College football’s 2017-18 national championship is up for grabs on Monday night, as Alabama and Georgia meet in Atlanta in a matchup of SEC foes. As with any big matchup, the stars are expected to shine. Georgia is led by running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. On the Alabama sideline, quarterback Jalen Hurts and running backs Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough headline the offense.
While Chubb and Hurts will be under the spotlight to perform, who are the under-the-radar players that could deliver a clutch performance on Monday night? Here are 3 x-factors to watch in the national title game:
X-Factors for Alabama and Georgia in the National Championship
Jeb Blazevich/Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia
The Bulldogs will be down one tight end on Monday night, as sophomore Charlie Woerner is out due to a leg injury suffered against Oklahoma. Woerner only caught nine passes in 14 games, but the sophomore was a valuable blocker. With Woerner out, more snaps for Blazevich and Nauta are in order. This duo has combined for just 11 receptions so far, but both players will be essential to blocking the standout Alabama defensive front on Monday night. Can this duo keep pass rushers away from quarterback Jake Fromm and open up holes for running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel?
Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
Fromm was mentioned as an x-factor prior to the Rose Bowl against Oklahoma. As was the case in the regular season, the moment was never too big for the true freshman. Fromm completed 20 of 29 throws for 210 yards and two touchdowns against the Sooners, which included a couple of clutch connections with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. With Alabama likely to load the box and stop Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, Fromm may need to throw on early downs to loosen up the front seven. There’s no reason to doubt Fromm after his performance all year, but this is his toughest test of the 2017 season.
Mobility of Alabama QB Jalen Hurts, QB
Considering how dominant Alabama’s rushing attack and defense has been this season, Hurts didn’t need to throw 30 times a game. The sophomore averaged only 18.9 passes a game, throwing for 2,060 yards and 17 touchdowns. Efficiency is critical for coach Nick Saban’s quarterback, as he connected on 61.4 percent of his throws and tossed only one interception. Hurts will need to make a few plays through the air to win on Monday night, but the biggest x-factor for the Crimson Tide offense could be his mobility. The sophomore is the team’s second-leading rusher with 808 yards and eight scores this year. He rushed for 40 yards on 11 carries against Clemson and had 63 on 10 attempts in last season’s national championship against the Tigers. Can Hurts continue to play mistake-free ball when he throws? And when plays break down inside of the pocket, can Hurts scramble for first downs or make plays downfield? Hurts’ mobility is going to be key for Alabama to win on Monday night.