This is the culmination of a journey that began for both of these teams in March. Most experts predicted Alabama to be here. The Crimson Tide have been in this game each of the last two seasons. Georgia is the new dog, so to speak. This is their first appearance in the National Championship game in the playoff era. And, Georgia is trying to win its first championship since 1980.
Live from the heart of SEC country, the National Championship will be held in its brand new home, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga. The No. 3 ranked Georgia Bulldogs will go head-to-head against No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide. On the surface, the championship game may have lost some of its interest nationally with two representatives from the same conference. But, a couple of points come to mind when looking at this match-up. Alabama and Georgia have not played each other this year so there is no rematch factor to consider. Also, with the dynamic of both of these schools, there are plenty of storylines to consider. We have you covered at Last Word on College Football with everything you need to know, including our panel of experts providing predictions for the 2018 National Championship Game:
2018 National Championship Game Preview: Georgia vs. Alabama
What: 2018 National Championship Game
Who: Georgia Bulldogs vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia (ESPN)
When: Monday, January 8th, 2018 – 8:00 PM EDT
Georgia (13-1) won the SEC championship and a berth in the College Football Playoffs by way of a rematch defeat of Auburn in the SEC Championship Game, 28-7. Then, they showed championship mettle by coming back from 17 points down to defeat Oklahoma, 54-48 in double overtime.
The thunder and lightning combination of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel has been strong all year, but they flexed their muscles against Oklahoma. Michel had 11 carries for 181 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner. Meanwhile, Chubb had 14 rushes for 145 yards and two scores.
With all due respect to both Ohio State and Central Florida, the Crimson Tide have earned the right to be here. It’s been well documented that there has been some heartache around Alabama (12-1) being the recipient of the fourth and final playoff spot without winning their conference. However, the Crimson Tide may have put many critics to rest in a dominating semi-final victory over Clemson by the score of 24-6.
Alabama got back to playing the type of football we are accustomed to seeing against Clemson. They employed a devastating and opportunistic defense that held the Tigers out of the end zone while scoring themselves with a pick six. The Crimson Tide allowed only 188 totals yards and forced two turnovers.
The offense continued the trend of doing just enough. The recipe for success has been utilizing a ball-control offense with timely throws to keep the defense off balance. Damien Harris led the attack on the ground with 77 yards, while Jalen Hurts threw for two scores through the air. The defense also turned offensive as defensive lineman Daron Payne caught a one-yard touchdown pass to extend to an 11-point advantage early in the third quarter.
It all comes down to this. pic.twitter.com/2CKoKB1RIe
— ESPN (@espn) January 2, 2018
Bulldogs vs. Crimson Tide
Being in the SEC is not the only thing that these two schools share in common. The way they attack you and their identity are eerily similar. The winner of this game may be determined by which team can impose their will on the other. Both teams will pound the running game to set up the play-action pass on offense. Both will also play to their suffocating defenses and attempt to force long drives for scores
Quarterback play will be crucial to success in this game. This is where the teams begin to differ from one another. Georgia’s Jake Fromm feeds off of success in the running game to set up their play-action passing game. The running game likely won’t be quite as open again Alabama. Throwing on first downs and breaking tendencies will be key to success. Comparatively, Alabama counters with Jalen Hurts who is probably not as good of a pure dropback passer. But, he is a dual-threat that adds a dimension that Georgia must account for. It seems like in order for Alabama to win that Hurts must improve upon the 120 yards that he threw for against Clemson in order to win this game.
This is a classic student versus pupil match-up. Kirby Smart is looking to become the first Nick Saban assistant to defeat him. One key to look at here is how will Georgia handle this moment. The Bulldogs will be in front of a hometown Atlanta crowd, but Alabama has been here and Georgia hasn’t. The Bulldogs must start fast, but not let the emotions of the game take over early.
What’s a preview article without bold predictions? Our panel of experts has weighed in with their predictions for the National Championship game below. But, we also want to hear from you. Post your score predictions in our comments section as we count down to the championship.