Halftime analysis: Ten thoughts from the SEC Championship Game

semerson@macon.comDecember 1, 2012 

ATLANTA Normally it's just seven thoughts at halftime, but this is a special game, so we add a field goal's worth of analysis.

1. The final few minutes have a chance to be a hugely deflating effect on Georgia, similar to what the Honey Badger did in one play here last year. It's only a three-point game, and Georgia gets the ball to start the second half. But Alabama got the kind of big plays you'd expect a champion to get, while Georgia made the mistakes. The Bulldogs went from leading 7-0, and the ball at midfield, to down at halftime. That has to be discouraging.

2. That said, this game is there for Georgia if it can mentally get off the carpet. They're playing just well enough on defense, Aaron Murray was having a good game until the final two minutes, and the run game is moving it ... occasionally. Nothing spectacular, but enough to build on and give Georgia a fighting chance in the second half.

3. The fake punt for Georgia: There was talk among veterans of the beat that it was the gutsiest call they've seen from Mark Richt, considering the circumstances. But it was the right call at the right time. It was also completely unexpected. There's no way Alabama had any idea that Arthur Lynch, who had never thrown a pass, would be a threat to pass the ball - and no way that Sanders Commings, a senior cornerback, would be a threat to catch it. Maybe another senior cornerback, Branden Smith, or Damian Swann, but not Commings.

4. So much attention coming in was on how Murray would play. But it was Alabama's A.J. McCarron who was struggling big-time. Murray was throwing it really well and also doing a good job of scrambling to prevent more lost yardage. But the late interception hurt a lot because of how it swung momentum, and potentially the game. You can fault Murray for not seeing the Alabama safety HaHa Clinton-Dix, but it also was probably the wrong time to try for the deep ball. There was plenty of time left to try some more underneath passes. I know, it's hindsight, but I thought even with the ball in the air that it was a peculiar strategy.

5. Alabama's field position until that interception was not only all in its own territory, but consistently deep: 25, 19, 33, 24, 18, 30.

6. The sequence midway through the second quarter was a wild one: First, Alabama seems set to have to settle for a field goal, but then Alec Ogletree is called for the personal foul. then Alabama seems ready to punch it in, only to have a fumble and recovery by Bama push it to the five. Then, McCarron makes an awful throw that Commings picks off. Who knew that Ogletree penalty would end up being a blessing for Georgia? Of course, it was short-lived.

7. Murray's touchdown pass to Jay Rome was the 90th of his career, passing Peyton Manning for second on the SEC's all-time list. Manning's father Archie, incidentally, is in the house for the game.

8. Right tackle John Theus is having the kind of rough game he had at Missouri. Xzavier Dickson, a native of Griffin who almost chose Georgia in 2011, beat Theus twice for sacks in the first quarter. The offensive line's ability to defend Murray was the key to this game coming in, and so far it's a mixed bag. Actually, Murray was doing a good job of overcoming it by not pressing and throwing touchdowns. That's why it's so unfortunate his biggest mistake wasn't forced by bad blocking.

9. That was the first scoreless first quarter in SEC championship history.

10. What Georgia needs to do in the second half: Offensively, keep balanced, and get Todd Gurley the ball more. He's carried it eight times for 46 yards. And on defense, emphasize the run defense and make McCarron be the hero. He's struggling. But don't go too far in that direction, because McCarron is game-tested and we saw in last year's BCS championship he can convert the big pass.

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