No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia will face off on Saturday afternoon in the Georgia Dome for the SEC Championship and a spot in the BCS National Championship Game. With strong defenses, efficient passing attacks and stout running games, these two teams are almost mirror images of each other.
We've already discussed who has the edge at the quarterback spot, but a solid passing game is predicated on an offense's ability to keep defenses honest with a solid running game.
So which backfield will have the edge under the big top on Saturday night?
Junior Eddie Lacy and freshman T.J. Yeldon have provided a dynamic one-two punch for the Crimson Tide this season, combining for 1,842 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns, averaging an eye-popping 6.3 yards per carry.
Both players have the size and strength to run between the tackles and the moves to make defenders miss.
While the Crimson Tide may have the experience, Georgia's freshmen duo of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have excelled between the hedges for the Georgia Bulldogs this season.
Gurley burst onto the scene with 1,138 yards and 14 touchdowns as a true freshman, leading all SEC running backs in rushing with 94.83 yards per game. The 6'1", 218-pounder has track-star speed and a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown under his belt.
Marshall has taken a back seat to Gurley this season, but the Raleigh native has enjoyed plenty of success as a true freshman between the hedges as well. He has 720 yards and eight touchdowns on the season, including three games of 100 or more yards.
Two things give Alabama the edge on the ground in this one—its solid offensive line and Lacy's experience.
The Crimson Tide offensive line is widely regarded as one of the top units in the country. Center Barrett Jones, guards Chance Warmack and Anthony Steen and tackles D.J. Fluker and Cyrus Kouandjio haven't lived up to expectations in the pass-blocking department, but they've been stellar in the run game all year.
Georgia's offensive line has been better lately, but the inconsistency may pop up again—especially against a defensive front seven like Alabama boasts.
Plus, Alabama's game plan may lend itself to more production from its running backs.
Alabama's defense struggled against LSU and Texas A&M this month, and since Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murray has tossed 13 touchdowns and zero picks in the month of November, expect Georgia to come out slinging it around the field.
The Crimson Tide, on the other hand, knows its identity, and that identity is to run to set up the pass.
Alabama has the slight edge on the ground, but if you're a head coach and forced to choose between these two running back corps, that's a good problem to have.
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