CFP National Championship 2022: Under-the-Radar Players to Watch

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2022

Alabama wide receiver Slade Bolden (18) celebrates during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Atlanta. Alabama won 41-24. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

Production from the wide receiver position could be vital in the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship. 

The Alabama Crimson Tide had success through the air in their SEC Championship Game victory over the Georgia Bulldogs, and they may go back to that strategy against the same opponent on January 10 to capture back-to-back titles. 

Georgia had some success in the aerial attack in its loss to Alabama, and its passing attack was its biggest offensive asset versus the Michigan Wolverines. 

Stetson Bennett's top target, George Pickens, is healthier than he was a month ago, and tight end Brock Bowers could cause problems again in the Alabama secondary.

However, there is a chance neither of those players is the leading pass-catcher for Georgia in Indianapolis. That title could belong to Ladd McConkey.

The same could be said about Alabama's Slade Bolden, especially if UGA commits extra bodies to restricting Jameson Williams after he burned the Bulldogs in the previous matchup. 


Under-the-Rader Players to Watch

Slade Bolden, WR, Alabama

Bolden is not mentioned much in the conversation about Alabama's wide receivers because he will not be an elite NFL talent, but he has perfected his role as a secondary option for Alabama quarterbacks beneath the likes of DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle and now Williams. 

Bolden caught three passes for 31 yards and a touchdown in the Cotton Bowl win over the Cincinnati Bearcats, and he had 54 yards on five catches in the first meeting with Georgia. 

The junior wideout hauled in a touchdown pass in the 2021 CFP National Championship against the Ohio State Buckeyes, and while he does not catch passes at a high volume, he has scored touchdowns in two of Alabama's biggest games over the last two seasons.

Bryce Young needs to call on Bolden a few times throughout the January 10 contest to either gain key first downs, find the end zone or just take the attention off Williams. 

Georgia's defensive backs will give more attention to Williams this time around because John Metchie III is not on the field. Metchie, who tore his ACL in the SEC Championship Game, had six receptions for 97 yards in Atlanta. 

Bolden needs to get open in key situations to bring more comfort to Young in the passing game, and he could be vital in short passing situations as the Heisman Trophy winner looks to release the ball fast against Georgia's pass rush. 


Ladd McConkey, WR, Georgia

George Pickens and Brock Bowers are the first two targets Stetson Bennett should look for on January 10.

Pickens is the team's best talent at wide receiver. He is working back from injury and should be as close to 100 percent as he has been all season after rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered in March. 

With Pickens working his way back, Bowers has been Bennett's go-to target throughout the campaign. The tight end hurt Alabama to the tune of 139 yards back in December. 

Bennett needs McConkey to emerge as a third target to mix things up in the passing game versus Alabama's secondary. McConkey only has two catches in each of his last two games, but he did catch a touchdown against Alabama.

The freshman will not be called on a ton, but his catches could make the difference in certain situations for the Bulldogs. 

Two of McConkey's five scores this season came against Alabama and the Auburn Tigers. Bennett could look to him again in the red zone with Bowers and Pickens likely receiving extra attention. 

If Bennett spreads the ball around to McConkey and other targets, Georgia stands a good chance of at least keeping up with Alabama in Indianapolis.