When Georgia and Alabama face off in Atlanta, that national championship is not the only thing up for grabs; but also the future of the SEC. If Georgia can win over a consistently dominant Alabama team, who just dismantled the number one team in the country, perhaps we could see the beginning of the end of Alabama. Back to back title losses and the return of other powerhouse schools could spell trouble for Alabama and Nick Saban. Here is how each team can come out on top on Monday night.
Luckily for Georgia, they will be playing in their home state, only about an hour from UGA. This gives them the home field advantage and some much needed crowd support if the going gets tough. What is most important for Georgia to win this game is to somehow get the running game going against Alabama’s death machine of a front seven. Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, the two Georgia running backs, rushed for a combined 317 yards and 5 touchdowns against Oklahoma in the semi-final. I can tell you right now, a repeat performance of that caliber is not going to happen. Alabama’s front seven is coming off a game where they absolutely dismantled Clemson up front and made a hole nearly impossible to find. Georgia needs to get these guys into space and let them use their speed and elusivity to make plays. If they just try to run it up the middle all day, they’re going to have a very long and painful day. These two, especially Michel, need to be used in the passing game and act as a solid checkdown option for freshman QB Jake Fromm. Michel has big play ability and speed that few others in the country can match and that just might be the X-factor for Georgia if he can get into open space.
Jake Fromm is only 19 years old and a true freshman. The fact this kid hasn’t had a heart attack yet is pretty amazing in itself. A huge factor in this game is going to be how he handles the pressure of being on this mega stage while also being the leader of the offense against such a dominant defense. The young QB has a good arm and high football IQ and that IQ can’t falter under pressure. He has to stick to intermediate routes, put drives together, and let his receivers make plays in space. If he gets too bold and throws the reckless deep ball,Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is going to have himself one heck of a day.
On defense, the biggest key for Georgia is to contain Alabama QB Jalen Hurts. Hurts is one of the best running quarterbacks in all of college football and with such a big frame (6’2 220 lbs) he does not go down easily with a full head of speed. Hurts is not the most intimidating passer, but he is respectable and his arm should not be slept on. If the Georgia edge rush can keep Hurts in the pocket and not let him scramble for extra yards, they’re going to put Alabama in third and long positions and make Alabama win with his arm against two cornerbacks who have played more than respectably all year. Alabama is a run first team. They had 42 carries against clemson, including those of Jalen Hurts. Butkus award winning linebacker, Roquan Smith is going to have to prove to the world why he is the best linebacker in college football. He is going to have plenty of opportunities to make plays and it’s up to him to contain the running backs between the tackles.
Alabama is favored to take the win tonight in Atlanta. These are two big categorical circumstances that make a Bama victory likely.
- Playing with motivation
The Nick Saban-led Alabama team rarely enters any game as an underdog, and that is the case again tonight playing for the CFP title. However, there are extraneous factors in this year’s playoff that could fuel their fire.
- Because Alabama did not win the SEC championship, sports heads around the nation have said that the team doesn’t deserve to be in the playoffs, especially when good teams like Ohio State, which won the Big 10 Conference, were excluded. Whether or not they deserve to be there, Alabama has heard this criticism and have taken it in stride: see the 24-6 stifling of Clemson last week. Come tonight, bet on Alabama to have the same fire they showed against Clemson and expect them to be firing on all cylinders.
- Jalen Hurts has been here before. The heartbreaker against Clemson last year still stings to the sophomore signal-caller, and again that showed against Clemson last week. He’s not the most talented QB in the FBS, but both he and Georgia QB Jake Fromm have shown their success during the season and the playoff this year. Watch for Hurts to step up and make plays – he’s familiar with the high-pressure situation of playing in the CFP championship and should be able to minimize errors to during tonight’s matchup.
- Roll Tide Defense
Alabama’s defense has been the story of their season. NCAA’s #1-ranked defensive squad put up eye-popping numbers during the 2017 season:
- 3.92 yards/play
- 16 total TDs allowed
Even with an easier schedule than Georgia, whose defense is no sham ranked #6, those numbers are nuts.
Look for these two Crimson Tide defensive players to dominate the game’s attention tonight.
- Minkah Fitzpatrick.
o The safety Fitzpatrick is the defensive leader of this Alabama team, and his numbers back that up: 55 tackles, 7.0 tackles for loss.
o The linebacker is a beast, and his stats only add to the overall numbers that Alabama’s defense put up this year: 11.5 tackles for loss, 6.0 sacks.
Look for Alabama to come out tonight trying to make a statement. For those that said they don’t deserve to be here, that statement will be tested at 8PM EST when the Crimson Tide take the field in Atlanta. Either way, we’re going to have a game tonight.