John Raoux/Associated Press
One of the most anticipated games of the college football season will give us an insight into which team may be the best College Football Playoff contender out of the SEC.
No. 2 Alabama hosts No. 3 Georgia Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium in a game that should take over the national spotlight. This will also be the first time the the two teams have met in the regular season since 2015.
The winner of the SEC showdown will be viewed as the top contender to Clemson in the Top 25 rankings and will gain a massive advantage in the playoff discussion.
Although no other ranked programs face each other in the upcoming week, seven Top 25 sides have to go on the road, and some may have tougher challenges on their hands than expected.
Week 7 Schedule
All Times ET.
Wednesday, October 14
Coastal Carolina at No. 21 Louisiana (7:30 p.m., ESPN)
Friday, October 16
No. 17 SMU at Tulane (6 p.m., ESPN)
No. 15 BYU at Houston (9 p.m., ESPN)
Saturday, October 17
No. 1 Clemson at Georgia Tech (Noon, ABC)
No. 8 Cincinnati at Tulsa (Noon, ESPN2)
Pittsburgh at No. 13 Miami (Noon, ACC Network)
No. 14 Auburn at South Carolina (Noon, ESPN)
Louisville at No. 4 Notre Dame (2:30 p.m., NBC)
LSU at No. 10 Florida (3:30 p.m., ESPN)
No. 11 Texas A&M at Mississippi State (4 p.m., SEC Network)
No. 5 North Carolina at Florida State (7 p.m., ESPN)
No. 3 Georgia at No. 2 Alabama (8 p.m., CBS)
Boston College at No. 23 Virginia Tech (8 p.m., ACC Network)
Alabama Handles Georgia At Home, Tests Clemson For No. 1 Spot
L.G. Patterson/Associated Press
Since the two best teams in the SEC last met in regular-season play, Alabama have taken wins over Georgia in the 2018 National Championship Game and SEC Championship Game the following season.
Saturday’s clash is expected to be as close as the last two meetings, but the Crimson Tide could have the advantage on offense.
Nick Saban’s side is coming off back-to-back 50-point performances against Texas A&M and Ole Miss, with Mac Jones throwing for over 400 passing yards in both victories.
The high volume of passing plays in those games should have handed the quarterback plenty of confidence to deal from the pocket to Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith and others.
Waddle and Smith are over 300 receiving yards, while breakout star John Metchie hauled in 11 catches for 298 yards.
Alabama also has a stable of running backs to rely on, led by Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr. Even if the former is out of the game for a few plays, the Crimson Tide could threaten the Bulldogs with the latter, Trey Sanders or one of the wide receivers on a gimmick running play.
Georgia’s offense has displayed the ability to pull away from teams while its defense takes over. It beat Auburn and Tennessee by a combined 71-27.
While Kirby Smart’s team deserves credit for beating Top 25 teams in back-to-back games, the Tigers and Volunteers have proved they are not on the level of Georgia or Alabama.
Containing the Crimson Tide will be a much harder task for the Georgia defense since it has to deal with a larger stable of playmakers.
The Bulldogs have allowed 38.3 rushing yards per game, but have conceded 230.6 total yards per game, a total that could be inflated by Alabama’s production.
Georgia’s defense may turn the contest into a low-scoring affair, but its offense does not have the abundance of game-changing players that Alabama possesses. Wide receiver George Pickens may be the only Bulldogs star to match the dynamism of Waddle and Smith.
If Alabama impresses while defeating Georgia, it could challenge Clemson for the No. 1 spot since the Tigers have played a weaker schedule in the ACC.
Dabo Swinney’s side is coming off a win over Miami, but that is the team’s only victory over a ranked foe. Alabama would have two wins over a pair of Top 15 teams in its first four games.
If anything, the Crimson Tide could give voters a tougher decision on their ballots than the first few weeks, when Clemson gained the majority of first-place votes.
North Carolina Faces Trouble At Florida State
Gary McCullough/Associated Press
On paper, North Carolina’s trip to Florida State does not seem too threatening.
The Seminoles enter the matchup at 1-3 with their only victory coming against FCS program Jacksonville State, who they struggled with in the first half.
Although it has a pair of double-digit defeats to ranked sides, Florida State displayed more fight against Notre Dame in Week 6 than anyone expected.
Mike Norvell’s team put up 26 points in the road loss and looked decent with Jordan Travis heading the offense. The quarterback threw for 204 yards and led the team in rushing yards with 96.
Now that Florida State finally has a decent performance to build on, it could test a program with a growing target on its back.
North Carolina moved up to No. 5 in the AP Top 25 after losses by Miami and Florida and is coming off a 56-45 home win over Virginia Tech.
Saturday’s trip to Doak Campbell Stadium begins a stretch of five games against unranked teams for the Tar Heels.
The Tar Heels may not lose in Tallahassee, Florida, but they might get a stiffer test than expected with Florida State looking to show its improvements on a national stage.
Just as they did in Week 6, the Seminoles are capable of hanging around for a half or longer, which could cause North Carolina to get a bit tight offensively.
Mack Brown’s team should still come home with a win, but its performance may lead voters to reconsider its position above Ohio State in the rankings.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.
Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.