January 10th 8 pm ET Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
Georgia- 3 Seed, Southeastern Conference, 13-1 overall, 8-0 conference
Alabama- 1 Seed, Southeastern Conference, 13-1 overall, 7-1 conference
Why Georgia will win
Motivation, motivation, motivation. HC Kirby Smart is 0-4 vs his former boss Nick Saban the latest being a 41-24 lopsided loss to the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game a month ago. Smart is desperate to silence the critics and finally break through. The Bulldogs are riding high after a dominant 34-11 victory over 2 seed Michigan in the semifinals. QB Stetson Bennett turned in arguably his best performance of the year passing for 313 yards and 3 touchdowns against a stout Wolverine defense. The defensive unit which gave up 421 yards through the air the first time around won’t have to face standout Alabama receiver John Metchie III who suffered a season ending knee injury in the game.
Why Alabama will win
HC Nick Saban comes into the game holding a 25-1 record against former assistants including a perfect 4 for 4 against Smart. His team comes in extremely confident off an impressive semifinal victory and despite a 17 point win a month ago the Tide are again underdogs which should provide some extra fuel. You can’t replace a star like Metchie but freshman Ja’Corey Brooks stepped up in his absence catching 4 passes for 66 yards and a touchdown against Cincinnati in the semifinals. The defense pass rush has been a force of late sacking Bearcats QB Desmond Ridder 6 times and will look put the heat on Bennett once again as it did in Atlanta.
Keys to the game-
1. Protecting the QB- Alabama was plus 3 in sacks against Georgia in the SEC Championship. The Bulldogs who rank 4th nationally with 45 sacks on the year were unable to get to Bryce Young once all game. Kirby Smart has to find a way to better exploit Alabama’s O-line that ranked 110th nationally in sacks allowed per game at 2.64.
2. Stetson Bennett must play smart- Bennett threw 2 costly interceptions with one being returned for a touchdown in the first matchup. He only has 7 interceptions on the year but has only 261 pass attempts and has had a tendency to make some head scratching throws during the year.
3. Staying discipline- emotions will be riding high as they always do in championship games. Alabama comes into the game ranking 115th in penalty yards per game at 67.7. Georgia on the other had allows only 40.6 penalty yards per game ranking 13th. The team that limits the mental mistakes as is always the case will likely prevail.
Eye Test Analytics Predicted Score- Georgia by .88 points