Alabama (12-1) vs Georgia (13-1) – 8PM ET, ESPN – CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T
After a crazy season that started with the preseason #3 team losing it’s starting quarterback, featured the biggest upset in the history of the sport, a game that wasn’t supposed to be on TV going to seven overtimes, a Friday night shocker in the Carrier Dome, Iowa State beating two top five teams, a school not in the National Championship officially claiming the title, and the biggest debate of the playoff era, we’ve finally arrived at the end of the roller coaster that was the 2017 season, and what a ride it was. We’ve finished where we started in a way, Nick Saban facing a former assistant who moved on to become the Head Coach of a big-time school, and in both cases, the game takes place in the new Mercedes Benz Stadium. For what it’s worth, Nick Saban is pretty darn good against former assistants, he’s 11-0 against them, winning by an average score of 39-10.
Alabama breezed through a Clemson team that I, to be fair, think was and still is better than Georgia. I thought Clemson’s #2 defense would give Jalen Hurts trouble, but he persisted, and had a good game, and didn’t throw any interceptions, in fact, the sophomore has tossed just one this entire year. The ‘Bama run defense looked like an Alabama run defense, a stark contrast to what we saw when the Tide played Auburn, that month to heal up certainly helped. The Alabama offense also deserves more credit, Calvin Ridley is going to be one of the first receivers off the board come Draft season, and they have a stable of runningbacks that might be second only to Georgia’s.
If you want to make a case for Georgia though, it has to be those runningbacks. Georgia’s defense is really good (#11), but Clemson’s defense was really good too, and Alabama still found a way to score. If you are trying to map out a plan to success for this Bulldog team, you have to find a chink in Alabama’s defensive armor, because it looked damn near impenetrable last Monday in New Orleans. It will be interesting to see how Georgia OC Jim Chaney uses what I would now call a trio of runningbacks after the emergence of D’Andre Swift. Swift, Chubb, and Michel have combined for 3,325 yards and 36 touchdowns, averaging 7.4 yards whenever one of them touches the ball, which is just incredible. Chaney’s scripting in the Rose Bowl was questioning to me, he kept going back to the passing game while the Oklahoma run defense was playing so bad that the Bulldogs were averaging like 15+ yards per carry. To his credit, they changed things up in the second half and came back to win, but against Alabama, you don’t really have that chance.
As good as those runningbacks are, I just don’t really see any way that you can pick against this Alabama team. I did last week, and I feel like a fool for doing so. Now that we know that the linebacking core, while still not 100%, is playing like they are, any potential weakness was erased for me. I do think this game will be higher scoring than Vegas thinks, While both defenses are excellent, Georgia’s offense (#11) and Alabama’s (#22) are both good enough to put up some points. Georgia still feels like Alabama Lite to me, and while this is an incredible step in year two for Kirby Smart, I think we may have to wait a couple more years for a Bulldog title victory.