Tailgate Pick ‘Em National Championship Preview and Predictions: Alabama vs. Georgia

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The National Championship is here and our team of Steen Kirby, Mike Loveall, John Bava, Yesh Ginsburg, and Brett Margolies offer up their previews and predictions for this season’s final college football game. We’re already looking forward to seeing you next year!

College Football Playoff National Championship: Alabama (12-1) vs. Georgia (13-1) (Monday 8:00 P.M. in Atlanta, GA)
Line: Alabama by 4

Steen: Both teams put in great performances in their playoff semifinals, all be it in entirely different games. The Crimson Tide’s defense controlled the game against Clemson and down the stretch the Tide pulled away. Georgia was in a shootout with Oklahoma and with a strong second half they pulled out a narrow win on the back of a fantastic running game. Both Jalen Hurts and Jake Fromm are talented but have question marks, and the run game will be key for both teams. The difference in my mind will be the Crimson Tide defense. Georgia couldn’t stop Oklahoma for most of the game, while Alabama shut down Clemson and has put together a solid defensive showing all season. Look for Alabama to win a narrow one. Alabama 24, Georgia 17

Mike: The SEC turned the tide of a disappointing bowl season by advancing both CFP teams into the Championship Game. The Bulldogs defense was able to get stops when they needed and their offense displayed a disciplined and tough balanced attack to beat Oklahoma in an instant classic. Alabama, on the other hand, was able to heal and bottle up a talented Clemson team to reassert itself as college football’s preeminent program. Unfortunately for Georgia, the Crimson Tide’s defense will present a slightly tougher challenge. Expect Nick Saban to pack the box with Tide defenders and make Jake Fromm beat Alabama’s secondary by himself. Meanwhile, on offense, Alabama will order a steady diet of D. Harris, Scarbrough, Hurts, and N. Harris and try to ground down the Georgia defense.

This will be an old fashioned slugfest. The difference might be a turnover or a special teams play. And the breaks almost always fall Alabama’s way. Alabama 27, Georgia 24

John: Say what you want about whether Alabama deserved inclusion into this year’s CFP, the fact of the matter is that they made the most of the opportunity. The Crimson Tide completely dominated Clemson down the stretch en route to a resounding 24-6 win in the Sugar Bowl. It now sets up an all-SEC clash with Georgia as Nick Saban looks to further reinforce Bama’s current run of dominance as the greatest in college football history.

One of the more intriguing aspects of this matchup is that it pits Saban against a former assistant. It’s only two years ago that Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart was in the final year of a stint as Alabama defensive coordinator that began in 2008. Though he has UGA a win away from its first national title since 1980, the trend doesn’t favor him prevailing. Saban is an unbeaten 11-0 against coaches who previously served on his staff.

If Smart’s team is to buck that trend, they need to do what Clemson couldn’t against Bama’s vaunted defensive front: run the football. The Dawgs have the firepower with one of the nation’s most dynamic two-pronged rushing attacks that consists of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. The tandem racked up a combined 326 yards on the ground in the Rose Bowl against Oklahoma. But Bama possesses weapons in the run game as well, including Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough and dual-threat sensation Jalen Hurts.

Here’s what tilts this game in Bama’s favor. Saban is a master motivator. That was on full display against Clemson. And the Tide will probably still carry an “us against the world” mentality considering the sentiment that they didn’t belong this year. Ultimately, they prevail en route to the most controversial of their five national titles under Saban. Alabama 31, Georgia 23

Yesh: I was very down on Alabama for the Sugar Bowl. I saw the way they ended the season, and thought that Clemson had clear advantages. Obviously, I was wrong. The question is whether I was wrong because Alabama is actually better than I thought, or whether it’s because Clemson just couldn’t take advantage. Maybe it’s a mistake, but I’m going to double down on what I saw from Alabama at the end of the year. Auburn and Mississippi State controlled the line of scrimmage. LSU found ways to get open in the secondary. Clemson clearly couldn’t take advantage of that. I think Georgia can. Georgia 34, Alabama 21

Brett: I just don’t see how Alabama losses in the title game in back to back years. I think Alabama will key in on Nick Chubb, and Sony Michel to make sure they stop the run, forcing true freshman Jake Fromm to make big plays on the biggest stage of the season. Chubb and Michel will have good games, but don’t expect them to be able to run on Alabama like they did in their classic win over Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl. Look for Bo Scarbrough, and Calvin Ridley to come up with key plays as Nick Saban wins his fifth national championship with the Crimson Tide. Alabama 34, Georgia 24