2018 College Football National Championship: #4 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. #3 Georgia Bulldogs

And just like that, there were two. The Tide rolled and the Bulldogs John Cena’d Oklahoma with the comeback to give us an all-SEC slugfest that the Southeast of the United States won’t shut up about this entire year. Instead of the traditional rundowns that everyone tends to do, breaking down offenses vs defenses against each other, let’s just look at this face value and talk about how we, meaning the website you are reading this on, view this game.

 

Oh, and before we go on about the technical National Title game let’s give some real ass love to the University of Central Florida. UCF is paying out bonuses to their coaching staff and throwing a damn party for themselves claiming to be the National Champions after their impressive win in the Peach Bowl against Auburn. They’re even raising a banner. UCF is the Ric Flair of the NCAA Football world right now. McKenzie Milton did his best Hulk Hogan impersonation for 3 touchdowns and Chequan Burkett sealed it by pick-sixing Stidham with just under 6 minutes to go in the game.

 

#UCFNationalChampsWOOOO

 

If you read my breakdown of Alabama vs Clemson, which you should have, you would see how right I was on the Tide strategy. Keep it low scoring, harass Kelly Bryant and determine the pace of play as well as field positioning. Clemson was held to a rough 188 yards and 13 first-downs when they’ve averaged 430 total yards and 22 first-downs in the 2017 season. Alabama’s defense went into overdrive for the game and it showed who really the better coach is between Swinney and Saban. Hint, it’s Saban. Alabama isn’t going to change their strategy for this upcoming game and they don’t need to. Now is the time to remember to ignore the big numbers Georgia put up against Oklahoma. Why? Because Oklahoma’s defense is garbage and Alabama’s defense is… well I don’t need to explain it. Georgia will have a lot to handle with the Tide, but Georgia’s defense is no slouch either.

 

Here is an unfortunate fact we may need to come to terms with. This will likely be a low scoring game. And just like that the score will be 49-45 to spite me by jinxing it. Seriously though these teams are built to smash against each other and it will come down to a single player and how he performs. That player is Jalen Hurts. Against Clemson the Tide ran 21 times between Harris and Scarbrough for 101 yards total. Nothing impressive, but not bad. Hurts ran 11 times for 40 yards and was 16 of 24 for 120 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Saban has found a way to safely utilize Hurts whose biggest weakness is playing the position he plays. Hurts is a traditional athlete who plays quarterback and Saban’s biggest worry is relying on Hurts to win a game. This is where Georgia’s defensive intelligence comes in. They need to force Hurts to be the game winner and force Hurts to be aggressive. Saban protects his offense from needing to be aggressive because they are devoid of a star. They don’t have a Julio Jones, a Mark Ingram or even a Greg McElroy. They have a lot of B talent on offense, but a solid defense with the best defensive mind in college today with Nick Saban. This Tide team relies completely on their defense controlling the pace, creating turnovers and giving their offense a short field.

 

The issue with Hurts is his limitation. He is unable to get the ball to his playmakers on the field at a high enough clip to simply allow him to do it on his own. It’s the unfortunate reality of college football quarterbacks a lot of the time. Alabama has been a school that pumps out defensive players and the occasional skill player, but not quarterbacks and Georgia is still hoping you remember the glory days of Matt Stafford. Jalen Hurts limitations force Alabama away from a vertical attack. Hurts is a less talented version of JT Barrett and JT Barrett is a below average quarterback. If Hurts gets forced to use his arm only and is forced to throw downfield then the Tide loses. Easy as that. The run game, Hurts included, determines how Alabama does and the defense keeping the field short is the crux of the equation. See, if they have the ball on their own 40 yard line or better it gives the defense even better field position if the offense stalls or three and outs. Even if it’s a touchback punt it still forces the opposing team to score from their own 20. So the key for Saban is again to protect Hurts from long passing situations and to keep the pocket clean by running the ball around 40 or more times. Using a combination of Hurts, Scarbrough and Harris to keep the defense stacking the box it then gives opportunities to Ridley as the primary receivers. The worry here though is if the Georgia defense gets to Hurts in the same way they got to Mayfield.

 

Georgia’s defense got 5 sacks and a pick against the Oklahoma offense, but also allowed a 200 yard game to Rodney Anderson on 26 rushes. Georgia cannot win against Alabama if they allow a 200 yard rusher. So then it comes to the real balance attack that Georgia has. Can Jake Fromm stay accurate and throw for at least 200 yards while Chubb and Michel rack up 200 to 300 yards? They need to in order to defeat Alabama. The issue is, obviously, that Alabama has a great defense and the best defensive specialist in coaching in the modern day. Like him or not, Saban is a bastard when it comes to his stingy defense and he will find a way to get to Fromm. Strategically for Georgia they NEED to get their run going or to dare Alabama to blitz and make them pay for it in the air. Either way they need to get downfield and put pressure on the Tide to score.

 

To be blunt, this is a rather simple analysis because both these teams are simplistic. Alabama likes to run the ball, control the tempo and rely on their defense to make stops and cause turnovers. This formula has worked since Saban showed up to Tuscaloosa and against Georgia it’s likely to work again. The loss to Auburn is partially the rivalry in my view. Auburn and Alabama always play each other hard, but Georgia always seems to be able to stuff Auburn. It’s a weird love triangle. Hurts is capable of not screwing up as he is protected from doing so and I don’t think Georgia can defensively cause enough hassle to offset the Alabama defense shock treatment that they give Fromm and company. Why do we have the Tide favored? Saban always comes up in big games and right now he has a great chance to get another Title against a very beatable Bulldogs team. Saban is a defensive mastermind going into a game where defense is the key to the game. Fromm is going to have to win this game with accuracy as I predict their run game getting stuffed. Alabama needs the short field to help their limited offense and so far this season they’ve been able to do that. The way they handled Clemson’s offense and scored on shortened fields against their defense was far more impressive than Georgia despite their comeback and eventual OT win. When it comes down to strategy I always err on the side of Nick Saban.

 

Our Pick: Bama -3.5

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