Alabama Crimson Tide vs Georgia Bulldogs: College Football Playoff Championship Breakdown and Prediction
The College Football Playoff Championship kicks off tonight from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. It gives us a thrilling rematch from the SEC final in which Alabama dominated Georgia in a 41-24 win. The Georgia Bulldogs will be looking to remove the sour taste of that final from their mouths tonight, while the Alabama Crimson Tide will look to repeat that performance. Even with that significant loss to Alabama, the books put Georgia as the favorite, sitting at -3. So who is set to take the rematch of the year? Let's take a closer look at this matchup and find out.
Alabama has had another dominant season under Nick Saban, going 13-1 and earning another first seed in the College Football Playoff. Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young has led the offense this year, throwing for 4,503 yards and 46 touchdowns, all with only five interceptions. All this is very impressive, but Alabama has looked human at times this year. Of their twelve regular-season games this year, five of them were one-possession games, including their lone loss to Texas A&M. This is still impressive, but we've seen past Alabama teams under Nick Saban be much more dominant throughout the entire season. Part of this has been the absence of a true elite running back. Brian Robinson Jr. is no slouch and will almost certainly be in the NFL, but Nick Saban has built his teams with truly elite backs over the years. Their last three running backs were Najee Harris, Damien Harris, and Derrick Henry - some elite company. Georgia was able to keep Robinson in check in the SEC final, with only 55 yards on 16 carries, and if they can contain him again, the secondary should have a better performance this time around. Alabama ranks in the bottom half of every rushing stat, and I don't see them succeeding against the Georgia defensive front, so this game will be up to Bryce Young to have another big game. The loss of John Metchie will be major for the Crimson Tide, and it gives one less person for Georgia's secondary to worry about. However, there are still targets Jameson Williams and Slade Bolden for Young to throw to. The key for Young will be to get it out quick tonight, as Alabama ranks 71st in sack rate on offense against Georgia's defense that ranks 11th in sack rate. If Young can get it out quickly to Williams tonight, and the defense contains Bowers, Alabama can surely take this matchup once again.
This Georgia team is the best they have been in years, arguably better than the 2017 Bulldogs that lost a close one in the College Football Playoff Championship 23-26 to Alabama. The Bulldogs' main strength is their dominant defense, a unit ranking first in the nation with 9.8 points per game allowed, even with an SEC schedule. They thrive on keeping opponents out of the end zone, with a 57% opponent success rate in the red zone, ranking first in the nation. Unlike Alabama, Georgia went undefeated in the regular season and did it with only a single one-possession win, the first game of the year against Clemson. The key for Georgia on offense will be to attack the backup cornerbacks, as top cornerback Josh Jobe will miss this one, and Jalyn Armour-Davis is questionable with a hip injury. If both are out, Georgia could put up another 340 passing yards and some. Luckily for Georgia, they don't really have any critical injuries, and every big playmaker for them will be good to go in this one. Receiving yard leader Brock Bowers did have a lingering shoulder issue, but Kirby Smart made it clear that Bowers will be ready for the championship matchup. This will arguably be the healthiest Georgia has been all season, and it couldn't be a more perfect time for the Bulldogs.
The coaching advantage indeed goes to Alabama, with the greatest head coach in all of college football on the Crimson Tide sideline tonight. However, I believe the Bulldogs are the complete team overall and that Alabama has a few key injuries that could spell trouble tonight. It is also worth mentioning that it is always difficult to beat the same team twice, especially in a short time window. Besides the coach and quarterback advantage for Alabama, I give Georgia every other aspect of this one. I believe the Bulldogs will have a much better defensive performance tonight from the best defense in the nation. They will force mistakes out of Bryce Young and finally beat Alabama for the first team since 2007.
Pick: Georgia ML (-135)