NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Alabama (12-1) vs. Georgia (13-1)
8:15 p.m. ET Jan. 8 [ESPN]
Alabama -4, O/U: 45
HOW THEY GOT HERE:
Georgia came back to win an incredible Rose Bowl against Oklahoma while Alabama controlled the Sugar Bowl against Clemson. The two SEC schools haven’t met this season because Alabama didn’t win the SEC West. And that’s probably why they’re facing off for the championship.
Alabama made the College Football Playoff after Georgia beat Auburn for the SEC title and two-loss Ohio State beat previously undefeated Wisconsin for the Big Ten title. The Tide didn’t make the SEC Championship Game because of a loss to the Tigers, who also beat Georgia in the regular season. Auburn and Mississippi State are the teams’ only two common opponents. Alabama squeaked out a road victory against the (Mississippi State) Bulldogs while Georgia blew out MSU at home.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama: Georgia locked down Oklahoma’s passing attack in the second half of the Rose Bowl with a heavy dose of man coverage with safety help over the top. That defensive scheme baffled Oklahoma’s offense and the Sooners couldn’t go downfield.
If quarterback Jalen Hurts can find Ridley for a deep pass or two, Alabama is in great shape. Ridley posted his only two 100-yard receiving games of the season against Mississippi State and Mercer. Since then, he’s been relatively quiet catching seven passes for 77 yards combined against Auburn and Clemson.
Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia: We all know about Georgia’s dynamic tandem of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel at running back. And we all know Fromm is the five-star freshman quarterback who took over as the starter in the first game of the season and never relinquished the job. He’s a familiar face for many college football fans.
But his success Monday night may be more imperative than Chubb and Michel’s. Since Kirby Smart and Nick Saban run similar defensive schemes, Fromm should have some familiarity with what defensive alignments Alabama will show him. Will Saban and Jeremy Pruitt change things up to rattle the freshman? Or can Fromm find some holes in coverage?
YAHOO SPORTS PREDICTIONS
Pat Forde: Defenses dominate, and after the ninth punt of the first half America whines on Twitter about watching a boring game. But it’s a close game that comes down to the Crimson Tide blocking a Rodrigo Blankenship 50-yard field goal on the final play. Nick Saban further establishes his own place in the history of the sport.
Alabama 21, Georgia 20.
Pete Thamel: Hard to pick against Nick Saban. Ever. And with his defense reminding everyone of their promise when healthy, there’s going to be little room to run. Last year, Jalen Hurts led a touchdown drive that appeared to win the game. Deshaun Watson dashed those plans. This year, look for Hurts’ legs to be the difference and for Bama to get the ending right.
Alabama 17, Georgia 13
Nick Bromberg: Should I be the contrarian? I picked Clemson a year ago and that worked out at the last second. I picked Clemson a week ago and that didn’t work out at all. And my picks have been really bad this year, meaning whoever I pick is probably going to lose. Sorry, Georgia. I think Roquan Smith will be unblockable once again and Georgia should have more success than most running the ball against Alabama. I waffled on this pick for a long time — only a blowout in either direction would surprise me.
Georgia 16, Alabama 13
Sam Cooper: Every time I pick against Alabama, it backfires. And while Jake Fromm has proven to be unshakeable in his freshman season, there’s something about a true freshman quarterback playing against the Alabama defense that I can’t quite get over. That unit was just completely locked in against Clemson last week. If Alabama doesn’t score on defense, a turnover will set up a short field for Jalen Hurts and the Tide offense — maybe more than once.
Alabama 24, Georgia 21
More College Football Playoff coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• Pat Forde: Jalen Hurts isn’t a great QB, and that may not matter
• Smart: Tide ‘not as unbeatable’ as they’ve been
• Tide LB talks Trump attending title game
• Saban out to move to 12-0 vs. former assistants