Alabama, Georgia bring injury concerns into SEC title game

Georgia and Alabama arrive in Atlanta for the SEC Championship game Friday. Normally the teams would have arrived Thursday, but the SEC continues to exercise an abundance of caution with regard to infectious illnesses.

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So, the SEC Championship game coaches’ press conference, normally held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Friday before the game, was conducted remotely from the respective campuses Thursday. Also, Friday’s walk-through practices in the stadium will be closed to the media and to the public.

One of the primary storylines discussed with the coaches Thursday was what players might be available to play in Saturday’s game (4 p.m., CBS), which matches No. 1 Georgia (12-0, 8-0 SEC) against No. 3 Alabama (11-1, 7-1). Both teams have major injury questions. The Crimson Tide’s are particularly concerning.

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As of Thursday afternoon, coach Nick Saban said Alabama still was not certain about the availability of star running back Brian Robinson. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound senior pulled a muscle during a 37-yard run against Auburn on Saturday.

Robinson is the SEC’s leading scorer (14 touchdowns) and third-leading rusher with 1,061 yards.

“We’re doing some things with him today in practice to see how he responds,” Saban said. “So, it’s going to be day-to-day, and we’re just going to have to see how it goes.”

“Day-to-day,” “wait-and-see” and “game-time decision” were the most common answers to most of the injury questions presented to Saban and Georgia coach Kirby Smart on Thursday. That should come as no surprise on the eve of arguably the most important game in college football this weekend. Unlike the NFL, neither the SEC nor the NCAA has an injury-reporting policy.

That may soon change with the sports gambling being legalized in an increasing number of states. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said protocols are being discussed.

“As college sports gambling becomes more enculturated, we’re going to have to be attentive to that,” Sankey said earlier this season. “We haven’t had any more conversations as a league. Every week we have an integrity monitoring service where we’re learning things about what’s happening in the sports gambling world. Every week we have those conversations. And it’s not lost on me that we’re going to have to continue to think about how to adapt in this environment because sports gambling is not going away.”

What’s next for UGA?

After the Georgia Bulldogs’ first loss of the season to Alabama, what happens next?

The Bulldogs fell from No. 1 to No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings and are set to face No. 2. Michigan (12-1) in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Eve.

Journalists from the AJC are providing complete coverage of the SEC Championship and the decisions on Sunday about the College Football Playoffs.

Readers will find updated coverage in print and ePaper editions, the AJC app and on ajc.com.

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On Twitter: Follow UGA reporter Chip Towers @ctowersajc, @AJCSports and @ajc

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Robinson’s situation is the most high-profile of the questions coming into Saturday’s game. The Tide already lost three other scholarship running backs to injuries this season. If Robinson can’t go, that leaves only sophomore Trey Sanders (50-221-2) to play against Georgia’s vaunted defense.

The Bulldogs rank No. 3 in the nation against the run (78.9 ypg), and have allowed the fewest rushing touchdowns in FBS (2).

Robinson is only the highest-profile injury uncertainty for Alabama. The Tide also are monitoring the health of starting offensive lineman Darrian Dalcourt (6-3, 300), who had to leave the Auburn game with an ankle issue.

“Pretty much the same situation as B-Rob’s in,” Saban said. “He’s been able to practice on a limited basis. We’ll see what he can do today and how he responds to it. It’s going to be a day-to-day situation as well.”

Sophomore Seth McLaughlin (6-4, 290) filled in for Dalcourt against the Tigers, but right tackle Chris Owens (6-3, 305) also can play there.

Alabama cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis, another starter, didn’t play against Auburn and is questionable for Saturday’s game. Freshman Kool-Aid McKinstry started against Auburn had a sack and pass breakup in the game.

Georgia’s primary injury concerns surround senior left tackle Jamaree Salyer (foot), senior safety Christopher Smith (knee), running back Kendall Milton (knee) and junior wideout/punt returner Kearis Jackson (rib). Again, Smart remained vague.

“We’re hopeful to have all four of those guys be able to play,” he said. “They’ve been able to participate in parts of practice all week and we feel good about them. But, again, it will boil down to a game-time decision, how they are in warmups and how they look.”

Salyer is considered the Bulldogs’ best offensive lineman, but has sat out the past four games because of a sprained foot. Redshirt freshman Broderick Jones might be a better overall athlete, but is less proficient when it comes to assignments and technique.

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Smith started the first nine games and is the team co-leader in interceptions (2), including a 74-yard touchdown return against Clemson. Sophomore walk-on Dan Jackson has filled in and played well.

Jackson suffered a rib injury Saturday in the first half of the Bulldogs’ 45-0 win over Georgia Tech. Smart said Jackson possibly could have returned in the game. Milton is Georgia’s fourth-leading rusher (243 yards, 1 TD) but hasn’t played in six weeks.

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What’s next for UGA?

After the Georgia Bulldogs’ first loss of the season to Alabama, what happens next?

The Bulldogs fell from No. 1 to No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings and are set to face No. 2. Michigan (12-1) in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Eve.

Journalists from the AJC are providing complete coverage of the SEC Championship and the decisions on Sunday about the College Football Playoffs.

Readers will find updated coverage in print and ePaper editions, the AJC app and on ajc.com.

Sunday ePaper College Football Extra: Expanded photos and coverage of UGA and the SEC Championship

On Twitter: Follow UGA reporter Chip Towers @ctowersajc, @AJCSports and @ajc

On Facebook: UGASportsNewsNow

On Instagram: @ajcnews

Championship Saturday: Scores from all the conference title games

Latest UGA updates

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