Little did I know when I decided to expand ABG CFB from a weekly tweet to blog of its own that We'd have two Deep South teams playing in the Championship Game in a city in the Deep South. I find it fitting. This game is an all-SEC affair which has drawn both praise and ire from fans. Regardless, it promises to be a great game, one that Southerners won't soon forget.
CFB PLAYOFF CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - MERCEDES-BENZ STADIUM, ATLANTA
Curator Sam Burnham
Here we find ourselves at the National Championship Game - the real one, the one deemed to be official by the chosen governing body. It is as official as it can get on this level. This is how the FBS selects their only champion.
What a dandy this game promises to be. Teacher vs Apprentice, Deep South vs Deep South, SEC vs SEC, powerhouse vs. powerhouse. We see one team still wearing hounds tooth because of their legend and another breaking steel chairs with hobnailed boots because of theirs. Alabama vs Georgia.
This is my opportunity to remind y'all that if it wasn't for the Yazoo land Fraud there would not be an Alabama, just a lot more Georgia. Perhaps a wager would be appropriate. If the Dawgs win, Georgia now owns Alabama. If the Tide wins, Alabama would then own Oklahoma.
But let's talk about the game.
The key for each team will be defense.
Oklahoma was spotted 17 points by a defense that did not perform well in the first half. In the second half The Dawgs held the OU offense to 7 points and then only 3 in overtime. With Michel and Chubb running the field and Blankenship hitting field goals from Fresno, the Dawgs handed business.
Alabama scored 24. This included a pick-six and another pick giving them gimme field position. Take that out and a 10-6 game late keeps Clemson alive.
There's a dangerous hot take going around that Jake Fromm "can't throw." That is misleading if not absurd. It was Georgia's brilliant use of play action and other short passing that spread the Sooner defense and opened the lanes for the running game. The Dags aren't looking for Fromm to come out hitting 60 yard bombs on Monday night. They are looking for him to use his competent receiving corps, including Chubb and Michel. Even as a true freshman he is the leader of this offense, and they follow him.
On the other side, Jalen Hurts has caught some serious flack over the Sugar Bowl. There is a persistent complaint that he is the weak link at Alabama. The man has lost 2 games as a starter - last year's championship game to Clemson and this year at Auburn. He has 17 passing TDs, 8 rushing TDs, has thrown only 1 interception and has 153.1 passing rating and his offense trust him and will follow him anywhere. Yeah, he's pitiful.
Back to Georgia's backfield. I loved seeing Herschel Walker on Gamedaey giving a brilliant description of Chubb and Michel as "complete backs" - backs who can run, block and receive So m any guys today can provide a tight cradle when running the ball but block like a receiver and catch like a lineman. Chubb or Michel catching the ball behind the linebackers is a coach's nightmare. These aren't the guys you want to have an unobstructed start on your secondary. Then when they need a break, Swift and Holyfield aren't going to be much easier on your defense.
If Bama plans to stop UGA, they have to take out the passing game and stack the box, something that Oklahoma found impossible in the second half.
Alabama is going to come in with a running game of their own. Damien Harris is leading that attack. While Bo Scarbrough may not be performing as he did before last season's injury, he is still a good running back who will contribute to the offense. Hurts is going to use WR Calvin Ridley, among others, to try to keep the running lanes open for Harris.
We'll see which defense can get the most stops.
The big picture of this game is a Georgia team that has had to stop Notre Dame, Mississippi State, Auburn, and Oklahoma to get here. Their second half dismantling of Oklahoma's offense was nothing short of amazing. Seeing their running backs going over, under, around, and through defenses has been stunning, even humorous at times.
Alabama is the giant. There is no denying that. But this Georgia team is dominant. They are going to throw a tenacious attack at Alabama on both sides of the ball. These guys believe in each other and have a confidence that no one can deny. This is the point in the season where Larry Munson would say "I know I'm asking a lot, you guys, but hunker it down just one more time!" And, of course, they will.
