The final game of the College Football season is finally here. Who would have thought the 3 and 4 seeds would be playing for a shot at the title after both of them beat out the top two teams in the country? It looks like Alabama deserved to be in the College Football Playoff after all. It all comes down to this. Alabama got their revenge on Clemson, but can they finish it off by taking home the title? Can Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm lead his team to their first National Championship since 1980? It all starts tomorrow night at 8PM EST on ESPN. Below are three key matchups that could decide the outcome of this game and winner of the 2018 National Championship.
Rushing Attack vs Rushing Defense
Controlling the running game is important in any football game, but in the biggest game of the year it’s importance goes to a whole different level. Whichever team can run the ball more effectively will have a big advantage. It’s tough to pick a running game that’s better when you consider Alabama has Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough while Georgia has Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and D’Andre Swift. I’d say the running game is pretty close to even. Take a look at the rushing numbers for both teams on the season.
Alabama: 255.8 YPG, 5.8 YPC, 36 TD
Georgia: 267.4 YPG, 6.0 YPC, 41 TD
What’s separating the two teams is 11.6 YPG, 0.2 YPC, and 5 TD’s. Those numbers are slightly higher on Georgia’s side, but the difference isn’t significant enough to say they have an advantage on Alabama.
While the running backs on both teams will look to dominate the ground game, the rushing defense on both sides will be looking to stop it. Here’s where I think Alabama has an advantage. Here are the season numbers for both rushing defense’s.
Alabama: 91.8 YPG, 2.7 YPC, 8 TD
Georgia: 121.9 YPG, 3.7 YPC, 8 TD
This time the two teams are separated by 30.1 YPG, 1.0 YPC, and 0 TD’s. Alabama has an advantage here because they rarely allow teams to get a running game going. Just over 90 yards per game and less than 3 yards a carry is incredible. Alabama allowed 65 yards rushing against Clemson. If Georgia wants to beat Alabama, they have to find a way to run the ball on a defense that doesn’t allow teams to do so.
Alabama Offense vs Georgia LB Roquan Smith
Winning this game will have a lot to do with the coaches ability to take out the other teams best player. For Nick Saban, it’s figuring out how to stop Roquan Smith. In the Rose Bowl against Oklahoma, Smith didn’t have a great first half. The result at half time was Oklahoma leading 31-17. Smith came out in the second half and was all over the field. Leading the team with 11 total tackles, Smith was disrupting plays in the running and passing game. Oklahoma found a way to neutralize Smith for a half, but they didn’t do it the whole game and it cost them.
Along side arguably the best defender in College Football this season, Roquan Smith has Lorenzo Carter. These two linebackers together make a pretty good team. Carter was second on the team in tackles in the Rose Bowl (10), just behind Smith. They’re both players any offense has to watch out for, but it’s going to be pretty hard to take both players out of the game. Alabama’s focus should be on taking the best player away, and that’s Roquan Smith. They must find a way to keep him away from the ball as much as possible.
Georgia’s Defense vs Calvin Ridley
Much like Alabama will need to contain Roquan Smith, Georgia must find a way to contain Calvin Ridley. Ridley had 59 catches for 935 yards on the season. That’s 43 more catches and 676 more yards than anyone else on the team. Bo Scarbrough was second on the team in receptions (16), but he’s a running back. Outside of Ridley, the receivers on this Alabama offense aren’t huge threats.
Ridley didn’t have a huge game against Clemson, but he was still the leading receiver (39 yards) and he had one of their two offensive touchdowns. Jalen Hurts has relied upon Ridley all season long. Georgia must contain Ridley and make things tough on Hurts. Make someone else beat you Georgia. They got burned by Marquise Brown in the Rose Bowl, who recorded 8 receptions for 114 yards and 1 touchdown. They were playing against Baker Mayfield, but still they can’t let Ridley be the safety blanket Jalen Hurts wants and needs him to be.
As good as Jake Fromm has been this year, I think the Alabama defense may disrupt that a little bit. I also think the defense will get a lot of help from the Alabama offense and their running game. Alabama’s defense will control the line of scrimmage and slow down Georgia’s run game, forcing Fromm to have to beat them. Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough will both have a good game running the ball, keeping the Alabama offense on the field longer while Fromm stays on the sidelines. I’m picking Alabama to walk out of this game as the National Champions. While I’m picking Alabama, I did pick both the Rose and Sugar Bowl wrong this year. I don’t know if that means anything, but if it does I apologize to Alabama fans in advance.