Alabama’s three important game changers

Jason Getz/AJC

If Alabama is to win its second straight BCS national championship, the Crimson Tide must knock off the Georgia Bulldogs in the Georgia Dome this Saturday. While Nick Saban will surely get most of the headlines from media outlets across the country, several important players must step up and deliver for Alabama. Everyone will be watching the quarterback A.J. McCarron as well as the two talented running backs, but three other important players will likely have the biggest impact on Saturday’s tilt. Two particular defensive players and one outstanding wide receiver could be the difference between Alabama heading to Miami for a shot at a third title under Saban or heading to Arlington for the Cotton Bowl. These three playmakers will no doubt each be in a position to make at least one game-changing play in the Dome this Saturday.

LB C.J. Mosley The junior linebacker was recently selected as one of five finalists for the Butkus Award, honoring the top linebacker in the college game. Mosley is certainly carrying on the fine tradition of Alabama linebackers under Saban, a list that includes Dont’a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw and 2009 Butkus winner Rolando McClain. This year, Mosley has led the team with 92 tackles, including six for a loss. His four sacks ranks second on the team and most for a linebacker. He can also drop back into coverage as he has two interceptions and two additional pass breakups. Mosley always seems to be in the right position to make a play, and once he gets his hands on you, odds are you are going down. Very rarely does a player shake free of Mosley, who has 56 solo tackles on the year.

LB Adrian Hubbard The Lawrenceville, Ga., native played his high school football at Norcross before heading west to Alabama as a project. Saban has quickly helped Hubbard realize his potential, and the sophomore had the best game of his career in the team’s win over LSU earlier this month. Hubbard racked up 12 tackles, 2.5 for a loss, and he helped stop a fourth down attempt by Les Miles’ Tigers in the fourth quarter. He leads the team with five sacks and has gotten the ball carrier down nine times behind the line of scrimmage, which also leads the team. Where Hubbard is the most dangerous, though, may be his ability for strip the ball carrier and force a fumble. Thus far this season, the sophomore has forced three fumbles. The Tide as a unit has recovered 11 of the 15 fumbles forced, so Hubbard’s ability to knock a ball loose could prove valuable against UGA’s Aaron Murray, who has a tendency to lose the football in big games.

WR Amari Cooper While everyone is well aware that Saban and the Tide like to pound the ball on the ground, the run sets up the pass in Alabama’s offense, and Cooper is by far the team’s best receiver. The 6-foot-1 freshman from Miami has reeled in 45 receptions this year for 767 yards and eight scores, all to lead the team. He averages a little over 63 receiving yards per game, and he can get open for big plays or to simply move the chains. He is averaging 17 yards per catch, but he can also serve as a possession receiver, just as he did against Mississippi. His 162 receiving yards against Tennessee were a team-high this year and he thrice recorded a pair of touchdowns in a game. If Georgia tries to collapse in to stop the running game, McCarron should look over the top for Cooper, who can beat most any corner in the SEC.

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