WINNER: GEORGIA, BREAKING THEIR FACE WITH A HOBNAILED BOOT.
Coach Drew Burnham
First of all, congratulations to UCF. I completely agree with their decision to recognize themselves as this year’s National Champions. Until a system arises that gives a fair opportunity to compete to any team outside the power 5, I see no issue with any undefeated teams crowning themselves in the future. For that matter, if Boise State wants to give themselves a couple championships retroactively, I’m all for it. Enjoy your parades and rings UCF. You deserve it.
Now, this is it. The National Championship game. As one Jim Williams would say, it’s the game that crowns the Champion of the Nation (or one of them at least). How many storylines intertwine in this one? Kirby Smart leads his team a hop, skip and jump down the road to Atlanta for a showdown with his greatest mentor (sorry Chris Hatcher). In the coaching business, we all remember the person who got us started or lead us through our greatest period of growth. Sometimes there is more than one, but there is always one who means more than the others. “Your daddy”. It is a strange experience when that game rolls around. As much as we all hate to admit it, because we all try to pretend that all games are created equal, that game is circled on the calendar for months. Traditionally, it’s a much bigger deal to the mentored than the mentor. Thus, the mentor is usually the victor. I’ve been very fortunate in my young coaching career. I played my “daddy” once, beat him and skipped town hopefully to never play him again.
For Kirby, this is bigger than any other matchup of it’s kind. These two were together for a long, long time. They have both meant so much to each other’s success in the business. I remember the suffocating feeling of knowing who was going to be calling the shots on the other sideline and it was an October Friday Night in Georgia. I can’t imagine working that game on the biggest possible stage under the brightest possible lights.
This is going to be a true match of juggernauts. The offensive production we witnessed in the Rose Bowl made Cliff Kingsbury blush. The defense Alabama displayed in the Sugar Bowl certainly made a statement across the country. Both of these teams belong here. No one was given a spot in this game.
Now for the good stuff. Georgia’s rushing offense is what has powered them through this season offensively. The 2-headed beast of Michel and Chubb are mind blowing and no one has been able to stop them. Even in the loss to Auburn where the Dawgs only put up 7 points, they still rushed for 238 yards. Transversely, it seems like Alabama hasn’t allowed a positive rush since the last time Mark Dantonio cracked a smile. The unstoppable force meets the immovable object.
The Alabama defense is playing like a team that has something to prove. I’m infatuated with how Nick Saban continues to get his players to play just so HARD every single year. Natural human instinct is to become complacent after years on years of success. It seems as if Alabama’s defense only gets hungrier as the years go on. That is the greatest compliment a coach can get and his greatest coaching trait. “Your kids play SO hard.” His do. Always.
So am I saying that the other 50% of the game doesn’t matter? No. I’m just saying that I have a feeling that all 21 game-deciding seconds will happen between Georgia’s offense and Alabama’s defense OR in special teams. It’s just a hunch. If Georgia can run the football successfully against that defense and not force Jake Fromm to take over the game, the Dawgs have more than an outside shot. If not, it will be over quickly and we will all gather Tuesday and say, “I can’t believe how soundly Alabama just beat them”. If Alabama can continue to be impenetrable and then control the ball offensively, a sound beating is exactly what we’ll see. It’s a matchup for the ages. I can’t wait to watch it unfold.
VERDICT: The resiliency I saw Georgia show in the Rose Bowl 2nd half was a marvel. I was blown away. They never flinched. They never waivered. They believed whole-heartedly and with everything in them that it was going to go their way. That game could have been over and a runaway in the 3rd quarter, but those boys just had too much in them. With a month to prepare I really believe that Saban is almost unbeatable, but this game is played on a quick turnaround. It levels the coach’s playing field. I believe this one is going to be a slugfest and that in the end, Georgia’s resiliency will carry them through and they will find some kind of way to move the ball when it counts.
WINNER: GLORY, GLORY TO OLE GEORGIA.
*No one tell my Wife