01 Jul Alabama and Georgia: Strong 2020 SEC Title Contenders
The 2020 SEC season is weeks and not months away anymore. As always, the SEC will be competitive, but two teams appear to be on a crash course for the SEC Title game: Alabama and Georgia.
Defensive State of Mind
With so much talent on the mend, Alabama was bound to take some steps back on defense in 2019. After losing Dylan Moses and Joshua McMillon to injury, all seemed to be lost until the emergence of linebacker Shane Lee. Although Lee went through his lumps he went on to become a Freshman All-American, finishing second on the team in tackles with 77.
Shane Lee wasn’t the only true freshman contributor for the Tide defense as DJ Dale cemented himself as the starting nose tackle. Dale also missed games due to injury and was eventually supplanted by fellow All-SEC freshman Christian Barmore.
Alabama will return all of the aforementioned defenders as well as key contributors LaBryan Ray, Patrick Surtain II, and Josh Jobe. Alabama must also find a way to replace the pass rush threat Terrell Lewis and Anfernee Jennings provided.
Mac Attack in Tuscaloosa
Defense is typically the strength of the Crimson Tide but this year they possess a much stronger offensive unit. Games are won and lost in the trenches where Alabama will be especially strong, returning four of five starters on the offensive line. Combine that offensive line with the running back trio of Najee Harris, Brian Robinson Jr., and a healthy Trey Sanders, and you’re looking at a lethal rushing attack that could be an elite group.
There is plenty of talent on both sides for the Tide, but all of it can be superseded by the quarterback play and the offense appears to be in good hands. Alabama will return starting quarterback Mac Jones and will also add Bryce Young, a heralded dual-threat quarterback from California powerhouse Mater Dei High School. Jones appears to be the incumbent starter due to experience and Young’s spring semester being canceled due to COVID-19.
Whoever ends up being the starter will have a light load to carry as they will be throwing to arguably the best receiving tandem in the country: Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. While most fans are familiar with the household names at wide receiver, Alabama has Canada’s best waiting in the wings. Enter John Metchie III who showed a glimpse of his talent in last year’s spring game amassing 133 yards on 5 catches.
Georgia’s Dogged Defense
Not to be overshadowed, Georgia finished with the number one ranked defense with only a few departures in safety JR Reed and linebacker Tae Crowder. This is easily one of the most loaded and experienced secondaries in the country. Richard Lecounte III is the leader of this secondary, but they have several versatile defensive backs who saw vital snaps like corners Tyson Campbell, DJ Daniels, Mark Webb, and Eric Stokes.
Nose tackle Jordan Davis, linebacker Monty Rice, and Freshman All-American linebacker Azeez Ojulari headline the front seven but they also return former number one overall recruit Nolan Smith. While Georgia’s defense remains a steadfast unit their offense has questions while still boasting an embarrassment of talent.
Unknowns About Georgia Offense
Alabama lost a single lineman from its starting unit last year, while Georgia has Trey Hill as the only returning starter for the Bulldogs. There may be cause for concern along the o-line but not among signal callers for the Bulldogs. Georgia nabbed former Wake Forest QB Jamie Newman and former USC Trojan J.T. Daniels via the transfer portal. While Daniels has not been ruled eligible he and Newman will have the blessing of throwing to former freshman sensation George Pickens.
Pickens was the first true freshman to lead Georgia in receiving since A.J. Green in 2008. The bulldogs will get big contributions from Pickens but are looking for wide receiver Demetris Robertson and running back Zamir White to showcase the talent that made them the number one player at their position in the class of 2016 and 2018 respectively. Georgia has two dark horse contributors on offense in James Cook, the younger brother of Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, and wide receiver Dominik Blaylock.
Although White is fully recovered from his second ACL tear Cook will likely get plenty of opportunity to spell White in the backfield as we’ve seen the Bulldogs feature two running backs successfully. Dominik Blaylock was well on his way to establishing himself in Georgia’s offense until he suffered an ACL tear as well. If he can return to form Georgia will possess one of the most dangerous sophomore duos between him and Pickens.
Newman and Jake Fromm produced almost identical numbers last year, although Fromm had the more talented supporting cast. Newman now has the weapons in Georgia’s offense that should help them reach new heights.
Dreaming of December
While nothing is set in stone as far as health, starting spots, or even the football schedule for that matter, what is clear is that Georgia and Alabama are loaded with talent for the foreseeable future. They have excelled at recruiting, purging the transfer portal when necessary, and developing talent on campus which lands them as the SEC elite.
If Jamie Newman can accrue success similar to what he did in the ACC, Alabama could be in for a rude awakening. These rosters are shaping up for a heated clash in the SEC title game. Could we see the second coming of Tua Tagovailoa with Bryce Young replacing Mac Jones in the seasons most vital moment, or will Georgia finally overcome Alabama? December can’t come soon enough.