ATHENS -- A popular narrative heading into Saturday’s game between Georgia and Alabama pits what each team does exceptionally well against one another.
The Bulldogs boast one of the nation’s best rushing attacks, with running back Nick Chubb ranking fifth in the nation with 599 yards and six touchdowns. The Crimson Tide possess one of the best front seven units in college football as it has held opponents to less than 2 yards per rush.
Chubb knows this game will be a tough one compared to the relative ease he has had through Georgia’s first four games.
“No one has been able to run the ball against them so far this season,” Chubb said. “That’s very impressive. I think they’re averaging 56 yards against the rushing game. It’s going to be tough, but I think we can do it.”
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Up front, Alabama’s success starts with defensive tackles A’Shawn Robinson, Jonathan Allen and Jarran Reed. Inside linebacker Reggie Ragland has done his part to clean up the opposition’s run game as a versatile playmaker. For Georgia’s offensive line, executing each individual assignment will be a crucial part to springing the run game.
Right guard Greg Pyke said putting a hat on a hat will be what Georgia needs to do in order to have success against the stout Alabama front seven.
“If you win those one-on-one matchups across the board, you’re going to move the ball, have some good yards and score a lot of points,” Pyke said. “If we do our jobs up front, make sure we keep winning those one-on-one matchups, keeping (quarterback) Greyson (Lambert) upright and everything, no one’s going to be able to stop our running game when those backs hit it downhill untouched.”
For as good as Alabama has been against the run this season, the first and fourth quarters are where it surrenders the most yards -- and even then it’s slim pickings. The Crimson Tide have allowed only 105 rushing yards in the first quarter all year and 66 total in the fourth. In the second and third quarters, Alabama’s rush defense has been at its best, holding teams to a total of 56.
Running back Sony Michel is expecting a physical game, given Alabama’s success thus far up front.
“We know it’s going to be a great game with a lot of contact,” Michel said. “It’s our type of game. It’s a game that’s going to help us improve, probably help us show our talent. I believe sometimes we can be so effective and run into other teams’ mistakes. This team brings a challenge, and we’ll actually be able to show what we really have.”
Chubb is riding a 12-game streak, dating back to last season, during which he has run for more than 100 yards each game. He has said previous times before that the streak does not hold much significance, even though he’s one 100-yard game from tying Herschel Walker’s record of 13 at Georgia.
This week, Chubb is hoping to go for 100 yards for a different reason.
With Alabama’s defense this good against the run, Chubb would love to be able to show he can still roll out a ton of yardage against the top competition.
“I think I’m more motivated to get 100 yards, not to break the record, but because they haven’t allowed anyone to get 100 yards on them this season,” Chubb said.
Chubb has seen stacked boxes all season, granted against teams that aren’t on Alabama’s defense’s level. Even so, Chubb has still managed 8.4 yards per carry. That’s more than four times the average Alabama has allowed, making it a tough bill for Chubb this Saturday.
“Against Alabama, I don’t think (big runs are) going to happen that much since they’ll stack the box and the defensive line is so good,” Pyke said. “But those 3, 4, 5-yard gains are going to add up, and I think that’s what’s going to win the game for us. Just keep grinding, keep getting those yards -- those ugly yards.”