Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe has made strides throughout his first season as the team's starter, and he has Georgia coach Kirby Smart's full attention as the Bulldogs prepare to face the Crimson Tide on Saturday in the SEC Championship Game. During his Monday press conference, Smart went so far as to liken Milroe to Baltimore Ravens star quarterback and former Louisville Heisman winner Lamar Jackson, comparing Milroe's elusiveness to a video game-like advantage for Alabama.
"[Milroe] is like when I used to ask my sons on 'Madden' -- they wanted to play with the Ravens, and I'd ask 'Why are you playing with the Ravens?'" Smart recalled. "They'd say 'I've got Lamar Jackson, and nobody can tackle him.' This guy is a bigger, more physical version of that. He is playing in a different speed than anybody else when you watch him."
Two weeks removed from a six-touchdown performance -- three passing, three-rushing -- at Kentucky, Milroe's abilities were on full display again in crucial moments during Alabama's 27-24 win at Auburn. On the game's final drive, Milroe nearly picked up a first down on a third-and-20 after evading multiple defenders and punctuated the game with arguably the touchdown pass of the season. Facing fourth-and-goal from the Auburn 31-yard line in the final minute, Milroe found wide receiver Isaiah Bond in the end zone for a dramatic go-ahead touchdown, capping off a wild Iron Bowl.
Ask Smart, and more plays like that will be inevitable from Milroe on Saturday. It's simply a matter of Georgia limiting them.
"He is going to make plays," Smart added. "That is a given. You watch every game, and he has made plays. He has an uncanny ability to extend plays. Whether it is that he knows he is about to take off and he's setting you up and then pump fakes, he does a lot of things with the ball that makes him hard to defend. He makes plays, and we're going to make plays. So you have to have confidence that you are going to make more than what they are going to make."
Improvement from Alabama offense apparent
Milroe enters Saturday having passed for 2,526 yards and 21 touchdowns with six interceptions, plus 439 yards and 12 touchdowns rushing. He's come a long way from struggles to limit turnovers early in the season, which hurt the Crimson Tide in their lone loss to Texas back in Week 2. There were serious questions about Alabama's offense and first-year coordinator Tommy Rees at that point, but the Crimson Tide have since won 10 straight, including a perfect 8-0 mark in SEC play to earn a date with the Bulldogs.
Although Alabama has checked it at No. 8 in each of the first four batches of College Football Playoff Rankings this season, Smart knows the pitfalls of underestimating Nick Saban and company, especially with the growth Smart sees from his team's opponent Saturday.
"They are playing as good of football as anybody in the country," Smart said. "And don't talk to me about them playing [a close game] at Auburn, because I know [what that is like]. They have played really good football and they have evolved from the start of the year to now. They are not the same team they were at the beginning of the year."