All of the college football world should have learned something from the SEC Championship Game. What jumped out to those with an open mind is that the best team in the nation for over two seasons could not handle some of what Alabama Football has become.
In the SEC Championship Game, most trench battles were won by the Crimson Tide. Often Alabama was dominant. Perhaps even more surprising was the Crimson Tide had more of the game's top skill players than did the Bulldogs. By today's standards, the Tide's 306 net offensive yards against Georgia were paltry. The Crimson Tide produced just 1.2 yards more than the average offensive output of Georgia's 10 other FBS opponents.
Alabama didn't need more offense against Georgia because of the Crimson Tide defense. On Georgia's first possession, the Bulldogs ran eight plays for 83 yards and a touchdown. Nick Saban and the Alabama football defense made an adjustment. In Georgia's next nine possessions, the Bulldogs gained a total of 179 yards. Georgia's run game was neutered by the Tide with its running backs producing just 80 total yards for the game from 23 carries.
Carson Beck had some success through the air, but what had been an explosive passing attack throughout the season had one completion that gained more than 23 yards. No doubt, Brock Bowers and Ladd McConkey playing at less than 100% limited the Bulldogs success, but other Georgia receivers struggled to get open.
In the end, a very good Georgia team lost to an even better Alabama team. What should that tell us about the Rose Bowl? According to multiple SEC and Big Ten coaches, that 'even better' Alabama team will be a tough test for the Michigan Wolverines.
Bruce Feldman, writing for The Athletic talked to SEC coaches and Big Ten coaches who spoke anonymously about Alabama vs. Michigan. A few of their observations are included below, but all the comments of the coaches provided by Feldman are enlightening.
About Alabama Football vs. Michigan from SEC Coaches
"They’ve found their niche as the year has gone on,” said an SEC West defensive coordinator. “(Rees) does a good job of formationing people, and he’s taken away half their reads for Milroe. I do think that kid is special. He’s the fastest guy on their team and I heard the kids love him. He throws it better than people give him credit. The other big thing: (offensive line coach) Eric (Wolford) has done a great job of developing those guys up front.”"- Bruce Feldman
"(Milroe’s) going to be a big problem for Michigan,” said an SEC defensive backs coach. “There is nobody in the Big Ten like him. He’s the best athlete on the field. He can run over your DBs and your linebackers can’t catch him.”"- Bruce Feldman
"“I think Michigan is going to struggle to tackle Milroe,” said another SEC defensive coordinator who faced Milroe late in the season. “He’s very dangerous. I was not worried about the QB-designed runs. I was worried about when the pass is not there and he takes off and he has space.”"- Bruce Feldman
Without going into detailed quotes from the Big Ten coaches, a summary from Bruce Feldman will suffice.
"The majority of the coaches interviewed said they believe McCarthy must play his best game of the season — and probably his life — for Michigan to beat Alabama."- Bruce Feldman