Posted on January 4, 2018, by Travis Pulver
For a brief moment a few weeks ago, it looked like the world would see someone other than Alabama play for the national championship. But while Auburn kept them out of the SEC Championship Game, the loss wasn’t enough to keep them out of the top four. However, they would have to get past Clemson to have a shot at the national championship—which ended up being a piece of cake.
Georgia had looked like an early favorite to make it to the big game as well. But like Alabama, Auburn got in the way and temporarily knocked them out of the running. They got another shot at the Tigers in the SEC Championship, made the most of it, and earned the chance to face off with Oklahoma for a shot at the national championship.
An epic double-overtime game later, and they were in. But winning the university’s first national championship in decades would mean Kirby Smart would have to do something no other former-Saban assistant has done.
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Beat Nick Saban.
However, while Alabama has a dominant defense and a strong run game, so does Georgia. But who’s better? The answer to that question will answer another one:
Who’s going to win?
This game is an interesting match-up in that Alabama and Georgia are good at the same things, running the ball and stopping the run. Alabama has the No. 1 defense against the run (91.8 yards/game allowed). The Bulldogs have the No. 20 unit (120.9 yards/game allowed). Sony Michel and Nick Chubb power the Bulldogs No. 8 rushing game (267.4 yards/game).
Alabama has a three-pronged attack with their running game. Damien Harris got just nine more carries than Bo Scarbrough (129 to 120). But he did a lot more with his gaining 983 yards (and 11 touchdowns) to Scarbrough’s 573 (and eight touchdowns). Quarterback Jalen Hurts chipped in another 808 yards (148 carries).
So, to stop Alabama, the Bulldogs can’t focus on stopping any one player—which will be easier said than done, of course. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has to be especially concerned about stopping Alabama’s run game after his defense allowed Oklahoma running back Rodney Anderson to run for 200+ yards in the Rose Bowl.
Alabama’s defense, on the other hand, dominated Clemson’s run game. But the Tigers do not have any running backs even close to being as dynamic as Georgia’s. The Crimson Tide defense has not faced a duo like them this season.
To make matters worse, they will have to do stop Chubb and Michel without the services of outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings. He injured his knee against Clemson and has already had surgery to deal with it.
So—does this mean the winner will be whoever succeeds at running the ball? Probably not. The winner will likely be the team that excels at neither does well—pass the ball. To be fair, it’s not that either quarterback is a poor passer. Neither team puts a focus on passing since they run the ball so well.
But if need be, Georgia is better prepared to get it done through the air. Hurts was efficient with his passing against Clemson, but didn’t gain much ground (16-24 for 120 yards and two touchdowns). Fromm, on the other hand, had an excellent game against Oklahoma (21-29 for 210 yards and two touchdowns).
Fromm didn’t just have the hotter hand the last time out. His stat line has been better than Hurts all season (with the exception of interceptions; Fromm has thrown five to Hurts’ one).
This is going to be a very close, hard-fought game. Each team is going to struggle to get their offenses on track. Success in the passing game may be the key, but both have incredible pass defenses to go with the stellar run defenses. Fromm may have a slight edge as a passer, but that doesn’t mean the Alabama defense is going to give him time to throw.
Then again, the Georgia offensive line has only given up 18 sacks this season (Alabama’s has given up 24).
Georgia will have to figure out how to slow down Alabama’s defense if they are going to have a shot. The Bulldogs run defense is going to have to do a better job of living up to its reputation against Alabama’s backfield juggernaut.
After watching them play Oklahoma, it is hard to say they’ll be up to the task for all four quarters.
Alabama started off as four-point favorites, but the line has shifted to 3.5 points. This game could go either way, but if you really want to bet take Alabama and give the points.