After narrowly escaping with a victory in the Iron Bowl over the weekend, No. 8 Alabama managed to stay in the playoff race.

The Crimson Tide face a considerable uphill battle that will require them to accomplish something that has never been done before. Going into the final week of the College Football Playoff Rankings, no team ranked outside the top seven has ever made the jump into one of the top four spots.

One thing Alabama does have going their way is they have a date with the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game. This provides Alabama a chance to leave a lasting impression on the selection committee less than 24 hours before the final rankings will be released on Sunday.

Alabama will be in an unfamiliar spot coming into the game as the underdogs. But rightfully so, as Georgia is coming into the matchup on a 29-game win streak. Their last loss came at the hands of the Crimson Tide with a 41-24 victory in the 2021 SEC Championship Game. 

Here are five things to watch for in the SEC Championship Game.

  1. Limit Mistakes

The first and most important mistakes to avoid are turnovers. Turnovers almost always equal points for the other team. Georgia’s offense is already good enough that they don’t need any extra help from an Alabama turnover. Alabama has done a great job winning the turnover battle, especially as of late. Over the past four games, Alabama has produced a +5 turnover margin. Dumb penalties also fall into the mistakes category. Penalties putting the offense behind the chains, as well as defensive penalties that extend drives for the opponents, have been an issue for Alabama this season. As a result of penalties, the Crimson Tide has had eight touchdowns taken off the board this season.

  1. Establish the Run

The strength of the Georgia defense is their secondary, which is allowing an SEC-best 176.5 passing yards per game, as well as leading the SEC with 12 interceptions. Georgia’s weakness is their run defense. The teams that have had the most success keeping it a game into the fourth quarter against Georgia have been able to run the football. One of the biggest issues in stopping the run has been against mobile quarterbacks. It will be key to get Jalen Milroe involved in the run game to give Alabama’s offense a chance.

  1. Slow Down Brock Bowers

Brock Bowers is the best tight end in the country and one of the biggest mismatches every time he steps on the field. Some would even argue that if he hadn’t gotten injured this year and missed games, he would be a Heisman Trophy contender. Bowers is often compared to seven-time All-Pro Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. It would be ridiculous to ask Alabama’s defense to stop Bowers, but slowing him down should be the focus. Given the speed and size combo of Bowers, Alabama will probably need to jam him at the line of scrimmage and maybe even dedicate two players to guard him.

  1. Pressure the Quarterback

Georgia’s offensive line has done an excellent job protecting their quarterback Carson Beck, only allowing him to be sacked eight times this season. As a result, Beck has thrown for 3,495 yards and 22 touchdowns, completing 72.4% of his passes this season. When pressured, his efficiency significantly drops, throwing for just 314 yards and only a 51.2% completion rate. The success of the Alabama pass rush will dictate how well the defense is able to hold up against the SEC’s second-best offense.

  1. Slow Down the Georgia Run Game

Most of Georgia's offensive damage has come through the air this season, but getting the run game going is what has opened up the passing attack for Georgia. Alabama has had success stopping the run all season but will need to bounce back after allowing a season-worst 244 rushing yards to Auburn last week.

No. 8 Alabama and No. 1 Georgia will battle it out for the SEC Championship as well as a possible College Football Playoff berth Saturday at 3:00 p.m. CT in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The game will air on CBS.

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