College Football Championship 2018: Players to Watch for Alabama vs. Georgia

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2018

Georgia running back Nick Chubb (27) runs for a touchdown against Oklahoma during the second half of the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Monday's highly anticipated CFB National Championship contest between the No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide and No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs will feature a plethora of stars, some of whom will be playing on Sundays next season.

You could go through each position on a combined depth chart and find at least one player set to make a significant impact at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Monday night. 

Here's a look at two players each from Alabama and Georgia who will be crucial to their respective teams in the championship tilt.

             

Da'Ron Payne, DL, Alabama

Da'Ron Payne earned a special place in our hearts during the Sugar Bowl with an interception and the touchdown catch that secured the Crimson Tide's place in the CFP National Championship.

While he may not bless us with another glorious toe drag in the end zone against Georgia, Payne is still expected to make his presence known in the trenches.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01: Da'Ron Payne #94 of the Alabama Crimson Tide catches the ball for a touchdown as Chad Smith #43 of the Clemson Tigers defends in the second half of the AllState Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2018 in
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Payne doesn't have to fill the stat columns with tackles, but he will be tasked with surging through the Georgia offensive line to disrupt the progress of running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.

Getting the initial push at the line of scrimmage will be critical for the Crimson Tide as they try to impose their will on the Georgia offense from the first snap.

If Payne becomes a nuisance Monday, he would open the door for the fantastic group of linebackers in red and white to break through gaps and stop Chubb and Michel in the backfield.

                  

Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia 

Both Chubb and Michel are expected to have heavy workloads Monday night, but how much success they will attain against the Crimson Tide remains to be seen. 

For the most part, Chubb has been a reliable force who has broken down opposing defenses, but there is one blemish on his resume Alabama can learn from.

In the November 4 defeat to Auburn, Chubb totaled 27 yards on 11 carries in a contest wherein the Bulldogs recorded 46 team rushing yards. If Alabama takes a page from the playbook of its biggest rival, Georgia could be in for a long night.

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Running back Nick Chubb #27 of the Georgia Bulldogs scores on a two-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter against the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2018 College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game presented by No
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

However, it's worth noting Chubb recovered from that poor performance and ran for 77 yards in the SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium a month later.

In five games against ranked opponents, Chubb averaged six yards per carry and found the end zone on five occasions. If he averages half or more of that on Monday, Georgia will be in good shape.

Although a fast start is required, the biggest stretch for Georgia may come at the start of the second half. If the Bulldogs need a score out of the break, Chubb will be ready for his opportunity to make an impact. The senior has averaged seven yards per carry and scored four times in the third quarter this season. 

                

Damien Harris, RB, Alabama

Spending all of your time drooling over Chubb and Michel in the buildup to the national championship may seem like an ideal task given their production in the Rose Bowl, but there's a running back on the other sideline you need to watch as well.

Alabama junior Damien Harris could have the same impact on the game as the Georgia running backs in the all-important battle of the interior.

Harris carried the majority of the load for the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl, as he earned 77 yards on 19 carries, and there's a good chance he will get the ball that much again Monday.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  Damien Harris #34 of the Alabama Crimson Tide dives with the ball as Van Smith #23 of the Clemson Tigers defends in the second half of the AllState Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2018 in New Orleans,
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The junior's numbers weren't that impressive in November, but he showed during a four-game stretch at the start of SEC play just how explosive a player he can be. In three of his first four conference games, Harris ran for more than 120 yards.

Harris most likely won't hit those types of numbers in the national championship, but he should get a heavy volume of carries that could lead him near 100 yards if the Crimson Tide get the push they want from the offensive line.

Alabama's leading rusher won't be the only player who tries to make an impact on the ground, as quarterback Jalen Hurts and running back Bo Scarbrough are expected to take some of the carries. But Harris should be the man Georgia focuses on the most. If he is shut down, the Crimson Tide might not be able to get into a rhythm. 

              

Dominick Sanders, DB, Georgia

Even though most of the focus will be on each team's ground game, the defensive backs still have an important job Monday night. 

Georgia senior defensive back Dominick Sanders will be one of the most experienced players on the gridiron in the national championship, and he will be tasked with limiting Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley's production. 

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Safety Dominick Sanders #24 of the Georgia Bulldogs runs with the ball for 39-yards after an interception in the second half against the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2018 College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game pres
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

When it comes to defending Ridley, Sanders will have to take away the deep threat as well as stick to him on shorter routes across the middle. If Ridley is able to create any type of space, he could easily break loose for a big play. 

Sanders is coming off one of his best games of the season; in the Rose Bowl, he picked off Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield and made five tackles.

Don't be surprised if the senior, who has played in 53 games and picked off 16 passes in his collegiate career, comes up with another momentum-changing turnover Monday as the Bulldogs search for their first title since 1980. 

               

All stats obtained from ESPN.com and Sports ReferenceFollow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

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