There have been plenty of discussions of what will happen in Monday’s national championship game, but it is safe to assume that the events will not resemble what happened when the Alabama Crimson Tide cruised past the previously undefeated Georgia Bulldogs in the Southeastern Conference title game.
Georgia was favored that day, marking the first time since 2015 that Alabama entered a game listed by the Las Vegas odds as the underdog. Well, Georgia (-3) is favored once again.
While Alabama features recently crowned Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Bryce Young, there are also plenty of defensive stalwarts who figure to hear their names called pretty early in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Alabama’s Will Anderson leads the country in both sacks and tackles for loss. Georgia’s Jordan Davis doesn’t have the stats that Anderson possesses but anybody who matched up against the Bulldogs had to address the best way to block the 6-foot-6, 340-pound Davis.
Considering that Alabama appeared in five of the last six national championship games and began the season atop the Associated Press Top 25 poll, it is hardly a shocker to see the Crimson Tide in this position.
Alabama had an expected win total of 11½ coming into the season. Georgia can hardly be considered an underdog but with an expected win total of 10½, the Bulldogs weren’t getting quite as much love in the preseason as their conference rivals.
- Game: Alabama (13-1) vs. Georgia (13-1)
- Location: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana
- Day/Time: Monday, 8 p.m. ET
- Television: ESPN
|Alabama||+3 (-120)||+125||52 (-110u)|
|Georgia||-3 (Ev)||-145||52 (-110o)|
Alabama vs Georgia
Health of O-Line a Concern for Crimson Tide
There were many factors that led to Alabama keeping its championship hopes alive by lighting up the fearsome Georgia defense for 41 points and 536 yards in the SEC Championship Game, but none more surprising or impactful than the play of the offensive line.
After having a nightmarish performance in the regular-season finale against Auburn, the offensive line took plenty of heat leading into the SEC title game. The feeling was that if Alabama struggled to block Auburn’s front seven, the Georgia pass rushers could have a field day.
That certainly wasn’t what happened. Young rarely had to deal with oncoming Bulldogs and he was able to do what no other quarterback could by exploiting a Georgia secondary that had four players selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. including Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell with picks No. 29 and 33.
Now there are concerns about the health of that offensive line, especially the status and availability of right guard Emil Ekiyor and right tackle Chris Owens. Ekiyor left the national semifinal against Cincinnati with a shoulder injury.
One advantage that Alabama has is an abundance of talent.
JC Latham, who was rated by ESPN as the fifth-best prospect in the Class of 2021, came in for Ekiyor and the best thing you can say was that you didn’t notice him, which is the goal of every offensive lineman.
It seems safe to assume that Georgia will be more aggressive in its defensive play-calling than it was in the SEC title game because Young has shown the ability to pick apart the secondary if given time.
With the Bulldogs potentially facing an offensive line at less than 100 percent, it could impact how often that linebacker Nakobe Dean and his teammates get the green light to go after Young.
The talent on the front seven is a major reason why the college football odds list Georgia as a favorite.
Bulldogs Thrive as Front-runner
When the Georgia Bulldogs began ripping off win after win, the opposing teams were unable to get them out of their comfort zone. Georgia didn’t trail in the first five games, and in nine of the 12 games in the regular season, the Bulldogs never played from behind.
Auburn and Missouri took early 3-0 leads but it didn’t take the Bulldogs long to answer. Tennessee became the first team this season to go up by seven points against Georgia, but could never build a two-possession lead that might force the Bulldogs to alter their offensive strategy.
Georgia trailed for a total of 20:01 in 12 games.
In the SEC title game, Alabama took a 14-point lead early in the third quarter on Jameson Williams’ 55-yard touchdown catch. The lead was pushed to 21 when Jordan Battle returned an interception 42 yards for a score with 11:59 to play.
For the first time, there was a sense of panic among the Bulldogs.
The defense carried the Bulldogs to this point but when the defense needed the offense to pick them up, they couldn’t do it.
If Georgia needs to change one thing from the previous matchup, it must play with the lead. This is hardly an offensive juggernaut.
Running backs Zamir White and James Cook can make plays and they have more than 1,400 yards between them, but it could be argued that the best running back playing in the game is Alabama’s Brian Robinson.
Georgia is a run-first team and things are better when quarterback Stetson Bennett isn’t asked to win the game. He threw it 48 times against Alabama and that is not a recipe for success. The Bulldogs would prefer to throw the ball about 20-25 times per game.
Against Michigan in the CFP semifinal, it was close to a 50-50 split with 35 running plays and 31 passing attempts. That is more of what Georgia needs to do in this game.
Georgia Gets Second Chance to Take Down Nemesis
Georgia is not alone in struggling to beat Alabama but the Bulldogs have lost their last seven games against Alabama and have only covered twice during that span.
The fact that the Bulldogs are favored for the second straight game shows plenty of confidence, especially since betting against Alabama coach Nick Saban when a title is on the line is a rather risky proposition.
It will be worth keeping an eye on the line for those who bet online. Will those who favor Alabama wait to put money down so as not to run the risk of seeing the odds shift? Or is it a case of believing that it is hard for somebody to win back-to-back games in neutral sites for as closely matched as Georgia and Alabama appear to be?
The talent level in this game is off the charts. We recently used the Pro Football Network simulator to do a 2022 NFL mock draft and nine of the top 42 picks are set to play in this game.
Alabama and Georgia combined to sign 14 of ESPN’s top-50 ranked recruits in the Class of 2019 and 11 each in 2020 and 2021.
Many of the players on the Georgia depth chart were recruited by the Alabama coaching staff and the opposite is also true.
Certainly, Alabama will miss injured 1,000-yard receiver John Metchie. With him out, more of the coverage can be focused on the dangerous Jameson Williams but still, it is hard to go against a Saban-coached team, especially when Alabama is an underdog.