National Championship Prediction: What to Watch in the Alabama-Georgia Rematch
If you feel this matchup is getting a little bit redundant, you’re not alone.
The two teams just played each other 37 days ago in the SEC championship game and this will be the sixth time these two teams have met in seven years.
The Alabama Crimson Tide are 5-0 in those previous five meetings, with an average margin of victory of 14.4 points. The last four have come with Nick Saban’s former assistant, Kirby Smart, as the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs.
While there is lots of familiarity between these two teams, fanbases, and even between casual viewers and this matchup, there’s a reason these two teams play each other so often in high stakes games. It’s because they are both excellent, especially this year.
So, without further ado, let’s dig into the matchup.
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs (Monday, 8:00 PM ET)
Line: Georgia by 3
Three Georgia Keys:
- Third Down Offense: The Bulldogs offense converted 45.9% of their third down opportunities this season – a top-20 mark in the FBS. Against the Crimson Tide in the SEC championship game, however, they only managed to convert three of their 12 third downs. In their semifinal win over the Michigan Wolverines, Georgia was an excellent 10 for 16 on third downs, which was one of the main reasons they were able to control the flow of the game. If they can have a similar type of performance on third downs and keep Bryce Young and the Alabama offense on the sideline, that would be crucial to their chances of winning because…
- Limiting Big Plays: Young had seven passes go for 20 or more yards, including 67- and 55-yard touchdown passes to his number one wide receiver, Jameson Williams, in the game between these two teams just over a month ago. The Georgia defense has been spectacular all season but allowing a significant number of chunk plays is difficult for any defense to overcome. Only one of the Tide’s seven 20+ yard passes came in a drive that didn’t end in points. The Bulldogs must keep Young and his stable of dynamic weapons in front of them if they want a chance to overcome the Tide for the first time in what surely feels like forever to Georgia fans.
- The Front Seven: Ultimately, the front seven is the strength of Georgia’s team. And that group needs to show up on the biggest stage. Against Michigan, the Bulldogs notched four sacks and helped create havoc in forcing three turnovers. But Young was not sacked once in the SEC championship game and Alabama did not turn the ball over, so while the front seven did admirably against the run, they didn’t force nearly enough negative plays in the pass game. In order to give themselves the best chance to win, that group needs to dominate, because they don’t have the best quarterback in this game…
Three Alabama Keys:
- Bryce Young: Young is the best quarterback in this game. Young won the Heisman Trophy for a reason. And he showed it in the SEC championship game when he finished 26 of 44 for 421 passing yards and four total touchdowns. Since Alabama’s lone loss this season, Young has thrown 26 touchdowns against only two interceptions while averaging 346.13 passing yards per game. Young has been the best player on this Alabama offense during this eight-game stretch, and he’ll need to be just that one more time.
- The run game: The Alabama run game showed up in a big way in the Tide’s semifinal win over the Cincinnati Bearcats. Crimson Tide running backs Brian Robinson Jr. and Trey Sanders combined for 271 rushing yards on 40 bruising carries. It was the first time all season that Alabama had more rushing yards than passing yards in a game. Against the Bulldogs just over a month ago, the Tide RBs only managed 76 rushing yards on 22 carries, for a paltry 3.45 yards per carry. While the SEC championship game was a great example of how Young can put the Tide on his back, a more efficient run game would significantly raise Alabama’s chances of coming out with a victory.
- Brock Bowers: Some of his gaudy final stats may have been because of Georgia’s desperation in the second half, but star freshman tight end Brock Bowers was a matchup nightmare for the Tide. Bowers finished with 10 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown. Nine of those catches came after half time, including one especially potent six-play stretch spanning two fourth quarter drives in which Bowers caught five passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. Bowers is the biggest threat in the Bulldogs passing game and his 12 touchdowns were tied for the most among all tight ends in the FBS. Alabama must find a way to limit his involvement.
Prediction: Georgia Bulldogs 33, Alabama Crimson Tide 28
After running 1,000 simulations, our projections are bullish on the Bulldogs’ chances of ending tonight as the national champions. Even after their loss to Alabama, Georgia was still the best team entering the playoffs according to our models, and their convincing win over the Wolverines only cemented it. The Bulldogs won 624 of our 1,000 simulations.
But it’s the one on the field they’d love to win the most and we’ll find out tonight if they can pull it off.
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