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Auburn blocked an Alabama punt, more evidence Georgia has a clear advantage over the Tide in special teams.

3 quick takeaways from Alabama: Georgia football has areas to exploit

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama looked every bit the part of eventual national champion while pulling away from Auburn for a 52-21 victory on Saturday.

But for the first 30 minutes of the game at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Tide looked beatable, and you can bet that’s just one takeaway Georgia football coach Kirby Smart and his Bulldogs had watching the game.

RELATED: Nick Saban not “satisfied” despite record-breaking regular season

Georgia dispatched of Georgia Tech earlier in the day, 45-21, essentially taking its foot off the gas after building a 38-7 halftime lead.

The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (11-1, 7-1) meet the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide (12-0, 8-0) at 4 p.m. next Saturday in the SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Here are three quick takeaways from Saturday’s Alabama-Auburn game that provide evidence Georgia can score the upset victory and return to the College Football Playoffs:

Alabama slow start

Nick Saban was the first to mention it, the Tide has not played well in the first half of the past two games against The Citadel and Auburn.

Sure, The Citadel ran an option that confounded the Alabama defense — but what happened to the Tide offense in the first half of a game tied 10-10 through 30 minutes?

“Obviously we didn’t play very well last week in the first half,” Saban said, “(and) there were some things that we did’t do today very well in the first half.”

The Tide led Auburn 17-14 at the half, but the Tigers held Alabama to a halftime lows of 186 total yards and 116 yards passing.

Alabama run D gashed

The statistics showed the Tigers had 64 yards on 18 carries though the first half, but what they didn’t show was that Shaun Shivers had a 75-yard touchdown run called back.

Shivers actually out-raced two Alabama defensive backs into the end zone, something that’s sure to have lit up the eyes of Georgia tailback D’Andre Swift.

RELATED: D’Andre Swift finding ‘open space’ after bye week

Swift has caught fire since the bye week, tearing off explosive TD runs of 83 and 77 yards against Kentucky and Auburn, respectively.

The Bulldogs entered the day leading the SEC In rushing with 257.5 yards per game on the ground, and they went for another 285 yards on the ground against Georgia Tech on Saturday.

Crimson Tide special teams breakdown

Auburn generated new life and took the momentum in the second half when it blocked a punt and recovered at the Alabama 23-yard line, leading to a touchdown.

While the Crimson Tide led the nation in punt return defense entering the Auburn game (-2.5 yards per return), there have been kicking issues with five missed extra points and less than half of the kickoffs going into the end zone or touchbacks.

Smart has emphasized special teams for Georgia throughout the season, and it’s an area of the game where the Bulldogs have a decisive edge with kicker Rodrigo Blankenship and explosive return specialist Mecole Hardman.

Road to Atlanta

 

AJC-DawgNation reporter Mike Griffith reports from Bryant-Denny