Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason gives Alabama the edge over Georgia
TUSCALOOSA — Derek Mason’s had the unenviable fortune of facing both Alabama and Georgia already this season.
It’s clear to him which is superior.
“Alabama is a better team,” Mason said Wednesday on the SEC teleconference.
Now the unanimous No. 1 team in both major polls, Alabama began the Commodores’ current four-game losing streak with a 59-0 shellacking on Sept. 22 in Nashville. The Bulldogs, ranked No. 3 in both polls, continued it Oct. 7, beating the Commodores 45-14.
The two undefeated teams appear destined for a date in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 2 in Atlanta, one that would pit Tide coach Nick Saban against his longtime assistant Kirby Smart, who’s now in his second season at Georgia.
“I think he’s done a great job,” Saban said of Smart on Wednesday’s teleconference. “I think they have probably one of the best teams in our league right now. They’re playing great on both sides of the ball. Play together. They’re confident in what they’re doing. They look very, very well coached on both sides of the ball so I think he’s done a fabulous job. No question about it.”
For a coach mired in a skid that’s spiraled a once-promising season, Mason was startlingly candid. He heaped praise upon both offenses and was complimentary of both the Tide and Bulldogs defensive front.
But Alabama’s versatile secondary was Mason’s biggest separator.
“I think the difference really is in the secondary,” Mason said. “When I look at it, I think both fronts are extremely good. I think the difference is in Alabama’s secondary. I think it’s a potent secondary that’s got corners and safeties that are lock-down guys. I think you’ll have four of those guys back there on NFL rosters at some point in time.
Alabama limited the Commodores to 78 yards of total offense — 38 of which came through the air — and just three first downs. The Tide intercepted quarterback Kyle Shurmur on Vanderbilt’s first offensive series, too.
Two weeks later, Shurmur threw for 172 yards and a touchdown against the Bulldogs. Vanderbilt managed 236 yards of total offense that evening.
“In this game, it’s not just your corners’ ability to lock down but the ability of your safeties to cover sideline to sideline and the box and really show range in deep defense and I think that’s exactly who they are,” Mason said. “Just Alabama’s a truly dominant defense right now.”