Herbstreit echoed those comments that Georgia’s style of offense is not the same as those which typically present problems for Nick Saban’s defense.
“I think David is 100% right when it comes to the style of Georgia with what they have and how [offensive coordinator Todd] Monken wants to try to attack,” outlined Herbstreit. “It’s very different from what Alabama has had to go up against, and when they’ve had some issues just because the quarterback play is different. [Bennett’s] an athletic guy, but he’s not running the kind of system that Alabama has struggled with. If I’m Monken, though, based on what I’ve seen on film of Alabama’s defense, the kid is athletic, I might reach into that a little bit more, and I might crank the tempo up a little bit more because those are areas that they really struggled to defend last week. They don’t have Corral, but they do have a guy that’s a better athlete than people want to give him credit.”
During his Monday press conference, Saban also spoke approvingly of the job done at quarterback by Bennett, a former walk-on who sat as low as fourth on the preseason depth chart.
“He’s done an outstanding job,” offered Saban. “He’s played within himself, made good choices and decisions. They’ve had great balance in their offense, they’ve got good play-action passes.”
The Tide’s head man described Bennett along the lines of the game-managing quarterback which used to be a staple in Saban’s own system.
“He’s really just facilitated everything that he’s needed to do from his position to help all the other good players that they have make a lot of plays,” said Saban. “And he’s athletic. He’s extended plays at times. I think the guy has done an outstanding job and has really executed well for them.”
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