Alabama vs. Georgia: CFP National Championship Prediction, Game Preview

Alabama vs. Georgia: CFP National Championship Prediction, Game Preview

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Alabama vs. Georgia: CFP National Championship Prediction, Game Preview


Three reasons why you should watch the College Football Playoff National Championship, why each team might win, honest thoughts, line and prediction.


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College Football Playoff National Championship
Alabama (12-1) vs. Georgia (13-1)

Broadcast

Date: January 8th, 2018
Game Time: 8:00 pm
Venue: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA
Network: ESPN

Contact/Follow @PeteFiutak

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Three Reasons Why You Should Watch The College Football Playoff National Championship

It’s going to be the most interesting setting yet for a College Football Playoff National Championship. 

The first one was fantastic because it was new. It was Ohio State. It was Marcus Mariota and the Oregon offense, and it was all in the massive AT&T Stadium in Dallas.

Year Two was loud, loud, LOUD when Clemson and Alabama put on a classic show in Glendale, and then came last year’s classic in Tampa – even if it was a bit cold.

In the shiny new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, this will be like the SEC Championship ramped up to a whole other level.

For all the talk about the Minnesota Vikings possibly getting to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium, this is even bigger when it comes to the fan bases. This is Georgia playing in Atlanta. This is Alabama – it’s adopted home away form home for “neutral site” games and the SEC Championship, at least in most years – and its base turning out.

You’re not getting into the stadium without taking out a second and third mortgage – the city of Atlanta and everything around this game will be super-charged energized. However …

– Fine, you’re not convinced, America. 

There’s a ton of SEC loathing happening out there right now, and plenty of Alabama fatigue to go around.

Brilliant defensive play in blowout, low-scoring games just isn’t sexy to way too many bitter college football fans – especially, right now, those in Columbus, State College, and Orlando.

To those outside of the SEC-enclosed bubble around Atlanta this week, what’s in it for you?

How about pure greatness?

With a win, Nick Saban will take home his sixth national championship – fifth in Tuscaloosa – in his historic run. It might not always be scintillating, and it might not always be a thrill ride, but to see this defense play at the highest of college football levels – like it did against Clemson – is worth it, even if it’s not appreciated.

And now it’s up to Georgia to change all of that.

Win, and it’ll be the program’s first national title since Herschel Walker brought it hope in 1980. But this isn’t a one-off by any means. Head coach Kirby Smart is bringing in a load of talent – this isn’t going to stop.

With the rise of Georgia, get ready for the start of something special – even for the SEC. 

Forgetting how Alabama got here, this is the team everyone was waiting for this season – at least it was against Clemson.

Georgia got by Notre Dame on the road, rocked a strong Auburn team, rolled through most of the SEC season, and showed the true grit and mettle of a champion by slipping by a brilliant Oklahoma team in an all-timer of a Rose Bowl.

There’s nothing cheap or fluky about getting to this point and this game.

If you can get past the SEC vs. SEC angle here, it’s a special matchup, loaded with pro prospects and storylines up and down both rosters. Other than Wisconsin, these are the only two other Power Five teams remaining with just one loss.

It’s the national championship. It’s not going to disappoint.

Here’s Why Alabama Will Win The College Football Playoff National Championship

This isn’t the Oklahoma defense. I hope you enjoyed the fun and excitement of the 2018 Rose Bowl, because you’re not getting that in Atlanta.

Georgia ran wild through the porous Sooner secondary, averaging over nine yards per carry with Sony Michel tearing off 16.5 yards per pop and three scores, and Nick Chubb running for 145 yards and two touchdowns. Now they have to go against a Crimson Tide run defense that looked and played against Clemson like the Crimson Tide run defense again.

Don’t get caught up in the quirky plays by Bama nose guard Da’Ron Payne, famous for his interception, followed up by his touchdown catch. He was terrific taking on blockers in the interior all throughout the Sugar Bowl, and De’Shawn Hand, Isaiah Buggs up front, and Rashaan Evans, Mack Wilson and the linebacking corps took care of the rest.

The Tide won’t shut down the NFL backs to a dead stop, but they’re not going to give up the 200 rushing yards the Dawgs will need to pull this off.

