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Here we are again, Tide fans. For the second consecutive season, Alabama is playing for a national championship. This time around the game is being played in Indy and against a familiar foe: the Georgia Bulldogs.
If memory serves you as well as it serves me, you’ll remember that the last time this matchup occurred in the national championship game (2017), Tua Tagovoiloa entered in the second half to bring the Crimson Tide from behind to bring their eighteenth national title home to Tuscaloosa.
While Tagovoiloa isn’t on the field, the man that is behind center may end up being the best quarterback in Alabama football history. Sophomore Bryce Young is more than capable of earning the Tide its nineteenth title. But he will need some help from the Alabama defense to stay the course.
In the Orange Bowl CFP semifinal, Georgia handed Michigan a beating that many people couldn’t foresee. Their offense clicked like they hadn’t in any game this season. The Bulldogs have relied heavily on an elite defense to win the bulk of their games. But this time, both the offense and defense were clicking together beautifully.
Stetson Bennett, a former walk-on starting at QB for Georgia, played one of the best games of his college career, completing 20 of 30 passes for 313 yards with three touchdowns.
The Bulldogs took the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards in seven plays for a touchdown, with Bennett throwing a 9-yard touchdown pass to freshman Brock Bowers for a 7-0 lead. With that touchdown reception, Bowers set Georgia’s single-season receiving touchdowns record with 12.
Michigan, which had scored nearly 150 points in its last three outings, couldn’t muster much of anything against a Georgia defense that was surprisingly vulnerable against the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game. The Wolverines turned the ball over three times, surrendered four sacks and went 1-for-3 in the red zone.
The Wolverines were stopped on fourth down at the Georgia 41 on their opening possession. Michigan’s offense had just one play longer than 20 yards in the first half — a 42-yard pass to Roman Wilson to the Georgia 19. But then the Bulldogs sacked Cade McNamara for an 8-yard loss on the next play, and Michigan had to settle for Jake Moody’s 36-yard field goal.
Georgia didn’t allow a sack and held All-American Aidan Hutchinson to four tackles and only one tackle for loss. All-Big Ten linebacker David Ojabo didn’t have a tackle. Conversely, McNamara was pressured on nine of his first 24 dropbacks and could never get comfortable in the pocket.
Any hopes of a Michigan comeback in the second half were finished after they turned the ball over on each of their opening possessions. Georgia’s Derion Kendrick intercepted McNamara’s pass in the end zone, and then Devonte Wyatt recovered Blake Corum‘s fumble at the Georgia 47.
The final score was 34-11 in favor of the Bulldogs, and they will try to forward that momentum into the national championship game on Jan. 10.
For Alabama to be successful, they’ll need to recreate their schemes from the SEC Championship Game and keep Bennett on his toes. When he is under pressure, don’t expect him to create plays out of thin air like the young quarterback on the opposite end of the field will be able to do.
Pressure will be a key in this game defensively for the Crimson Tide.
Most importantly, however, Alabama will need to limit the run game from Georgia, much as they did back on Dec. 4 when they held the Dawgs to just 3.6 yards per carry. If the Alabama defense can perform as they did in that one, expect much of the same result in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
One area of concern for the Tide will be making sure it has a game plan for two opposing quarterbacks. Kirby Smart might be more willing to swap Bennett out for JT Daniels in the title game than he was in the SEC Championship Game.
Alabama LB Will Anderson Jr will need to record another great performance in this one if the Tide defense wants to stay off the field.
The Alabama secondary has performed majestically throughout the last few weeks of the season. Locking down Georgia’s receivers will be another important key to winning No. 19.
You can catch the CFP National Championship Game on Dec. 10 at 7:00 p.m. CST on ESPN.
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