12/19/20 - Atlanta - Alabama Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) is one of three keys to the Tide pulling an upset over Georgia. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Alabama beat writer shares 3 keys for a Tide upset over Georgia in SEC championship game

ATLANTA — Former Georgia star Todd Gurley said he doesn’t “hop on flights to come to games” very often, but this game is special.

“It would mean a lot,” Gurley said, asked the importance of a Georgia win in the SEC Championship Game at 4 p.m. in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. “Alabama has been our kryptonite.”

The No. 1-ranked Bulldogs are a 6 1/2-point favorite, marking the first time the Crimson Tide (11-1) has been an underdog since the 2015 game at Georgia. Alabama won that game, 38-10.

AL.com Alabama beat writer Michael Casagrande was there that day, as Derek Henry piled up 148 yards on 26 carries.

Casagrande, in breaking down the game with DawgNation, started with the uncertain (doubtful) status of 2021 Alabama leading rusher Brian Robinson to be at his best.

Here are three keys for the Tide to pull an upset in today’s game:

1. Find a running game

MC: “It would start with getting a running back in the transfer portal that can play right away since their top running back, Brian Robinson, seemed to tweak a hamstring — Saban called it a muscle pull — and they had already lost two backups and has a 5-star freshman who hasn’t played all season.

“So they have a running back and a linebacker who be there two and three running back options behind Trey Sanders. it’s been a run game that’s struggled, It’s been among the least productive that I’ve covered in 12 seasons at Alabama.”

2. Protect the QB

MC: Protecting Bryce Young, it’s a matchup that is pretty tough for Alabama when you look at what Georgia brings in the defensive front, with their ability to get into the backfield and affect the quarterback. It’s an Alabama offensive line that is among the worst in the nation in allowing sacks and allowing tackles in the backfield. That’s about as bad as it gets.

“Auburn chewed them up with seven sacks in the backfield, and they’re not nearly as proficient or dominant as Georgia’s front. Alabama has a bunch of high-end top recruits coming in the offensive line room, but this group has been taking heat all season, and rightfully so.”

3. Utilize Will Anderson

MC: With Alabama, it starts and is centered around what Will Anderson can do, and his ability not only to get to a quarterback and get to a backfield, but also the resources that are dedicated to stopping him can free up others. Dallas Turner is a true freshman outside linebacker who has emerged in recent weeks. Christopher Allen was the senior leader who broke his leg in the first game who was the starter opposite Will Anderson and they’ve had to mix and match guys on the other end. Dallas Turner is the 5-star out of Fort Lauderdale, big motor, fast guy, has had 4 sacks in the last three games.

“So if teams key on Will Anderson, (Turner) has been a guy who has filled in there. Henry To’o To’o has been able to find some gaps. Pressuring the passer has definitely been a key for them because they’ve had some issues in the secondary giving up some bigger plays.”

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