Analyzing Monday night’s College Football Playoff Championship Game between Georgia and Alabama:
Jalen Hurts played one of his best games of the year in Alabama’s win against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl, but it’s with his legs and not his right arm that the sophomore strikes fear into opposing defenses. Though only a true freshman, Georgia’s Jake Fromm continues to impress in his ability to find open spots in the intermediate passing game while avoiding turnovers. There was never any question about the Bulldogs’ running backs, so Fromm’s consistency has given the offense balance.
It will be two of the nation’s best battling in the trenches. Alabama has a lead back in Damien Harris and plenty of depth, giving offensive coordinator Brian Daboll bodies to loosen up defensive lines. Georgia has two top backs in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, not to mention a superb third option in freshman D’Andre Swift. Like his counterpart, Georgia coordinator Jim Chaney has options. There’s no wrong answer here: Though the two programs may go about the running game in subtly different ways, these are two of the nation’s best at winning along the line of scrimmage.
The perception of Georgia’s defense might have taken a hit after Oklahoma scored 48 points in the Rose Bowl, but that performance was an aberration. Besides, Oklahoma had Baker Mayfield — Alabama doesn’t. Even with that showing included, Georgia enters the title game ranked eighth nationally in yards allowed per play. But Alabama sits first in that category, and is high on confidence after getting back several key contributors at linebacker in advance of a dominant performance against Clemson.
Georgia’s biggest advantage in the head-to-head comparison with the Crimson Tide comes on special teams. The Bulldogs have the edge in the return game, where Alabama has been mediocre, and they’re also more consistent on field goals. But the gap isn’t huge. One of the Tide’s greatest weapons is the booming leg of punter JK Scott, an elite, next-level contributor who can bail out an underachieving offense and help Alabama win the fight for field position. In a close game, Scott could be a deciding factor. But all told, Georgia’s still in better shape with its specialists.
The perceived advantage Alabama holds in big-game experience might be a touch overblown, but it is nonetheless an advantage. The Tide are also healthier than they’ve been in months, with that returning talent on defense playing a huge role in the win against Clemson. Georgia will provide a different test than did the Tigers, and a test that Alabama will find familiar – since Georgia’s plan mirrors Alabama’s. But while the Bulldogs are more than capable of capturing the title, the Crimson Tide is the team to beat.
Alabama 24, Georgia 20
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