Unique SEC Championship game for Pittman


FAYETTEVILLE – University of Arkansas coach Sam Pittman could have the most unique perspective on the SEC Championship game of any coach not participating in Saturday’s 3pm central game between Georgia No.1 and Alabama No. 3 in Atlanta.

Pittman worked four years in Georgia as the offensive line coach from 2016-19 for Kirby Smart, and he’s prepared teams to face Alabama and coach Nick Saban in eight of the past 10 years.

Additionally, the Razorbacks have joined Auburn, Florida and Tennessee as the only teams to have faced both the Bulldogs (12-0) and Crimson Tide (11-1) this season.

All of those schools went 0-2 against the division winners, though Auburn held a 10-0 lead over Alabama in the fourth quarter and took the Tide to four overtime before falling 24-22. Saturday.

Arkansas are the only team to face Alabama and Georgia on the road, and both teams were ranked No.2 at the time. These are key parts of a schedule for Arkansas that has been ranked as the toughest in the country for 2021.

Pittman, the second-year Razorbacks coach, has a vast knowledge of the staff and plans of both programs heading into the third postseason showdown in the past five years between Saban and his protégé ‘Smart.

Pittman was asked for a comparison between the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide after his team’s 42-35 loss to Alabama two weeks ago, and he wasn’t ready to delve into that question.

“Ahhh, I don’t… I think that’s a really good question, I really don’t want to answer it,” Pittman said before relenting a bit.

“They are two very good teams. Both physical. Alabama throws the ball more than Georgia. Georgia, they have different people. Georgia believes in turning around and hammering you [with the run] and play the action out of it. They are two very good football teams.

Pittman’s assessment is fair when it comes to these teams’ offensive approaches against Arkansas.

In a 37-0 loss to Georgia, No.2, on Oct. 2, Arkansas allowed 273 rushing and 72 passing yards to the Bulldogs, who took the lead 21-0 with a touchdown. blocked early in the game and kept things on the pitch almost exclusively in the second half.

Alabama took a very different approach, although the Tide racked up a ton of extra yards in the Bryant-Denny Stadium shootout.

Quarterback Bryce Young rushed for 559 yards, the second-highest total in SEC history, and the Crimson Tide rushed for 112 rushing yards while edging the Razorbacks 671-468.

Smart is aiming for his first victory over Saban, but he can’t clinch Saban’s first assistant title to beat him. Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher captured the honor on Oct. 9 in a 41-38 victory over the Crimson Tide which broke Saban’s incredible 24-0 record against his assistants.

The Smart team is favored by 6 1/2 points and for good reason. Georgia is the first team in Associated Press Top 25 polling history to receive every first-place vote for eight straight weeks.

The Bulldogs won their SEC games by an average margin of 40-8, a dominance rarely seen in the nation’s top conference. Alabama’s average score in conference games was 37-23.

Auburn had the best scoring differential in both games with Georgia and Alabama, dropping 26 points combined. The Gators were next, losing by 29 points combined (including a 31-29 loss in Tuscaloosa, Ala. On September 18 before their season began to crumble.

The Bulldogs and Crimson Tide beat Arkansas by 44 points combined, followed by Tennessee losing 52 points to pair.

Alabama tore it in the air behind Young, a Heisman Trophy contender, Young averaging 341.8 passing yards per game, but the Tide will face the nation’s No.1 defense on Saturday.

Georgia are allowing 229.7 yards and a best FBS of 6.9 points per game, and making comparisons to some of the best defenses of all time. The Bulldogs are No.2 against the pass (150.8 yards per game), No.1 in defensive efficiency against the pass (94.72) and No.3 against the run (78.9).

Georgia have allowed nine touchdowns this season, 12 fewer than Clemson, Penn State and Texas A&M (who have allowed 21) and their 6.9 allowed points per game is more than twice as good as Clemson (15 , 0). ).

Alabama’s typically stingy defense hasn’t been as dominant this season, although it’s not statistically bad. The Crimson Tide ranks seventh in total defense (294.2 PGJ), fourth against the run (80.58), 42nd against the pass (213.6), 68th in efficiency against the pass (134.05) and 20th in score (19.9).

Georgia senior quarterback Stetson Bennett has clearly improved from last season and fought off JT Daniels to retain the starting position. Bennett struggled in a 41-24 Highway loss to Alabama last season. He completed 18 of 40 passes for 269 yards, with 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions and was clearly trying to do too much.

“I think he’s really smart,” Saban said. “He sees what the defense will do. He gets the ball out of his hands very quickly to the good guys for the most part. And I think these things kind of develop with knowledge and experience. I can certainly see how it has benefited him in terms of the consistency with which he has played this year, because he has been exceptional.

Bennett is playing with better restraint this season and relies on a versatile Georgia play that averages 202 yards per game and features top rushers Zamir White (128 carries, 699 yards, 10 touchdowns, 5.4 yards per carry) and James Cook (90-588, 7, 6.5) and all-backs Kenny McIntosh (50-303, 3, 5.7) and Kendall Milton (49-253, 1, 5.0).


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