On the one hand, the eternal subscribers to the great classic: the Crimson Tide of Alabama, with six presences and three conquests in the last seven years. On the other side, the Georgia Bulldogs, in search of a first coronation since 1980. The national football championship in the NCAA promises a colossal shock tonight in Indianapolis.
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The wait is endless for Georgia, but it’s not the great famine for all that, and the program is far from being the last to come. The defense was by far the best in the country last season with a rickety average of 9.6 points conceded per game.
Not for nothing the Bulldogs are favorites in this game by a measly three-point margin.
Since Kirby Smart left his mentor Nick Saban in 2015, with whom he worked in Alabama for eight years, he has never been able to overcome his pet peeve.
The mighty Crimson Tide have won the last seven meetings, including an overtime win at the 2017 National Championship and three in the SEC Conference Finals (most recently in December by a score of 41-24). Smart, for his part, is 0-4 against his former boss.
Crimson Tide’s Ja’ Corey Brooks and Jameson Williams
However, his defense had three shutouts last season and did not allow more than 17 points in the regular season, before the recent loss against the Alabama team. However, this unit found its true colors in the semi-final against the team of Michigan, in an unequivocal victory of 34-11.
Georgia’s offense is looked down on by many as the defense took over, but it still scored 38.8 points per game. Since quarterback Stetson Bennett took over from JT Daniels, the results are more convincing.
A different team
For his part, Saban claims seven national titles, including six in Alabama. He will try to win two titles in a row for the first time since the 2011 and 2012 championships, a question of cementing his legend even more.
The current Crimson Tide is definitely not the most dominant formation of the Saban era. Hard-fought wins over Florida, LSU, Arkansas and Auburn, plus a surprise loss to Texas A&M, hinted at signs of mortality.
Except that in its last two critical games against Georgia in the SEC championship and against Cincinnati in the national semifinals, Alabama dominated 68 to 30. The defense may not be the best days, but its offense is formidable with the third highest average of points scored (41.4).
Quarterback Bryce Young, in his first season as a starter, broke team records with 46 touchdown passes and 4,503 yards. And precisely, against Georgia, he was smoking the whole game with 421 yards and three touchdown passes, for an astronomical average of 16.2 yards per completed pass.
Rare error in Georgia’s brutal defense or chronic inability to solve a rival like the Tide? This is one of the big questions that accompanies this duel at the top.
30 Alabama (C) 23 Georgia
Whether it’s players who will quickly find takers in the next NFL Draft or talents that will emerge in the next few years, the national championship is full of young people who will play a key role in the development of the game. Here are a few to watch out for.
The Bulldogs’ traditionally solid rushing offense may be led by Zamir White (772 rushing yards, 10 TDs), but James Cook is the all-purpose weapon. Along with similar production per rush (651 yards, seven touchdowns), the fourth-year player — and brother of Vikings rusher Dalvin Cook — added 25 receptions for 269 yards and four touchdowns. It excels on several forms of layouts.
The young tight end from Georgia should be a star of the draft in a few years, and already in his first season he impressed with 52 receptions for 846 yards and 12 touchdowns. Georgia’s offense is one of the few to make it to the national final without a truly dominant wide end. Bowers will therefore play an important role in filling this gap. He excels after the catch.
Walker is a defensive end capable of evolving both inside and outside. His ability to counter the race is undeniable. His six tackles for loss this season show he can live in the backfield. It should not be believed that it could not affect Bryce Young and the aerial game. With five quarterback sacks and 19 pressures, he is instrumental in Georgia’s fearsome defensive front.
He’s the 6-foot-6, 340-pound hunk at the heart of the Bulldogs’ defensive line, the kind of bully who blasts the pocket square. He became only the third player to inherit the Outland Trophy, awarded to the top lineman, and the Bednarik Trophy, awarded to the top defensive player. To give an idea, the only ones to have achieved such a feat are Ndamukong Suh (2009) and Aaron Donald (2013).
If he has a game similar to the one he had in the semifinals against Michigan, his already high rating for the next draft will explode. Dean will be a coveted linebacker in the first round. He has exceptional flair and a speed that allows him to cross the field from one end to the other to make the tackle. His 68 tackles, six quarterback sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles demonstrate his versatility.
It’s hands down the most dangerous weapon in the Tide’s aerial arsenal, especially with John Metchie on the sidelines. Williams had caused headaches for Georgia in the Conference Finals with long touchdowns for 67 and 55 yards. His average of 20.1 yards per reception shows how he is a constant threat to make the big play. Others like Slade Bolden will have to compensate for the loss of Metchie.
Robinson may not have gotten as much attention this season as Najee Harris did before him in the Crimson Tide backfield, but his 204-yard performance against Cincinnati in the semifinals shows he doesn’t. should not be taken lightly. It will be a whole different order though against Georgia’s defensive front. He had also been limited to 55 yards on 16 carries in the last duel.
Among the many players in this duel who will be selected in the first round of the next NFL Draft, tackle Evan Neal should be the first to hear his name resonate. A sturdy 6’7” and 350 lbs guy, he will be one of the keys to the main duel in this game: that of the offensive line of Alabama against the defensive line of Georgia. The Tide offensive line is dealing with a few injuries, and Neal, healthy, will have to ensure.
Will Anderson Jr.
In his sophomore year, Anderson exploded with an NCAA-high 17.5 quarterback sacks. The outside linebacker also dominated with 34.5 tackles for loss, a colossal total! If he is so dominant against Georgia, quarterback Stetson Bennett will have to be ultra-fast. Accompanied by Christian Harris and Henry To’oTo’o, Anderson and the linebacking group will be a headache for Georgia.
The biggest defensive gap, for both Georgia and Alabama, is in the two thirds of these opponents. On the Crimson Tide side, marauder Jordan Battle is a player to watch, however. He had also scored a touchdown on an interception in the last game against Georgia, one of his three interceptions this season. He should be one of the first marauders drafted.