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Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) warms up. (Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire)
January 4th, 2022
The No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide will face a familiar SEC foe, the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs, in the College Football National Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on Monday, Jan. 10.
The defending national champion, Alabama will make its fifth appearance in a CFP title matchup and will confront Georgia for the second time in the CFP championship game.
The last time these two teams met on college football’s biggest stage in 2018, the Crimson Tide bested the Bulldogs in a 26-23 overtime thriller. Alabama also met Georgia earlier in the 2021 season in a lopsided 41-24 victory in the SEC Championship Game.
In spite of the Crimson Tide’s decisive win back in December, the lower-ranked Bulldogs opened as a three-point favorite on Monday.
As head coach of Alabama, Nick Saban is 7-1 in his career against Georgia, including 4-0 against his former assistant Kirby Smart, the Bulldogs’ sixth-year coach.
With a win on Monday, Saban will earn his seventh national championship with his school and eighth as a college head coach.
There’s a lot of crazy stats that always float around about Nick Saban and Alabama. However, this is the craziest one to me, and I can’t get it out of my head for whatever reason:6 national championship appearances in the last 7 seasons.Absolutely insane. #RollTide pic.twitter.com/SsZilTC1Ma— Sidelines - Bama (@SSN_Alabama) January 3, 2022
There’s a lot of crazy stats that always float around about Nick Saban and Alabama. However, this is the craziest one to me, and I can’t get it out of my head for whatever reason:6 national championship appearances in the last 7 seasons.Absolutely insane. #RollTide pic.twitter.com/SsZilTC1Ma
To reach this year’s championship tilt, his Crimson Tide pummeled the No. 4 Cincinnati Bearcats in the Cotton Bowl, the first of two national semifinal games played on New Year’s Eve.
In the 27-6 win, this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, Bryce Young, completed 17-of-28 passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns, and gave up one interception in the third quarter. Fifth-year senior running back Brian Robinson Jr. added a career-high 204 rushing yards on 26 carries, while Ja’Corey Brooks led the team with 66 receiving yards and a score.
Entering the national semifinal contest, Alabama averaged 147.6 rushing yards per game, the lowest total in Saban’s 15-year tenure with the program. Against the Bearcats’ top 10 defense, the Crimson Tide rushed for 301 yards.
Georgia owns the nation’s top scoring defense (9.5) and third-best rushing defense (81.7), which held Alabama to 115 yards on the ground in the SEC title game.
The difference in that matchup was Young, who passed for an SEC record 421 yards and three scores, and ran for another touchdown.
Prior to the conference championship, Georgia had not surrendered more than one touchdown in any of its 12 regular-season games. Alabama’s offense reached the end zone four times, while the Crimson Tide defense returned an interception 42 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
In response to the disheartening loss to the Tide, Georgia responded with a brutal beatdown of No. 2 Michigan in the Orange Bowl, 34-11, last Friday. After quarterback Stetson Bennett was intercepted twice by Alabama, he bounced back to fire off three touchdown passes in the national semifinal.
🔺 310 Pass Yds, 3 TD🔺 34-11 W over Michigan In the biggest game of his @GeorgiaFootball career, Stetson Bennett delivered 🐶 pic.twitter.com/e2gBT9yCwW— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 1, 2022
🔺 310 Pass Yds, 3 TD🔺 34-11 W over Michigan In the biggest game of his @GeorgiaFootball career, Stetson Bennett delivered 🐶 pic.twitter.com/e2gBT9yCwW
Georgia scored on each of its first five drives, the first team to do so in the CFP's eight-year history, and outgained the Wolverines 330-101 in the first half to build a 27-3 lead.
On defense, Georgia held Michigan's high-powered rushing attack (223 yards per game prior to the semifinal) to just 88 yards, while Wolverines quarterback Cade McNamara went just 11-of-19 passing for 106 yards and was picked off twice.
To defeat the Crimson Tide, Georgia will need a similar performance on both sides of the ball.
In its earlier meeting with Alabama, not only did the defense lose its step, but Georgia's rushing offense was held to a season-low 109 yards and a 3.6 yards-per-carry average.
Although Saban and Alabama have appeared in five of the last six national championship games, they haven't won back-to-back titles since 2011-12, during the BCS era.
The tide will turn on that trend in 2022, as Saban has the edge in a matchup against his former protégé, Smart. The Crimson Tide coach is 25-1 all-time against former assistants, and had previously been unbeaten against his mentees, until Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher upset the Crimson Tide in their only loss this season — a 41-38 setback at College Station.
Furthermore, the only time Saban has lost to Georgia as Alabama's head coach was in 2007, his first year at the helm of the program. The Bulldogs eked out a 26-23 win in overtime, but since then, the Tide have won seven straight against the school by an average of 12.4 points.
While this matchup should be much closer than the SEC Championship Game, Alabama will once again prevail and earn Saban his seventh title with the school.
Score prediction: Alabama 27, Georgia 24
Our predictive engine is calling for Alabama to cover the spread.
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