The 2018 College Football Playoff Semifinals ended with the two teams from the SEC, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs, both winning. Georgia’s win was much tougher than Alabama’s. But the Bulldogs got the job done. That sets up an all-Southeastern Conference College Football National Championship Final this Monday on January 8.
Check out my preview of the 2018 College Football National Championship!
2018 College Football National Championship
When: Jan. 8 at 9:00 pm ET
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA
4 Alabama Crimson Tide
The Alabama Crimson Tide have won 16 national football titles. Alabama is the most accomplished college football team in history. The Tide has competed in all four College Football Playoffs. They lost in the CFP Semifinals in 2014. In 2015, the Tide won the National Championship. Last season, they lost in the 2016 College Football National Championship game.
How Did Alabama Get Here?
The Alabama Crimson Tide didn’t even win their conference. The 14 to 26 loss to arch-rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 25 kept Alabama out of the SEC Championship. No problem. Bama’s overall resume impressed the CFP Selection Committee enough to make the Tide the 4th seed in the 2018 College Football Playoff.
In the CFP, Bama rolled over the Clemson Tigers. Clemson, who secured the 1-seed in the playoff after beating the heck out of Miami in the ACC Championship Game, had no answer for Alabama’s healthy defense.The Bama defense held the Tigers to 188 total yards.
Clemson got nothing on the ground. The Tide’s defense gave up 64 rushing yards from 33 carries. That’s a ridiculously low 1.9 yards per carry. Without a strong rushing attack, freshman QB Kelly Bryant could get nothing through the air. Bryant completed 18 of 36 for 124 yards. He threw 2 interceptions.
The Alabama offense wasn’t spectacular against a tough Clemson defense. It was good enough, though. QB Jalen Hurts looked like a different player from the one that led Alabama’s offense in the 2017 College Football National Championship. Hurts completed 16 of 24 for 120 yards. He threw 2 TDs. Most importantly? Jalen didn’t force the ball. No interceptions showed up on his stat sheet.
Hurts also rushed for 40 yards from 11 carries. When it was all said and done, Alabama had beaten the Clemson Tigers 24 to 6 in a controlled, measured, impressively professional win.
The Alabama offense starts with its star QB, Jalen Hurts. Hurts only completed 61.3% of his passes this season. He only threw for 2,125 yards. He only threw 17 TD passes. But, he also only threw a single interception.
Hurts is a controlled dual-threat QB as evidenced by his 808 yards from 148 carries. That’s only 5.5 yards per carry. The thing about Jalen is that his decision-making took a huge leap forward from last season to this season. He’s not as prone to tucking the ball and running with it. Because of that, he’s become almost impossible to defend.
Hurts’ ability to control defenses has allowed Alabama to become a Top 10 rushing team. The Tide averages 255.8 rushing yards per game. Alabama is the best rushing team in the SEC. The Bama offense averages 37.9 points per game.
Alabama’s defense is considered the best in the nation. Towards the end of the regular season, Alabama had lost all of their middle linebackers to injuries. During those times, the Tide’s D had trouble keeping teams from the end zone. The D gave up 24 points to Mississippi State in a late season game. Auburn scored 26 versus the Crimson Tide defense.
Not having to play in the SEC Championship, helped the Tide recover on defense. The best unit in college football was back. Alabama dominated Clemson’s offense. Overall, the Tide ranks first in total yards allowed, rushing yards allowed, and points allowed.
Opponents average 253.5 total yards per game versus the Crimson Tide. Opponents only rush for 92.8 total yards versus the Tide. The Tide’s D gives up an average of 11.1 points per game.
3 Georgia Bulldogs
The Georgia Bulldogs have won 2 national titles. The first was in 1942. The second was in 1980. The Bulldogs have consistently been one of the better teams in the SEC East Division where South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri, Florida, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee all play. Georgia’s only loss this season was 17 to 40 to Auburn on Nov. 11.
The Bulldogs managed to exact revenge over the Auburn Tigers in the SEC Championship. In that game, Georgia’s well-regarded defense held Auburn to 7 points and 259 total yards. Georgia’s offense amassed 421 total yards versus a talented Auburn defense.
