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Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams (1) reacts after catching a touchdown pass during the SEC Championship Game against the Georgia Bulldogs. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)
January 7th, 2022
The No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide will seek to defend last year's title when they face their SEC foe, the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs, in Monday's College Football National Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
In Alabama's fifth appearance in a College Football Playoff championship contest, the perennial title contender will get a rematch of this year's SEC Championship Game, which Alabama won 41-24 to hand Georgia its only loss of the season.
These two teams also met previously in the 2018 CFP championship, in which 'Bama triumphed 26-23 in overtime.
In order for Georgia to win on Monday, head coach Kirby Smart will need to do something he has never done — beat his former mentor Nick Saban in a head-to-head battle.
Kirby Smart is wrapping up his sixth season at his alma mater. Will the latest showdown with Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide determine his legacy at Georgia? #NationalChampionshipby @charlesodum: https://t.co/9O10GlfgyE pic.twitter.com/7XJnhArsg5— AP Top 25 (@AP_Top25) January 6, 2022
Kirby Smart is wrapping up his sixth season at his alma mater. Will the latest showdown with Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide determine his legacy at Georgia? #NationalChampionshipby @charlesodum: https://t.co/9O10GlfgyE pic.twitter.com/7XJnhArsg5
Smart served as an assistant under Saban at Alabama from 2007-15, and won four national titles with the current Alabama head coach.
Saban is 25-1 all-time against former assistants, with his only loss coming to Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher (Saban's offensive coordinator back when Saban was coach of LSU) in a 41-38 upset at College Station earlier this season.
Saban is also 7-1 all-time against Georgia, and has not lost to the Bulldogs since 2007, his first year with Alabama.
In spite of his longtime dominance against Georgia, Saban and his top-ranked Crimson Tide are a 2.5-point underdog against the lower-ranked Bulldogs.
Let's further examine this high-stakes SEC showdown, as we look at the five best bets for the College Football Playoff national championship.
The title game will pit Georgia's top-ranked scoring defense (9.5 points per game) against Alabama's fifth-ranked scoring offense (41.1 points per contest).
Last time these teams met, the Crimson Tide offense recorded four touchdowns, while the defense reached the end zone on an interception of Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett. Georgia has not allowed more than one touchdown in any of its other games this season.
The Bulldogs defense should come in better prepared on Monday and keep the Tide from running up the score like they did in December.
In the SEC Championship Game, Georgia was the first to score, on a 38-yard field goal, and held 'Bama scoreless in the first quarter.
Expect another low-scoring opening in the championship tilt and back the Under for first-quarter points.
By halftime of the SEC championship, Alabama owned a 24-14 lead, as Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young passed for a pair of scores and ran for another touchdown to close out the second quarter.
One of Young's touchdown passes went to wideout John Metchie III, who exited the game with a season-ending ACL injury.
Great pass & great drive for Bama. Bryce Young directs traffic & finds John Metchie for the score. The Tide have scored 2 straight TDs to get back in this game. The Bama offensive line has done better then expected.GEORGIA 10ALABAMA 14 https://t.co/BwnjGLQeQv— Brendan Moore (@bmoorecfb) December 4, 2021
Great pass & great drive for Bama. Bryce Young directs traffic & finds John Metchie for the score. The Tide have scored 2 straight TDs to get back in this game. The Bama offensive line has done better then expected.GEORGIA 10ALABAMA 14 https://t.co/BwnjGLQeQv
Young will still have plenty of talent at his disposal on Monday, but Georgia is unlikely to let Alabama's offense break loose in the second quarter like last time.
Nonetheless, the Tide should still find a way to put up at least two scores by the end of the first half. The team averages 14.4 second-quarter points (third most in the nation) and piled on 17 points by halftime of the national semifinal game against Cincinnati, who owned the second best pass defense in college football.
Look for Alabama to top 13.5 points by the end of the second quarter on Monday.
With Metchie sidelined in the national semifinal game, Young turned to freshman wideout Ja'Corey Brooks, who caught four passes for a game-high 66 yards and a score.
Although Jameson Williams, Alabama's leading receiver (1,507 yards), hauled in a team-high seven catches, he was held to just 62 yards and a season-low 8.9 yards-per-catch average.
Against Georgia, Williams had a much better night, with a game-high 184 receiving yards on seven catches (26.3 YPC), but had the benefit of playing one half with Metchie, who stole some of the attention from Georgia's defense.
Williams will be the primary focus of the Bulldogs' stop unit in the championship game and will find it much more difficult to rack up yards against the nation's No. 3 pass defense.
With the Bulldogs likely to keep this battle much closer than the SEC championship, they should be able to utilize their run game more effectively.
In their first meeting with Alabama, the team was forced to air it out to play catch-up with the Crimson Tide, and ran for a season-low 109 rushing yards, as a result.
Leading rusher Zamir White posted just 27 yards, while James Cook ran for a team-high 38.
This run shows off Zamir White's best ability: he's very good at getting his pads underneath defenders to break tackles. pic.twitter.com/SM8DDBZrv9— JWack (@JaredWackerly) December 27, 2021
This run shows off Zamir White's best ability: he's very good at getting his pads underneath defenders to break tackles. pic.twitter.com/SM8DDBZrv9
This time around, Georgia should be able to keep the ball on the ground longer and will get more production out of White, who just ran for 54 yards on 12 carries against Michigan's stingy run defense.
Aside from the SEC Championship Game, Georgia has looked nearly unbeatable during the 2021 season.
The team has won by an average margin of 27.8 points and has scored an average of 39 points per game.
However, to beat Alabama, the Bulldogs need to keep the ball on the ground to control the clock and prevent Alabama from doing damage through the air.
Georgia scored 24 points on Alabama in their first meeting of the season, when the Bulldogs had to turn to the pass to compete with 'Bama.
In their second meeting, the Bulldogs should be able to better enforce their game plan in a much closer outcome that will result in a low-scoring thriller.
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