With the two semifinal games on New Year's Eve being complete duds, will a Georgia-Alabama rematch live you to the hype? Can Kirby Smart finally get the best of his mentor Nick Saban when it matters most? Jasper Jones of Audacy Sports previews the College Football Playoff National Championship game, providing standout players to look out for and keys to victory for each team.
Georgia vs. Alabama (+3.5) Mon Jan 10, 8 p.m. EST ESPN
Listen Here: 92.9 The Game (ATL)
Key players for Alabama: Bryce Young, Will Anderson Jr. and Brian Robinson Jr.
Key Players for Georgia: Stetson Bennett, Nakobe Dean, Brock Bowers, Jordan Davis
How both teams fared this season against the spread:
The Bulldogs are 7-1 against the spread in their last eight games away from home.
The Crimson Tide are 5-1 ATS in their last six contests as underdogs.
The biggest storyline of this all-SEC championship rematch is the disparity between Georgia's QB Stetson Bennett and Alabama's quarterback, Heisman Trophy Winner Bryce Young. Unlike Young who's been a heralded quarterback since high school, Bennett was originally a walk-on at Georgia before leaving the program taking the JUCO route. After a standout year, Kirby Smart offered Bennett another shot in Athens, this time as a scholarship player. On paper, the matchup looks like Aaron Rodgers playing against a guy who was a star for his fraternities' recreational flag football team in college. Despite that, Bennett has gotten the job done and exceeded expectations. Against Michigan, Bennett had a marvelous game throwing for over 300 yards and 3 TD's. In fact, Bennett has thrown a total of 10 TDs in his last three outings after recording only 12 over his previous nine games. The Bulldogs are averaging 39 points which ranks ninth in the country. The Dawgs haven't been held under 24 points since their season-opening 10-3 victory over Clemson. The biggest key to victory for Georgia will be if they can stop Alabama's offense. In the SEC Championship game, Georgia gave up a whopping 41 points in a loss to Bama after allowing only 6.9 ppg on defense. If Kirby Smart and staff can somehow address this, they have a serious shot at knocking down the goliath that is Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. One question most should consider is if things get out of hand for Georgia, will we see an appearance from former five-star and USC transfer JT Daniels?
As for Alabama, like expected, they were able to take care of business in Dallas, rolling through a Cincinnati team who was just overwhelmed by the moment and the talent the Tide possesses across the board. Bryce Young has lived up to all of the hype he's had since stepping foot in Tuscaloosa. He was one of the best QBs in the country this season, leading the nation's fifth-ranked offense with an average of 494.6 yards per game. The Tide also rank fourth in scoring at 41.1 points per game. Alabama was extremely successful running the ball against the Bearcats behind the back of Brian Robinson Jr who ran for a career-high 204 yards, setting the school record for a bowl game. However, in Alabama's last game against Georgia, Robinson only rushed for 55 yards on 16 carries, so this leads me to believe that he won't have the same impact he did against Cincinnati.
The spread, per FanDuel Sportsbook is -3, with Alabama being an underdog for only the second time this season. The rematch between these two historic programs will no question be a lot more competitive, unlike the one we saw back in December. As much as I want Georgia fans to get some revenge from the heartbreak they suffered at the hands of Tua Tagovalioa and the famous last-minute catch made by DeVonta Smith on the last play of the 2018 championship game, I ultimately think Nick Saban will yet again get the best of his former assistant Kirby Smart. I got the Tide rolling to yet another national title, 28-24, making it his seventh during his tenure at the school. His eight ring overall.
Follow Jasper Jones on Twitter: @jonesj2342