Jalen Hurts continues to be good enough. No, there’s not enough of a downfield passing game, and yes, backup Tuo Tagovailoa is a great prospect that a large portion of the Bama Nation wants to see take over the offense yesterday. But Hurts is one defensive stop in Tampa last January from gunning for his second straight national title, and he’s turned out to be the right quarterback for what this team needs. Why?

One. That’s what matters.

Hurts has thrown one interception all season long, and he didn’t make any devastating mistakes to allow Clemson to get back in the game.

There wasn’t any need to take any chances in New Orleans. Hurts ran for just 40 yards, but he completed 16-of-24 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns – and no interceptions.

For those who might think that game management is boring, it’s harder than it appears. Ask Michigan, who simply needed to not screw up to beat South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. Five turnovers later … loser.

Hurts will be better than you think.

And now you’ve made it mad. It might be a little bit of a loose concept, but so far in the College Football Playoff era, anger and attitude matter.

I saw it first-hand. In the first CFP, Oregon was salty, confident, and arrogant before the Rose Bowl vs. Florida State, and it showed in a blowout win. In Dallas before the national championship, those same players and coaches were night-and-day tighter, grouchier in a bad way, and nervous – it was as if they accomplished their goal already in Pasadena.

Meanwhile, Urban Meyer and company, without saying out loud that they had it all figured out, had it all figured out.

Last year, Clemson was that team on a mission. It spent a whole season going through the pain and anguish of barely missing out on winning a national title, and when it had its opportunity, it played the part of the giant slayer.

Remember, a lot of the key parts of Alabama’s 2017 season weren’t massive factors in the 2015 national title run. Hurts – among others – made sure to take in everything that came with that loss to Clemson, and that, along with the negativity and naysayers about Bama getting into this thing in the first place, appear to have served as the exact fuse needed to set off the powder keg.

You saw what happened in the Sugar Bowl. If that Tide team with that mindset shows up in Atlanta, game over.

Here’s Why Georgia Will Win The College Football Playoff National Championship

It might just be the most complete team in college football. Really, were’s the glaring weakness?

You can point to Alabama’s downfield passing game, it’s struggles on third downs, and the lack of consistent explosion as possible issues. Georgia might commit a few too many penalties, and the passing game doesn’t put up massive numbers, but that’s nitpicking.

This is an ultra-efficient passing attack, there are at least three future NFL starters in the stable of running backs, the special teams are terrific, there aren’t a slew of turnovers to count on, the offensive line is tight, and Kirby Smart and the coaching staff know all about how Saban rolls.

There’s just nothing there for Alabama to exploit.

Even with the loss to Auburn along the way, the Dawgs have been unflappable – and battle tested – with a tough win at Notre Dame, getting through that war with Oklahoma, and taking care of business throughout the season to get this shot. This isn’t a fluke in any way, shape or form.

This might just be the best team in college football. The question is whether or not that’s enough to overcome a defense that erases just about everything else. However …

Get ready Mr. Hurts, because here comes the heat. The Alabama offensive line doesn’t have much of a problem in pass protection. It might have allowed 24 sacks on the year, but a lot of those came from Hurts running around trying to make something happen.

However, Georgia learned from the Oklahoma game.

It started out doing more reading and reacting on defense, allowing Baker Mayfield and Rodney Anderson do what they do, and then hoping to making tackles to limit the damage. That really, really didn’t work, so what did the coaching staff do to adjust? It attacked.

The pressure started coming in the second half, not letting Mayfield dance around and get comfortable, while shoving the tempo back in the Sooners’ face. Georgia finished with five sacks and nine tackles for loss, but more than that, it became the aggressor.

The Dawgs will have to rely on the run defense that’s a whole lot better and stronger than it looked in Pasadena, and it’ll have to turn Hurts into Captain Checkdown.

With the energy that’s going to be in that stadium, don’t expect anything less than Georgia going into attack mode from the very start.

Make all the excuses you want, but the Alabama offense just is just okay.

Yeah, the offense didn’t have to turn it loose against Clemson, but that wasn’t always for a lack of trying. There was a reason Saban was so screamy at offensive coordinator Brian Daboll late in the game – he wanted the offense to put the game to bed by pounding away, and it couldn’t and didn’t.

This isn’t an offense built for comebacks or shootouts. Calvin Ridley might be one of the first receivers taken in the upcoming draft, and the backfield is loaded with terrific rushing talents, but the production wasn’t there against Clemson.

