Four downs: Scott Rabalais breaks down the CFP championship game
1 Chose your weapons
How does Georgia attack Alabama’s FBS-leading defense? The answer would seem to be with the talented RB duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, who averaged 13 yards per carry in the Rose Bowl. Alabama held Clemson to 64 net yards rushing in the Sugar Bowl. In Jake Fromm they trust? He’s been good, but Nick Saban keeps a jar of tears on his desk from freshman quarterbacks his defenses have decimated over the years. Choose wisely, Bulldogs.
2 That thing they do
Saban’s Alabama teams have not dominated college football for a decade because they have reinvented the game. They simply block and tackle and catch and run better than everyone else. Auburn beat Georgia by dominating the trenches, stopping up the run and punishing the defense with its ground game. Alabama’s turnover ratio is plus-8 better than Georgia’s. The Bulldogs can not afford to get careless, because the Tide can be expected to play with ruthless efficiency.
3 Pocket presence
Jalen Hurts isn’t as bad a passer as his critics like to say. But Hurts beats people with his feet, averaging 5.5 yards per carry including sacks. Keeping him in the pocket is job one for Georgia. Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush netted one yard rushing against them. Same for Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield in the Rose Bowl. Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald had just 47. If Hurts hurt them with the run, Georgia is as good as beat.
4 And the winner is …
Georgia is riding a great wave of momentum, but Alabama is where momentum goes to die. Except for a slight edge in offensive points scored and rushing to the Bulldogs, the Crimson Tide is superior in virtually every respect. Georgia is the more explosive team, but Bama even with its many injuries at linebacker can smother anyone. The Crimson Tide completes its crusade to avenge last year’s title game loss to Clemson. Alabama 26, Georgia 16.
Who has the edge
It’s fashionable to bash Jalen Hurts and Jake Fromm is a better passer, but Hurts’ ability to extend plays when his team needs them is uncanny.
Running back: Georgia
Most teams would covet the duo of Damien Harris and Bo Scarborough. Not Georgia. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel have speed, power and can play the Wildcat package.
Wide receiver: Georgia
Bama is more productive (193.9 ypg to 172.9) and has the best receiver in Calvin Ridley. From has more targets (Javin Wims, Terry Godwin, Mecole Hardman).
Offensive line: Alabama
Hurts has been sacked 24 times and right guard Lester Cotton is out, but there’s still talent aplenty led by All-American center Bradley Bozeman.
Defensive line: Alabama
One hundred and eighty-eight yards. That’s all the Tide allowed Clemson in the Sugar Bowl, 64 yards on the ground. A huge challenge for Chubb and Michel.
Somehow, Roquan Smith beat out LSU’s Corey White as SEC defensive player of the year, but he is a super talent. Bama’s had multiple injuries.
Defensive backs: Alabama
Will Georgia even have Fromm challenge Minkah Fitzpatrick over the middle? Doubtful. He and Ronnie Harrison are the best pair of safeties in the game.
JK Scott is a great punter, but per usual don’t bet on Bama’s kicker. If it comes down to a kick, take Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship.
Numbers to know
Georgia national ranking in red zone offense (51-53)
Georgia’s yards per play, second in SEC
Nick Saban in games against former assistants
Alabama’s turnover margin, leads SEC