The late Paul “Bear” Byrant once said that a football game is often decided by about five plays. Coach Bryant also said that the game was made up of inches, so fight for those inches. Those five plays determined by inches were ultimately the difference-maker in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta featuring the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs. Now each team will look to fight once more for those inches to win the National Championship.
In a previously written article, there were three main areas to look out for: big plays, turnovers, and non offensive touchdowns. The winner of two would likely win the game. ‘Bama got all three on its way to a 41-24 statement win that launched them to the number one seed in the College Football Playoff.
Now Heisman winner, Bryce Young, found Jameson Williams on two explosive plays, Stetson Bennett turned the ball over twice, and one of those INTs went for six the other way. Those are the plays often remembered, but those are not the plays easily reproducible. Those are the 50/50 plays that can go a teams way one game and not the next. For proof, just look at Tide’s up and down season all year long.
While Vegas may still have Alabama as the underdog, a role Nick Saban likes to call “Yummy Rat Poison,” but there are several matchups that should have the Tide fanbase hopeful in this rematch. Those three main factors will still ring true, but here are some of the matchups that can cause it:
The Alabama defense (specifically Will Anderson) vs. the UGA offense. As good as Georgia has looked all year, most recently in the CFP semifinals against Michigan, its offense has one real weapon found in tight end, Brock Bowers. Bowers caught 10 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown in the first matchup, but outside of him, Georgia doesn’t have big playmakers anywhere else on the offensive roster. Running backs James Cook and Kenny McIntosh was never able to get going in Atlanta, which meant the ball was in Bennett’s hands, and that’s exactly what Alabama wants. Georgia’s offense will again have its hands full, and if they can’t establish more of a ground game this go around, it could be a long night for Bennett and the Bulldog offense.
Jameson Williams vs. the UGA secondary. Explosive plays were a major factor in the first matchup. Williams was able to score from 67 and 55 yards out, which jumpstarted Alabama’s offense in each half. Williams played the second half of the first game without his fellow star John Metchie III and will be without him again tonight. The Georgia defense will be looking for ways to stop no. 1, but expect Alabama’s offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien to find creative ways to get Williams the ball in space.
Heisman winner Bryce Young vs. the UGA defense. While Young only connected for 26 of 44 attempts in the SEC Championship Game, he made the 26 count. They accumulated for 421 yards and three touchdowns. He also kept the defense on his toes with 40 rushing yards on 3 carries for another touchdown.
In the first matchup, Georgia didn’t pressure Young nearly what previous teams did. They expected their front four to be able to get the job done, but what transpired was Young scrambling, creating, and even pointing for touchdowns. Expect Georgia to dial up more pressure early and often to try and confuse and rattle Young. How he is able to react to that will be a major factor. Will he take sacks? Force a ball and turn it over? Or will he make the right reads and burn the defense for more big plays?
All this and more tonight at 7 pm central as Alabama looks to repeat for the second time under Nick Saban, his mind-boggling 7th national championship in 13 years. Georgia will not only be looking to win their first since 1980 but their first win over a Nick Saban Alabama, the kryptonite to a team that is several heartbreaks away from having 3-4 national championships of their own over the last 10 years. These two elite teams will face off in Indianapolis tonight as they seek to take home the title of national champs.