Before we conclude another college football season, we kick off one final time on Monday with a rematch of immense proportions. Monday night, the National Championship will be played between two conference rivals. One of them is looking to add to their legacy and another is looking to create one of their own.
Before game day gets here, let’s take a closer look at both team’s competing for college football’s ultimate prize.
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
For a brief period, Alabama fans were holding their collective breath. Three close calls in November against LSU, Arkansas, and Auburn put some doubts into whether Alabama would get the chance to repeat. Yet the defending national champions stepped up when it mattered most and took home their second straight SEC Championship to clinch the top seed in the College Football Playoff. From there, the Crimson Tide took on Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl and produced a dominant 27-6 performance. Now the Tide are a win away from a second straight national championship.
Despite the losses of Mac Jones, Najee Harris, DeVonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle to the NFL, the offense has still produced. This is largely thanks to the performance of newly minted Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young. The sophomore was borderline unstoppable, passing for over 4,300 yards along with 43 touchdowns to only four interceptions. Young had a lot of success against Georgia’s defense in the SEC Championship, throwing for 421 yards, an SEC title game record, and will look to replicate that on Monday night. Combined with the running of Brian Robinson Jr., who had over 200 yards in the Cotton Bowl, and the receiving duo of Jameson Williams and John Metchie, Alabama maintains the sixth best total offense in the country. In addition, the Crimson Tide also are the fourth most efficient team offense in terms of passing in the country. The most lethal stat of this offense however comes into play on third down. It is here that Alabama can do damage as they are second in conversion percentage and total number of conversions.
On defense, Alabama is stout against the run, ranking fourth in the country. Combined with the third highest sack average per game, the Crimson Tide defense, led by Will Anderson Jr., will be looking to get after Georgia who they garnered three sacks and two interceptions against in their previous meeting.
Most of this season Georgia looked like they were the best team in college football. The performance of this team was dominant, most notably because of their defense. Georgia was second in total defense with the fewest yards per play allowed in the nation. Georgia also tied for 12th in defensive touchdowns, was seventh in sacks, third against the run, and their red zone defense is the best in college football as a whole. But perception changed for the worst at the SEC Championship against Alabama. A 41-24 loss was the seventh consecutive Georgia suffered to their conference foe and didn’t do anything but reinforce old narratives.
The defense struggled to stop Bryce Young and the offense simply couldn’t keep pace. Statistically speaking, the Georgia offense has been the definitive weak spot as they ranked 32nd running the ball, and their passing offense was 55th overall.
But in the Orange Bowl, Georgia responded with a show of force. The offense netted over 500 total yards and shut down Michigan’s running attack while also collecting four sacks and two interceptions in route to a 34-11 win over the Wolverines. It was a complete team game that gives Georgia much needed confidence ahead of their rematch against Alabama.
If Georgia’s defense struggles against Young and company on Monday then the Bulldogs will need their offense to play up to the potential they displayed in the Orange Bowl. One area Georgia hope to establish is their running attack which for the most part has been a collective effort between James Cook, Zamir White, and Kenny McIntosh. Against Michigan however they also got assistance from Kendall Milton and Daijun Edwards and combined for 190 rushing yards as an entire team.
The biggest key however may come from their quarterback Stetson Bennett. After two interceptions and a QBR of 77.1 against Alabama in the SEC Championship, Bennett went 20 of 30 for 313 yards and three touchdown passes along with 32 rushing yards on three attempts against the Wolverines. This gave him a QBR of 95.9 in which was arguably his best performance of the season given the difficulty of the opponent.
For Georgia, Monday night offers a chance for vindication and revenge. They’ve lost seven straight games to the Crimson Tide and haven’t claimed a national title since 1980, but all that changes with one win along with a series of narratives surrounding Georgia Bulldogs football. Will the Bulldogs take that step and establish their own legacy or will the era of Alabama dominance over Georgia and college football continue? On Monday night we will find out.