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Georgia Bulldogs vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Preview and Predictions 10-17-2020

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The first titanic matchup of the college football season is here, featuring a pair of quarterbacks looking for the biggest victory of their careers.

The stakes and the storylines will be plentiful when No. 2 Alabama hosts No. 3 Georgia on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, but much of the pregame hype figures to spin on the season starts of Tide quarterback Mac Jones and Georgia's Stetson Bennett. Both teams are 3-0, all in SEC play.

Jones is the national leader in passing efficiency with a rating of 220.3, having completed 66 of 83 passes for 1,101 yards, with eight touchdowns and one interception. Jones has thrown for 852 yards in the past two games, leading the Crimson Tide to a total of 115 points vs. Texas A&M and Ole Miss.

Jones, a junior, was at least something of a known entity heading into the season, starting four games last year for an injured Tua Tagovailoa. Bennett, however, has been nearly a complete surprise.

The 5-foot-11 junior was probably the Bulldogs' fourth choice at quarterback in the offseason. But then Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman opted out of the season, USC transfer J.T. Daniels wasn't medically cleared for the opener, and D'Wan Mathis lasted only 17 passes as the starter before Bennett got his shot.

He's hitting 63.1 percent of his passes (53 of 84) for 689 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.

"I honestly think he's just himself. He doesn't try to be someone else. He doesn't try to artificially lead or fake it. He never did that while he was trying to compete for the job and he hasn't done it since he got the job," said Georgia coach Kirby Smart.

"I think the skill players on offense, the offensive line, they all trust him and rally around him because they know he understands what we're trying to do offensively and he can put them in good situations."

Much of the same is true for Jones, who isn't an athletic marvel but takes advantage of great personnel around him, including future first-rounders on the offensive line, speedy wideouts DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, and dangerous running backs Najee Harris (10 touchdowns this season) and Brian Robinson Jr.

Alabama leads the nation at 51.0 points per game, but its defense is far from coach Nick Saban's standards. The Tide gave up a school record 643 yards last week in a 63-48 win over fast-paced Ole Miss.

"We've had some guys that have made multiple mistakes; either have to get that fixed or replace them," Saban said. "And we're going to work in every endeavor and try to get better. Believe me, there is no one satisfied with the way we played."

Georgia has the rare SEC defense satisfied with its play this season.

The Bulldogs are first nationally in rushing defense (38.3 yards per game), second in total defense (236.7) and tied for fifth in scoring defense (12.3 points per game). Georgia has allowed just six points in the second half this season.

"Maybe the best defensive team in the country all the way around when you talk about stopping the run, having good pass defense, getting off the field on third down," Saban said.

Alabama has won the past five meetings, including two over Smart -- in an overtime thriller in the 2017 national title game and in the 2018 SEC championship game. Smart was an Alabama assistant under Saban from 2007 to 2015, almost all as the defensive coordinator.

Saban is 21-0 against his former assistants.

--Field Level Media

Prediction

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Stadium

Bryant-Denny Stadium
Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA.
Capacity: 101,821

Last Injuries

Alabama Crimson Tide

  • Carl Tucker

    Undisclosed
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Tucker sat out the last game due to an unlisted injury, and it is unknown if he will take the field against Tennessee on Saturday.

  • Labryan Ray

    Undisclosed
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Ray missed the last game due to an undisclosed issue, and it has yet to be established if he will be available to face Tennessee on Saturday.

  • Miller Forristall

    Ankle
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Forristall was carted off the field with an ankle injury in the previous game, and it is unclear if he will line up against Tennessee on Saturday.

Georgia Bulldogs

  • Walter Grant

    Undisclosed
    Ques Oct 31 | questionable

    Grant has missed the last two games due to an undefined injury, and it is undetermined if he will be in the lineup Oct. 31 versus Kentucky.

  • JT Daniels

    Knee
    Ques Oct 31 | questionable

    Daniels is recuperating from a torn ACL, and it is undetermined if he will make his season debut against Kentucky on Oct. 31.

  • Matt Landers

    Upper Body
    Ques Oct 31 | questionable

    Landers missed the previous game with an upper arm injury, and his availability for Oct. 31 against Kentucky is unclear.

  • Owen Condon

    Undisclosed
    Ques Oct 31 | questionable

    Condon sat out the last game with an injury to an unlisted location, and his status for Oct. 31 against Kentucky is unclear.

  • Tommy Bush

    Concussion
    Out indefinitely | out

    Bush is experiencing concussion-like symptoms, and it is uncertain when he will return.

  • Monty Rice

    Foot
    Doub Sat | doubtful

    Rice is not expected to suit up against Alabama on Saturday due to a foot injury.

  • Jermaine Johnson

    Undisclosed
    Prob Sat | probable

    Johnson is anticipated to be in Saturday's lineup versus Alabama despite an unspecified injury.

  • James Cook

    Shoulder
    Prob Sat | probable

    Cook missed the last game with a shoulder injury, but he is expected to face Alabama on Saturday.