Georgia vs. Alabama: Overlooked Factors in College Football Championship 2022January 7, 2022
Georgia vs. Alabama: Overlooked Factors in College Football Championship 2022
There's one particular matchup that many people are excited to see happen again during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game: Alabama quarterback Bryce Young vs. Georgia's defense. Can the Heisman Trophy winner have another successful showing against the top unit in the country?
In the SEC Championship Game, Young became the only player to make the Bulldogs' defense look beatable this season. He threw for 421 yards and accounted for four touchdowns (three passing and one rushing) while helping the Crimson Tide hand Georgia its first (and so far, only) loss of the 2021 season.
However, there's more to the Alabama-Georgia rematch than Young vs. the Bulldogs' defense. There are a bunch of factors that could determine which of the SEC rivals will win the national title, and some of them have been overlooked a bit heading into Monday's championship tilt.
Here's a look at some of those overlooked factors that could determine the outcome of the rematch between the Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs.
Alabama's O-Line Has Greatly Improved in Pass Protection
Young has been impressive all season, but there have been some times when he's faced a ton of pressure. And it's had an impact on the scores of those games. Alabama's final three regular-season SEC contests were all decided by seven or fewer points, and those defenses made things tough on Young.
LSU and Arkansas each recorded four sacks in its matchups against the Crimson Tide. The Tigers only lost 20-14 on Nov. 6, while the Razorbacks fell 42-35 on Nov. 20. Then, Auburn's defensive front had a tremendous showing in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 27, recording seven sacks in a game that Alabama needed four overtimes to pull out a 24-22 win.
Since the stakes have been raised, though, the Crimson Tide's pass protection has greatly improved. In the SEC Championship Game, Alabama prevented Georgia's fearsome defense from recording any sacks. The Crimson Tide's pass protection was solid in the Cotton Bowl, too, as Cincinnati had only two sacks.
Georgia's pass rush will surely want to have a better showing than it did in its previous meeting with Alabama. And the Bulldogs likely know that if they're going to win, they can't let Young have the time he needs to dissect their secondary and deliver repeated big throws.
But if Alabama's offensive line builds off its recent pass-blocking success, that could be what happens again.
Georgia's Ground Attack Could Be Key to the Game
Georgia senior quarterback Stetson Bennett received a lot of praise for his performance against Michigan in the Orange Bowl. And rightfully so. He was impressive while passing for 313 yards and three touchdowns, especially when there had been some questions about whether he or junior JT Daniels should be leading the Bulldogs' offense.
But it's important to note that Georgia was highly effective moving the ball on the ground against the Wolverines, too. The Bulldogs ran the ball 35 times and amassed 190 yards, as their running back duo of junior Zamir White and senior James Cook both helped power their offense.
That was an issue for Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, even after it took a 10-0 lead against Alabama and could have established the ground game to try to stay in control. The Bulldogs had only 109 rushing yards and neither White (11 carries for 38 yards) nor Cook (seven carries for 27 yards) got going vs. the Crimson Tide.
It could be important for Georgia to have a better showing on the ground in the CFP National Championship, much like it did in the Orange Bowl. Especially if it can jump out to an early lead again, so it can try to dominate the time of possession, as it's never a good idea to let Alabama have the ball for long periods of time.
If the Bulldogs can move the ball via their running game and eat large chunks of clock, that should increase their chances of victory.
Williams' Biggest Impact Could Come in Return Game
Jameson Williams is a dangerous playmaker, and Georgia's defense has already seen that. In the SEC Championship Game, the Alabama junior wide receiver had seven catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns, one of his best showings in his first season with the Crimson Tide.
However, the Tide played much of that game with John Metchie III still in the receiving corps, before he suffered an ACL tear that ended his season. And without Metchie in the Cotton Bowl, Williams made less of an impact in the Cotton Bowl, notching seven receptions for 62 yards and no scores.
It's quite possible that Georgia's defense is going to focus on trying to shut down Williams and make Alabama's less experienced receivers try to beat them. If that's the case, Williams may not put up the same type of receiving numbers as he did last time against the Bulldogs.
But Williams could still impact the game in a big way, and that's because he's been dynamic in the return game this season, too. Although he has only 10 kick returns, he's averaging 35.2 yards a return, which includes a pair of touchdowns.
If Williams can't get going on offense, perhaps the Crimson Tide would even consider utilizing him on punt returns to try to get the ball in his hands. There are ways for Alabama to get him involved even if he struggles against Georgia's secondary.
So maybe special teams will end up playing a factor in the CFP National Championship, especially if Williams can field a return or two. He's such a talented playmaker that he could find a way to break one off and get into the end zone.