NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW: GEORGIA vs ALABAMA
During game week the staff at Dawg News Daily previews the matchup between the Bulldogs and their opponent. We focus in on 3 key position matchups or players that we believe will be the difference makers in Monday's game.
Ever since Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and DeVonta Smith broke their hearts on second-and-26 in 2018, the Georgia Bulldogs have yearned to return to the national championship stage.
Four years later, Georgia is back. Not surprisingly, Alabama will be waiting on the other sideline.
Alabama has won seven straight against Georgia, including that overtime triumph in the CFP title game, and three SEC championship game victories, the most recent coming Dec. 4. Georgia coach Kirby Smart has significantly elevated his alma mater since arriving from Alabama after the 2015 season. But his repeated failures against Saban stand out, which adds a degree of significance to a game that really needs none.
A win would absolve Smart of criticism that he can't beat his mentor and win the biggest games. A loss, meanwhile, would set off a long and painful offseason in Athens. The Saban-lives-rent-free-in-Smart's-head jokes would be relentless.
Remove Alabama's past dominance of Georgia, and the title game projects as a very close matchup, even one that favors the Bulldogs. Georgia spent most of the season as the clear-cut No. 1 team, while Alabama rarely exhibited the flawless play or flash of the Tide team that cruised to a national title in 2020. Alabama dominated when it mattered, beating Georgia and Cincinnati in Friday's CFP Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic by a combined score of 68-30.
Beating a team twice in such a short span is never easy. Head-to-head history favors Alabama, but it's not hard at all to make a case for Georgia.
Will this be the year Georgia ends its interminable title drought? Or will Alabama extend the misery for the Bulldogs and their coach?
DAWG NEWS DAILY'S 3 & OUT REPORT:
1) Bama WR’s vs UGA’s STAR/Slot DB position
In the SEC Championship game, The UGA staff elected to go with William Poole III over Latavious Brini. Here's the Stat line for Bama Receivers against Poole, 11 TGT’s/9 REC’s, 164 YDS, 2 TD’s, 111 YAC allowed. Not ideal!!! For Comparison, Here is how the rest of the defensive backs fared:
Cine: 8 TGT/6 REC, 80 YDS, 44 YAC
Ringo: 6 TGT/2 REC, 63 YDS, 1 TD, 5 YAC
Kendrick: 5 TGT/3 REC, 27 YDS, 9 YAC
Tindall: 2 TGT/1 REC, 7 YDS
Walker: 2 TGT/2 REC, 21 YDS, 9 YAC
Jackson: 1 TGT/1 REC, 40 YDS, 6 YAC
You can live with the production you got out of the secondary in every area but at STAR. In fact, I think you can be pretty pleased with it. Ringo and Kendrick actually played a pretty good game on the boundary.
The blueprint on tape versus Alabama had been to bring new/exotic blitzes with 6 rushers, play press coverage on the outside, and force Metchie/Williams to the boundary.
Instead of following that plan Georgia decided to play a number of zones that they hadn’t run in games all year. The amount of guys who looked lost and not picking up anyone in coverage means that the players didn’t know the coverages. Expect The Bulldogs to revert back to the formula/Scheme the led the nation with allowing only 6.9PPG. Cant overthink this one.
2) UGA Pass Rush
The pass rushing effort from UGA back in the SEC Championship was poor. The Bulldogs came out like they thought Bama’s OL was just going to let them through, and they didn’t appear to have a plan when they held up well in the early going. UGA was not very aggressive in the 1st half and did not start bringing 6 until the 2nd half.
For Monday night, Georgia will need to keep Young in the pocket and flush him to his left if contain breaks down. Expect to see Nakobe Dean and Channing Tindall to take turns on the Edges to make up for Robert Beal’s deficiencies as an edge setter/pass rusher. UGA did that at times against Tennessee after Hooker broke the pocket early and it worked.
Against Michigan, Georgia's pass rush showed its fire. Travon Walker and Dean were animals and gave the Award winning Wolverine Offensive line trouble all night. Bulldogs will need to revert back to this mentality and pressure Young and not allow him to extend plays.
3) George Pickens, Darnell Washington, & Ladd McConkey
The mismatch in this game as it was in the SEC championship game is UGA’s TE’s versus the Bama ILB’s in coverage. OC Todd Monken exploited it in his opening script but did not stick with it. Despite running 22 routes, Washington saw only 1 target… it was a TD. Brock Bowers was used all over the field- 27 slot snaps, 6 wide, 14 inline. He was phenomenal, with 10 REC on 15 TGT’s.
Expect for Alabama to have a game plan for Bowers on Monday. He was seemingly the only threat to Bama in the SEC championship. Who else can help take the weight of Bowers Shoulders?
George Pickens saw 5 targets but only had 12 snaps in the SEC Championship game. Pickens is an Big time playmaker that changes defenses and needs to be on the field more, Even if its as a decoy. McConkey and Stetson Bennett have had chemistry all season, but was lightly used in the previous matchup against Bama. He did Score on the WR screen but He will need to be a factor Monday night. PREDICTION:
This game feels a little like the 2011 championship game where LSU won the regular-season meeting in Tuscaloosa, but you knew if they met again Alabama would win; or the Clemson-Notre Dame rematch last year after the Irish beat a shorthanded Tigers squad in South Bend. In the long run, maybe that loss in Atlanta was the best thing that could have happened to Georgia. The Bulldogs appeared to be a completely refocused, dialed-in squad in the Orange Bowl blowout of Michigan. Georgia will get back to playing more complementary football to assist its defense -- high-percentage passes to offset the run and build Stetson Bennett's confidence. I'd also look for the Bulldogs to show a little more presnap movement and motion to try to confuse Alabama's defense. Expect to see the Dawgs a little more aggressive with the run and try to establish Zamir White and James Cook where they can. On the other side of the ball, If the Dawgs can bring a little more pressure and force Bryce Young to make quick decisions it favors in the Bulldogs hands.
Georgia 30-23 (Line: Georgia -2.5)