By virtue of winning the SEC Championship, the Georgia Bulldogs stamped their ticket to the College Football Playoff.
How Did Georgia Get Here?
The Bulldogs entered their CFP Semifinal battle with the Oklahoma Sooners a -2.5 favorite. At first, it didn’t appear as if Georgia was going to come close to battling Alabama in the National Championship on Jan. 8. Behind the arm of Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Baker Mayfield, the Oklahoma Sooners rushed out to a 31 to 17 halftime lead.
Somehow, someway, the Bulldogs rallied in the second half to force overtime. Georgia ended up beating Oklahoma 54 to 48 in overtime. The Bulldogs’ offense carried the team in this game. QB Jake Fromm threw for 210 yards and 2 TDs. Georgia rushed for 317 yards from 34 carries. The Bulldogs averaged 9.3 yards per rush versus the Sooners’ defense.
QB Jake Fromm is a freshman. Fromm leads an offense that, like Alabama, is run-oriented. He only averages 172.9 passing yards per game. The entire Georgia offense rushes for a fantastic 267.4 yards per game. Georgia has 2 fantastic rushers.
Nick Chubb has rushed for 1,320 yards. Chubb averages 6.4 yards per carry. He’s rushed for 15 TDs this season. Sony Michel averages 8 yards per carry. Michel has rushed for 1,129 yards this season. He’s scored 16 rushing TDs. He’s caught a TD pass.
Georgia averages 36.3 points per game. The Dawgs average over 440 yards per.
Based on yards allowed per, Georgia ranks 6th in the SEC. The Bulldogs allow a total of 289.5 total yards per game. They allow an average of 167.6 passing yards per game. That ranks 8th. Opponents rush for 121.9 yards per versus Georgia’s defense. That ranks 20th in college football.
The Dawgs, on average, hold their opponents to 15.7 points per. That ranks 5th in the nation. The key for Georgia’s defense? Linebackers Roquan smith and Lorenzo Carter. When those two are at the top of their games, Georgia’s defense becomes a shut down unit.
4 Alabama Crimson Tide -4.5 vs 3 Georgia Bulldogs +4.5
When: Monday, Jan. 8 at 9:00 pm ET
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA
Analysis: The line opened at Alabama -4.5. Currently, with 5 days to go before the National Championship, the betting line is Alabama -4. At Alabama -4, 50% are with the Dawgs. Another 50% are with the Crimson Tide.
Two seasons ago, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart was Alabama’s defensive coordinator. Smart has turned into one of the better head coaches in college football. He’s already gotten the best out of his players. He’s also an excellent recruiter.
But, the Georgia football program is a season away from being able to beat the Alabama Crimson Tide. The reason I write that is because of two main differences. Georgia played an incredibly easy schedule this season while the Crimson Tide started the season by battling a Top 3 team in the Florida State Seminoles.
The SEC East, where Georgia plays, is known for having terrible teams. This season was no different. Florida, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee, 3 of the 7 teams in the conference, finished below .500. Kentucky and Missouri both finished at 7 and 6. South Carolina finished at 9 and 4.
In the SEC West, where Alabama plays, the competition was much steeper. Mississippi State and LSU both finished 9 and 4. Auburn finished at 10 and 4. Only Arkansas finished below .500 in the division. Strength of schedule isn’t the only reason to like Alabama, though.
Georgia’s defense allowed Oklahoma to rush for 242 yards in their CFP Semifinal win. Alabama’s rushing offense is better than Oklahoma’s. Not only that, but Alabama’s defense is the best in the nation. Georgia QB Jake Fromm is a good quarterback. He’s still a freshman.
I must believe that the Alabama Crimson Tide’s D comes up with some special plays to get into Fromm’s head. Once that happens, the tide will turn in Alabama’s favor. I think Alabama offers excellent value at -4. The Crimson Tide are no worse than a -7.5 favorite over the Georgia Bulldogs in this Monday’s College Football National Championship game.
Pick: Alabama Crimson Tide -4