Under Nick Saban, Alabama has made fairly regular appearances on this stage. 2018 will represent the sixth time in the last nine seasons that Saban’s Crimson Tide will play for a championship. Alabama is 4-1 in national title contests under Saban.
Georgia is in less familiar territory, because this is their first championship appearance since 1983. And they haven’t won a national title since 1980.
One more piece of history worth mentioning before we get into the game analysis is that Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart was once one of Saban’s assistants. And the latter is 11-0 all time against his former assistants. Can Kirby break the streak?
Let’s find out by covering what each team needs to do to win. But I’m first going to cover the odds from the GTBets sportsbook.
2018 College Football Championship Odds (Jan 8 at 8:10pm ET)
Alabama Georgia Point Spread
Alabama -4 (-110)
Georgia +4 (-110)
Alabama Georgia Moneyline
Alabama -185 (-110)
Georgia +165 (-110)
Over 44.5 (-110)
Under 44.5 (-110)
Key Factors for Georgia (12-1)
Jalen Hurts, a sophomore who took over the starting job last season, has national title experience. However, he’s also thrown fewer passes and for less yardage this season.
Hurts is still a work in progress as a passer. But he makes smart decisions and threw just one interception in 13 games. Hurts also has the ability to pick up large chunks of yardage on the ground.
Calvin Ridley is the top receiver on this team. He’s caught 53 passes for 935 yards and 4 touchdowns, which is very good on a team that prefers to run.
Speaking of which, Alabama will rely on a plethora of running backs to move the ball. Damien Harris lead the team in rushing with 983 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Bo Scarbrough (573 yards, 8 TDs), Najee Harris (306 yards, 3 TDs), and Josh Jacobs (276, TD) will all get carries.
The Tide will lean heavily on their elite defensive unit. They led college football by limiting opponents to 11.1 points per game. They also held opponents to just 3.92 yards per play.
Another promising defensive stat for Alabama is that they only allow 91.8 rushing yards per game. Furthermore, they’ve given up just two rushes of 40 or more yards. That said, Georgia’s talented running backs likely won’t break any huge plays.
All of this is made more impressive when considering that the Tide lost so much talent to the NFL Draft in the spring. They’ve also dealt with multiple injuries to their front seven, including Dylan Moses during bowl practices and Anfernee Jennings hurting his knee in the Sugar Bowl.
Alabama has plenty of other talent across the board. Senior defensive tackle (11.5 TFL) will plug the middle, while nose guard Da’Ron Payne is also a run-stuffer. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is perhaps the best defensive player in the nation. He can both cover elite receivers and provide strong run-stopping support at the line of scrimmage.
The Crimson Tide have several points going in their favor. They just need to put everything together to win Saban’s fifth championship in less than a decade.
Key Factors for Alabama (12-1)
This is a tough national championship game to call, because both Georgia and Alabama have similar styles. They’re teams that like to run the football and play strong defense. On the other hand, neither of these schools are known for throwing long-field bombs all game.
But this is one area where the Bulldogs will try to create some separation. True freshman Jake Fromm has played very well ever since taking over for the injured Jacob Eason. Fromm has thrown for 2,383 yards, 23 touchdowns, and just five interceptions. He’s also completed 63.7 percent of his passes, and got a late TD throw against Oklahoma that sent the game into overtime.
Georgia’s game plan won’t center on Fromm’s throwing abilities. But if he can deliver like he did against Oklahoma, it’ll certainly help the Bulldogs’ chances.
But Georgia will mainly look for their talented tailbacks to take the pressure off the freshmen signal caller. Senior Nick Chubb has had an outstanding season with 1,320 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. Fellow senior Sony Michel has also made important contributions with 1,129 rushing yards and 16 TDs.
As if these two aren’t enough, freshman D’Andre Swift has had a solid campaign with 603 yards and three scores on the ground. If anybody can break through the imposing Alabama front seven, it’s the trio of Chubb, Michel, and Swift.
The Bulldogs also bring a tough defense into this contest. They ranked fifth nationally in points allowed per game at 15.7. They also hold opponents to just 4.65 yards per play. Georgia ranks well in rushing yards allowed too, limiting opponents to 121.9 per game.
This team may not have the recent championship experience that Alabama has. But Georgia is equally deserving of being here. Their strong defense and rushing attack definitely gives them a chance to win this game.
Prediction on Alabama vs Georgia
The 2018 College Football National Championship game is more like an end of the regular season rivalry game than anything. And this is perfectly all right with me, given that these two teams will make for a very competitive contest.
Alabama is a moderate favorite at -4. And this makes sense, given that they hold a slight edge in most statistical categories.
Of course, stats don’t mean everything and Georgia should give them a good run. But I have a difficult time seeing this Crimson Tide squad losing two national championships in a row. Furthermore, they simply have more experience than Georgia at this level.
Final Score Prediction: Alabama 28, Georgia 23
Alabama covers -4 spread