Alabama vs. Georgia
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME STORYLINES
1. An SEC team will claim the national title for the ninth time in the past 12 seasons as conference mates Georgia and Alabama meet in Monday’s College Football Playoff championship at Atlanta. The third-seeded Bulldogs are looking to win their first national title since the Herschel Walker-led squad won the 1980 crown, while the fourth-seeded Crimson Tide are striving for their fifth during Nick Saban’s 11-season tenure. Alabama easily dispatched top-seeded Clemson 24-6 in the semifinals while Georgia outlasted second-seeded Oklahoma 54-48 in double overtime.
2. Georgia coach Kirby Smart is a former Alabama defensive coordinator under Saban but is adamant that doesn’t give him crucial insights to the methods of the Crimson Tide. “There’s not a lot of tendencies that he has that are just going to be ground-breaking to allow us a benefit,” Smart said during a press conference. “The bottom line is our players got to go out and we’ve got to play a really good football game to stay with these guys.” Saban also downplayed the situation, saying “I don’t think the game is about the coaches. I think it’s about the players.”
3. Alabama leads the nation in rushing defense at 91.8 yards per game and will receive a big test from the Georgia senior duo of Nick Chubb (1,320 yards) and Sony Michel (1,129). The Crimson Tide limited Clemson to 64 yards on 33 attempts while the Bulldogs rolled up 317 and five rushing scores against Oklahoma. Georgia freshman quarterback Jake Fromm could be the wild-card factor if he starts the game off strong and makes Alabama respect the passing game.
TV: 8:17 p.m. ET, ESPN.
ABOUT ALABAMA (12-1): The Crimson Tide have been hit hard with linebacker injuries all season and they lost sophomore Anfernee Jennings (knee) against Clemson and he underwent surgery. Alabama will do some further linebacker reshuffling with senior Shaun Dion Hamilton (knee) and freshman Dylan Moses (foot) done for the season but the unit still resolves around junior strong safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (nine career interceptions, four returned for touchdowns). Sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts (808 rushing yards, 2,060 passing yards) is more feared as a runner but has 17 touchdown passes against just once interception as well as a star target in junior Calvin Ridley (59 receptions, 935 yards).
ABOUT GEORGIA (13-1): Michel, who averages eight yards per carry, galloped for a 27-yard, game-winning score against Oklahoma for his 16th rushing touchdown of the season, while Chubb has 15 rushing scores and a 6.4 yard average. Fromm has passed for 2,383 yards and 23 touchdowns against only five interceptions while piloting an offense that averages 36.3 points per game. Junior inside linebacker Roquan Smith, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, leads the Bulldogs with 124 tackles and 5.5 sacks (the latter tied for team-leading honors with junior outside linebacker D’Andre Walker), while senior strong safety Dominick Sanders has a team-best four interceptions.