By JOHN ZENOR
If it wasn’t Jaylen Waddle outrunning the Georgia defense, it was DeVonta Smith winning a fight for the ball in the back of the end zone or slipping free on a wheel route.
Not even No. 4 Georgia’s vaunted defense could contain No. 2 Alabama’s speedy, crafty, sure-handed receivers Saturday night. The question now: Who can?
“Trying to cover outstanding receivers is really a difficult task,” Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said. “You have to have a really, really good secondary, you have to have really good guys to match up. That’s been an advantage for us. It was a huge advantage for us last year, and it’s an advantage for us this year.”
Smith and Waddle each delivered another huge game in a 41-24 victory over Georgia, which easily has the best defense Alabama has faced this season.
It’s one thing to do it against Mississippi, and another altogether to victimize the Bulldogs.
“They made a couple big throws,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “They beat us on some bubble plays and a double move with Waddle. They made a lot of big plays on 50-50 balls. Smith and Waddle had some big catches.”
What else is new?
Both Smith and Waddle rank among the nation’s top seven receivers in yards per game. And John Metchie III had 181 yards and two touchdowns against Texas A&M.
Waddle had a 90-yard touchdown against Georgia and has at least 120 receiving yards in all four games.
Smith has 24 catches for 231 yards and three touchdowns in the past two games, displaying his strong connection with quarterback Mac Jones.
“That’s just us in practice just getting chemistry down and really Mac just believing in me,” Smith said. “I always tell Mac: ‘You believe in me, I believe in you. I will never let you down.’”
Jones, whose three consecutive 400-yard passing games matches Tua Tagovailoa’s career total, said the trust is mutual and that Smith has the confidence to say, “Throw it to me.”
“He says, ‘I don’t care if I’m triple covered, throw it to me,’” Jones said. “It’s hard to turn that down. He’s a (Michael) Jordan-level competitor.
“If you can get him the ball, then he’ll make the play.”
Same goes for Waddle, a dangerous open-field runner who is also a threat as a punt returner. And Metchie, when he gets the chance.
The Tide also displayed their power running game with Najee Harris, who ran 31 times for 152 yards and a touchdown.
“They’re big, they’re physical, they lean on and wear on you and they’ve got a great back,” Georgia safety Richard LeCounte said. “The passing game they use is really creative. They run a lot of the same plays from different formations and they did a good job disguising them with motions.”
The Tide’s passing game has gotten more explosive even after losing Tagovailoa and fellow first-rounders Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, both receivers.
“These receivers are special,” Saban said.