Following Alabama’s 41-24 win over Georgia last week, Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban said in an interview with ESPN that it has officially become an offensive game.
He said that in the matter of when an elite offense faces the same level caliber of defense, that the offense will most likely prevail.
“It used to be that good defense beats a good offense. Good defense doesn’t beat good offense anymore,” Saban said. “It’s just like last week. Georgia has as good a defense as we do an offense, and we scored 41 points on them [in a 41-24 Alabama win]. That’s not the way it used to be. It used to be if you had a good defense, other people weren’t going to score. You were always going to be in the game. I’m telling you. It ain’t that way anymore.”
That seemed to be the case when the two SEC heavyweights squared off against one another last week as Alabama put up 564 yards of total offense against Georgia’s top-ranked defense.
Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones completed 24 of 32 passes for 417 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. Alabama running back Najee Harris gashed Georgia’s front-seven rushing for 152 yards on 31 carries and a score.
The Bulldogs’ secondary struggled all night with keeping Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle contained, both of whom combined for 334 receiving yards and three scores. Crimson Tide sophomore receiver John Metchie III also hauled in three passes for 50 yards and a score.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart met with the media on Monday and was asked about Saban’s comments. He offered a different perspective than what his former mentor said.
“I think if you look at recent history, elite offenses have certainly done well in the Playoff and have really won most of the championships,” Smart said. “If you look across the board at the biggest offensive numbers and the output of those offensive numbers, whether it be Clemson, whether it be Alabama, whether it be LSU, I would argue that each one of those teams had pretty good defenses, so it’s not a clear-cut question, it’s not a clear-cut answer.”
Smart said that there’s a lot of factors that are important for a team to be successful in today’s game.
“It’s not easy to say this or that,” Smart said. “There’s a lot of factors that go into it, but scoring offense and being able to score points is a tremendous factor, and a lot of the offenses have been ahead. The really good offenses have been ahead of the really good defenses, I don’t disagree with that. But, if you look across the board, there’s some teams that have really dynamic offenses and don’t have defenses, they struggle, they struggle when they go play really good teams.
Smart did state that it’s important for teams to have both, though.
“You’re really looking to have both, but I do respect that Clemson’s won championships with good defenses, and Alabama, when they won and beat us, they had a dynamic offense, but they had a good defense,” Smart said. “Then, when you go to LSU last year, nobody even talks about their defense, but they obviously had a good defense because they’ve got players playing all over the NFL.”
Georgia sophomore defensive back Lewis Cine said the defense learned a few things after their performance against Alabama.
“Alabama has a lot of great weapons on offense, but we need to play our assignments correctly and composed, even when things aren’t going well or how they should,” Cine said. “Next time we play another team like Alabama, we will play to our standard and not allow certain plays to go by and capitalize on opportunities.”
Cine said that Alabama capitalized on Georgia’s mistakes.
“You’re going to win some and lose some, it’s part of the game,” Cine said. “Mistakes were made on our part and they capitalized on them and made more plays. We’re going to correct them and be ready for when we play them again.”
Senior outside linebacker Jermaine Johnson said that things just fell Alabama’s way.
“When you have two teams like Alabama and Georgia— Alabama is a pretty great team and we have a pretty great team— so when you have teams like that, with players like that, plays are going to be made,” Johnson said. “Like I said, you can only hope that either your team makes more plays or your team makes the least amount of mistakes. Like I said, It’s a football game. Things happen, and things happened a little more in [Alabama’s] favor and they executed very well.”
Saban’s comments were no direct shot at the Bulldogs, but one does have to wonder what Smart really thinks of Georgia’s inability to play a full four quarters of football.
Georgia’s offense has looked a lot more productive at times than last year, but the young unit is still learning and maturing under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
Smart said that Georgia’s offensive identity sometimes depends on its defense and how they play.
“I think It’s a little bit based on the defenses we play. I don’t think that you solely control what your identity is just by yourself. Some of that is created through playing games, who’s healthy, what you are capable of, what they play against you,” Smart said. “How defenses play us sometimes determines how, where we run the ball, which run plays we run, how much we run. A lot of that is determined by that. I think the identity that you want to have is you want to be balanced.
You want to be able to throw the ball when you want to throw the ball, run the ball when you want to run the ball. Those things are important to being successful, just like on defense being able to dictate to them what you do on offense. It’s not real complicated, but sometimes, it’s hard to do when the team makes it complicated.”