What are Alabama’s biggest strengths going into the College Football Playoff National Championship?
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College Football Playoff National Championship
Alabama (12-1) vs. Georgia (13-1)
Date: January 8th, 2018
Game Time: 8:00 pm
Venue: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA
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1. Run defense … and more run defense
Once again, like every other year under Nick Saban, the Alabama run defense is stifling. It’s an easy formula – get lots of big guys up front who can move like smaller guys, killer linebackers, and find defensive backs can tackle.
And make sure that almost all of them have NFL talent.
Coming up with a good rotation of players up front helps, too, but it all starts around the two Das – Da’Shawn Hand on the end, and Da’Ron Payne in the middle.
Payne became a highlight superstar at the Sugar Bowl with his interception and touchdown catch, but his best work is done gumming things up on the nose. With Anfernee Jennings out, Hand needs to play an even bigger role.
Georgia needs to run the ball to win, but that’s a going to be a slight problem – the Tide have yet to allow more than 172 yards on the ground, and no one has averaged more than 3.6 yards per carry.
2. The run D is amazing, and the pass defense isn’t all that bad, either
You know all of those big plays down the field by the Clemson passing game in the Sugar Bowl? No? That’s because there weren’t any.
The secondary had a hard time in the loss to Jarrett Stidham and Auburn at the end of the regular season, but that was it. Against everyone else over the second half of the year, superstar safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, corner Tony Brown, free safety Ronnie Harrison and the rest of the Crimson Tide secondary haven’t allowed a thing.
Alabama gave up just one touchdown pass over the final six games of the season, and no one other than Auburn hit more than 57% of their passes during the stretch.
On the year, Alabama has allowed just seven touchdown throws with 17 interceptions – it leads the nation in pass efficiency defense.
The other two seasons Alabama allowed fewer than ten touchdown passes? 2011 and 2012 – the Crimson Tide won the national title.
3. Jalen Hurts doesn’t make mistakes
Defining the idea of a dynamic game manager, Hurts is a terrific runner, an accurate enough passer, and more than anything else, a smart decision maker when it comes to taking chances.
On the year he threw 17 touchdown passes and just one interception. He might get maligned from time to time for not taking enough shots down the field, but with the Alabama defense and running game to rely on, it’s better to live to fight another day.
And that’s part of the overall picture with this Alabama team – it doesn’t screw up. And when it does, the defense almost always cleans up the mess.
The team turned it over just nine times this year – by far, the fewest in the Saban era. By comparison, the Tide gave it up 19 times last season and 17 times when they won the national championship in 2015. This year, only LSU turned it over less with just eight giveaways.