Georgia’s front seven that was so dominant over the first 12 games of the season was nowhere to be found in the SEC Championship game against Alabama on Dec 4.
The Bulldogs came into the game with a defense that some considered one of the greatest in recent memory. Certainly, that group could still prove that with a terrific performance in the National Championship game, but the first go around was a stain on their statistics.
Georgia could not sack Alabama quarterback Bryce Young once in the matchup. Young went on to throw for 421 yards and three touchdowns without any turnovers. That performance solidified him as the Heisman Trophy winner. The Bulldogs know they will have to make Young more uncomfortable on Monday night.
Head coach Kirby Smart said that it would be “extremely important.”
“It wasn’t for a lack of trying,” said Smart on Monday. “And we brought a lot of different pressures. They did a good job picking those pressures up. And at the end of the day, there’s four or five guys that are one-on-one up there. Somebody’s got to win one-on-one. And a lot of times you’re better at pressure when you’re not on the field as long and you’re winning some third downs.”
Bryce Young might be the best player in the country, but he has been most vulnerable this season when teams are able to get constant pressure on him. Texas A&M was able to find success early on Young by getting pressure in the Aggies win over the Tide. Auburn also made life difficult on Young by blitzing in a narrow overtime loss.
Even when those teams got to Young, he was able to use his feet to improvise, which is one of the skills that makes him so special. Georgia learned that the hard way in the last matchup.
“He did a good job of moving around in the pocket, of creating time,” said Smart. “He’s really way more illusive than people give him credit for, extremely good athlete. Has elite spatial awareness. He knows where people are, where his people are, where he’s protected, where he’s going with the ball beforehand.”
Luckily for Georgia, the Bulldogs seemed to get their swagger back against Michigan. UGA combined for four sacks against the Wolverines and made life miserable all night for quarterback Cade McNamara.
They now rank ninth nationally with 45 sacks this season through 14 games. Georgia will need that number to be in the high 40’s if they want to be National Champions on Monday night.
For Kirby Smart’s Monday press conference: