SEC Notes: Pass rush could be deciding factor for Tide - WSFX - FOX Wilmington, NC

SEC Notes: Pass rush could be deciding factor for Tide

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(Source: Brian Tynes/RNN) (Source: Brian Tynes/RNN)

ATLANTA (RNN) – The final day before the SEC championship game produced a big surprise: Nick Saban said he appreciated the media.

The Alabama coach, never known as one who enjoys letting anyone know what he's thinking, was given the opportunity to leave after answering questions from the media Friday but instead chose to stay for a parting statement.

"There is a perception that I'm not a fan of the media, but I want everybody here to know that's not the case," Saban said. "You bring tremendous positive self-gratification to the players and interest and attention for our game and other sporting events by what you do."

Whether it was a half-hearted apology for the reaming the media took from Saban earlier in the year, the chance to show he isn't feuding with the press like Steve Spurrier is or just another opportunity to tell the media they are wrong, Saban made an attempt to shake his rough exterior.

But had he been asked about an assistant coach looking for another job, it would have reared its head once again. That may come after the game.

Will Bama hit Murray?

The only topic both coaches addressed at any length was Alabama's ability to get a pass rush on Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. The only defensive weakness many people see in the Crimson Tide (11-1, 7-1) is their lack of a dominant pass rusher.

Georgia coach Mark Richt said he's never been around a quarterback as good at picking up and avoiding the pass rush as Aaron Murray.

"There's a lot of ways to handle the blitz, and sometimes you're running against it," Richt said. "It depends on what kind of protection you have, but we have a way of handling it with the running game, but the main thing for the quarterback is knowing if this protection will stand up to this blitz. Aaron is as good as anybody I've had at doing that.

Alabama's defense does a lot of different things, but primarily allows linebackers to make plays downfield, which puts the pass rush burden on the defensive line. If that unit fails to come through against Georgia, Saban said the Tide would be in a difficult position.

"Murray is a good decision maker and they have a rhythm passing game, and he does a good job executing that," Saban said. "If you don't (get pressure from the defensive line), a good quarterback is going to have the time to find open receivers. If you can't affect him with four guys, the more you rush, the more it becomes a feast or famine."

Defense for Heisman

With no frontrunner for the top individual award in college football, who takes the Heisman Trophy home is anyone's guess. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is the frontrunner with Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o the other trending name. Neither plays another game before the winner is announced, so Saturday could be an opportunity for someone on the fringe to make a name for himself.

Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones has already made a name for himself and is considered one of, if not the best, defensive player in the country. A big game for him could bring the Heisman spotlight his way, much like a big game against Alabama did that very thing for Manziel.

It won't be hard to find a supporter for his candidacy, and Richt took the opportunity to lend his support.

"The last two games we played, he played triple-option football teams, and it's hard to get a sack when they throw five times a game," Richt said. "We know he's a sack artist. He can come around the edge, he can bull rush a guy, he's stripping balls left and right. When he gets a sack, a lot of times there's a fumble to go along with it because he's very conscious of how the quarterback is holding the ball."

Who's No. 1?

Given the SEC's dominance in recent years, it's not out of the question to think the winner of Saturday's game, regardless of who it is, will beat Notre Dame for the national championship. So should the SEC team get the nod as the top team entering the game?

Richt had the answer: "No."

Well, that ends that.

For what it's worth…

If you're a stat junkie and are looking for anything that might give a team an edge when they play, consider the following:

Alabama has a three-minute edge on the Bulldogs in time of possession. Nick Saban spoke for 25 minutes, while Richt spoke for only 22. It may not mean anything, but … no, it means nothing.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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