Don’t be fooled by the Rose Bowl – Georgia was dealing with an unstoppable force of an offense that came out roaring with its early tempo. All year long, this Dawg defense has been among the best in the country, allowing over 300 yards of total offense just three times – Oklahoma, the loss to Auburn, and Missouri.

You’ve Read This Far, So You Get Three Honest Thoughts On The College Football Playoff National Championship

Alabama has some special running backs, too. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are the headliners after what everyone saw in Pasadena, and there’s more talent waiting in the wings. But watch out for the Crimson Tide backs that continue to be effective, if not always as explosive.

Hurts is like an extra running back at times, but the combination of Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough should be just effective enough to grind out the clock at times and put the O in manageable third down situations.

There are other next-level options in the Bama stable of backs, too, but in a game like this, Harris, Scarbrough, Hurts – these three will be the ground attack.

If you’re waiting for Jake Fromm to turtle, it’s not going to happen. Are there two cooler customers than Hurts and Fromm? They’re so young, but nothing seems to bother these guys.

Everyone keeps thinking Fromm won’t be able to handle the pressure of South Bend, or the SEC season, or the SEC Championship, or the Rose Bowl. Yeah, he had a bad game against Auburn the first time around, but so did the rest of Georgia.

In a lot of ways, as good as Mayfield was in Pasadena, Fromm was better, completing 20-of-29 passes for 210 yards and two scores. Granted, he was dealing with an Oklahoma offense doing everything possible to not see the Chubb and Michel taillights, but Fromm was throwing darts and moving the offense when he had to.

Even with what’s going from the Alabama defense, don’t expect Fromm to buckle.

Just how much will the time off – or lack thereof – really matter? Saban is already whining about this – and he has a point.

All the national championship head coaches in the CFP era so far have said a different version of the same thing. Give the team a month off, and then it’s a whole different ballgame. But that time between the semifinal and the national championship just aren’t enough.

The players get a chance to not only heal up before the semifinals, but they can take a breath, relax a bit, and get their minds right. That’s not me saying this – again, that’s paraphrasing what the coaches have been pointing out.

But now, especially this time around, the players have to pack in all the travel, all the media obligations, and all the preparation time into one week. Forget about what happens when certain player can’t go – like Alabama pass rusher Anfernee Jennings – there’s absolutely no time now to deal with any bumps and bruises whatsoever.

The outcome will dictate the narrative on this, but in one way or another, one of these two teams might simply look a bit more gassed. Which is why …

Super. So Who’s Going To Win The College Football Playoff National Championship?

Give the advantage to the guy who’s been there before.

Kirby Smart certainly knows how to prepare a team, and he absolutely knows what it takes to get his guys ready for a game like this after learning from Saban, but this might simply be Alabama’s game and Alabama’s championship because of experience.

Again, don’t discount the hurt factor. That’s not to say that Georgia is just happy to be here, but the Alabama that showed up against Clemson was different than the past championship-caliber squads under Saban.

Talent plus disrespect might just overcome the deficiencies on this team. It might be the worst of Saban’s championship teams at Alabama, and it isn’t close to being as good as the squads of the last two years, but that still might be just good enough to get this done.

It’s a long, long, long, long, LONG game.

Remember, in the last BCS Championship, Auburn had that thing seemingly in hand, and then it didn’t. Last year, Alabama owned the first half, but slowly, Clemson crept back into the game.

In the Rose Bowl, Oklahoma dominated early. In the Orange, Miami looked like it was going to run Wisconsin out of the building. In the Outback, that thing was over when Michigan was given a strong lead against a mediocre South Carolina offense.

Slow and steady wins the race.

It’s not going to be the eye-candy of the last two national championships, but it’ll be a brutally efficient and effective grind for the Crimson Tide as they wear down Georgia in the second half to become the first two-time College Football Playoff national champions.

Final Score

Alabama 24, Georgia 17
Get Tickets for the College Football Playoff National Championship

Line

Alabama -4, o/u: 45

ATS Confidence: 3
5: Bomb Cyclone
0: Derek Jeter’s business model

Must See Rating: 5
5: The Post
0: Pitch Perfect 3

College Football Playoff National Championship History, Results

Jan. 9, 2017 Clemson 35, Alabama 31
Jan. 11, 2016 Alabama 45, Clemson 40
Jan. 12, 2015 Ohio State 42, Oregon 20

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