(CBS DFW) — Week 14 of the college football season brings plenty of conference championship action. Ten championships are on the line. Bowl games and the College Football Playoff will follow in the weeks to come, with bids still possibly riding on this weekend’s results.
CBS and CBS Sports Network have a couple of strong matchups on the schedule. Top-ranked and undefeated Georgia meets fourth-ranked Alabama in the SEC Championship. Western Kentucky, riding a seven-game winning streak, faces the formerly ranked University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) in the Conference USA Championship. CBS’s Norm Elrod talked to CBS Sports’ Houston Nutt about the matchups.
#1 Georgia @ #4 Alabama, Saturday, December 4, 4:00 p.m. ET on CBS
The Georgia defense has only allowed four teams to reach double digits. That said, they haven’t faced many elite offenses. Tennessee did score 17 points a few weeks back. What does this Georgia defense do that makes it so difficult for opposing offenses?
They have an unbelievable front, where they can play that front seven, without blitzing so much. And when you can rush four and then cover with seven, it gives you such a great advantage. But now Kirby mixing in the zone pressures with these blitzes, it can keep a quarterback so off-balance. And they have the speed to get home. And when you can rush the way Georgia can rush the passer, it can be disruptive. They’re so good at mixing things up. But the biggest thing is Jordan Davis and that front. They don’t need much help. And when you don’t need much help, it just gives the secondary more cushion and help to be able to stop the pass and explosive plays. But Kirby loves to bring it, he loves to bring five, six, even a seventh guy. He’ll keep them off balance. They’ve done a good job. Very few teams have been able to score. So I can’t wait to see this game.
How should the Alabama offense, led by Bryce Young, attack this Georgia defense? Should their recent struggles against Auburn raise concerns?
That’s one film Kirby will watch real hard. I thought Auburn did an unbelievable job of playing defense against Alabama. Derek Mason had a great plan. And so, saying that, you can bet that Alabama will be very, very focused.
One of the most important things is Jameson Williams. Jameson needs to stay on the field. You have to have speed outside, because they can take away your best plays. One of the best things to do against a Georgia team, when you run so fast, is to get them moving early. What I mean by that is a reverse in the first 10 plays, boots and waggles, move the launching point. Georgia is so good that, if you’re vanilla, especially early, you’re going to be behind the count. So it’s very, very important that you get off and stay with the count. And what I mean by that is four yards, four yards, three yards. You can’t get second and 12, third and 12 with this bunch, because they just smell blood. They’re so good.
So I would mix it up early, screens, draws, boots, and waggles, a reverse early. Misdirection screen, get buys in space early and really try to get the defense running. That’s your best chance to get against this bunch. One thing that people don’t know about is the secondary of Georgia. Why? Because the front is so good, and very few teams have been able to get the ball down the field consistently, because they get home with the rush. It’s important that the quarterback has a time clock and be able to mix things up, especially early on.
Georgia hasn’t played a close game since their Week 1 win over Clemson. Alabama has been tested by Florida, Texas A&M and Auburn. This seems like the SEC Championship matchup that was destined to happen. How do you see it playing out?
Georgia’s defense is just so good. The thing is I still believe that Bryce Young is so good too, with his wide receivers. If they can get the ball off and move things around — try to get them off balance and test the secondary early. If you can get some field position and cross that 50 a few times, it will be a whole different ballgame.
The one thing about Georgia is they get you backed up. They win field position. They block a punt, and all of a sudden it’s downhill and you’re looking up out of the well. You’re you’re having such a hard time staying on the field.
I think it will be close for a half. But Georgia’s defense is just so elite and so fast. They give you so many problems. I just don’t how Alabama, right now, for four quarters, can stay on that field and produce points. Nobody has yet. But it’s hard to count out Bryce Young. I’m a big believer in Bryce Young, but he has to have that time block in his head. I’m going to lean toward Georgia.
Conference USA Championship:
Western Kentucky @ UTSA, Friday, December 3, 7:00 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers-University of Texas San Antonio Roadrunners
UTSA’s loss last week ruined their undefeated season and dropped them out of the top 25. How do they recover against Western Kentucky in the Conference USA Championship?
What happens is, when you lose your first game after you’ve been undefeated all year long, you have a different focus. So Western Kentucky is catching UTSA at the wrong time. They’ll be so laser-focused. They’re hurting from that loss. They haven’t experienced it all year. So this timing, if you’re UTSA, you’d probably think that this might really help us. If you’re Western Kentucky, you have to keep doing what you’ve been doing. Zappe has been great. These guys are fun to watch. They know how to get the ball up and down the field. You can bet that UTSA will come with a laser-focus, and they’ll be ready to get that medicine, that one dose of medicine. And that’s a win.
Western Kentucky started the season 1-4, with their last loss coming against UTSA. What has led to their current 7-game winning streak, and can they make it 8 wins in a row against UTSA?
When you look at Western Kentucky, it just looks like a completely different team. If you look at the first three or four games, they weren’t playing very clean, missed assignments, loss-of-yardage plays. But, all of a sudden you look at these last four, five, six games, Zappe very accurate. The game is clean. He gets them out of the wrong play, gets into the right play. Quick release. Things look so good, and Western Kentucky is playing good defense as well. So, when you have that together, you start to believe. When you keep getting better at the end of the year, there’s confidence that’s built. Confidence, and they’ve cleaned things up. And Zappe has been outstanding.