Keys for Alabama to Cover vs. Georgia in the College Football Playoff National Championship

Dec 31, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9)
Dec 31, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

We have arrived at the College Football Playoff National Championship Game!

Familiar foes face off when No. 1 Alabama faces off against No. 2 Georgia, a rematch of the SEC Championship game and a battle of the two best teams in the country for the entire season.

The Crimson Tide are the higher ranked team but the Bulldogs are favored by 3 points at WynnBET Sportsbook with a total of 52.

Alabama won the SEC Championship as 6.5-point underdogs in a must-win scenario, but they still face an uphill battle against Georgia's stiff defense.

How can Nick Saban's team win their fourth CFP National Championship? Let's break down several key factors that will decide this game for the Tide.

Aerial Assault

I'm going to dive into the Alabama passing game below, but a key reason why the team did so well against Georgia's vaunted D was because they attacked the Bulldogs perceived weakness, the secondary (which is still amazing).

Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young passed 44 times in the SEC title game while bell cow running Brian Robinson had 16 carries for a meager 55 yards, just 3.4 yards per carry.

While many who watched the CFP Semifinal will recognize that Robinson gashed the Bearcats for over 200 yards, that was by design. The Tide had such an advantage in the trenches against an undersized Bearcats front seven that Young didn't have to do much and the team could get by without revealing much of their wrinkles heading into the Natty.

However, this game is going to focus on Young's ability to get downfield against Georgia. The Bulldogs cleared up a lot of mistakes against Michigan, but that team doesn't hold a candle to the Alabama passing game.

The Bulldogs know what's coming now against the Tide considering Alabama had more pressure on them to win in the SEC Championship. The Georgia defense looked sharper against Michigan in the secondary, making more adjustments in-game. Let's see how they prepare the second time around against a team you know is going to pass.

Replacing Metchie

In the second quarter of the SEC Championship, Young's safety valve John Metchie suffered a torn ACL. In less than a half of that game he had six catches for 97 yards and a touchdown.

Alabama has another star in Jameson Williams who is surely going to garner a majority of the attention from the Georgia secondary, so how does the Tide counter?

Ja'Corey Brooks was a major factor in the game script for the Tide in the Semifinal, caching four passes for 66 yards and a touchdown. A freshman, this could be a launching pad for the next great Crimson Tide receiver.

It's worth noting that prior to the Michigan victory, Georgia's secondary has been vulnerable to deep passes. The team was 41st in explosive pass defense prior to the Semifinals and the Tide has burners in Williams and Brooks to open up the field. Look for the offense to try and stretch the field while trying to hit a few deep shots, but most importantly open up space for their athletic tight ends to operate.

I believe that the key will be for offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien will be best suited utilizing his tight end group often. Neither Jahleel Billingsley or Cameron Latu have been a major factor in the Tide's past two games, but I believe on standard downs, against a tough Georgia front, Young is going to need to get the ball out quickly and those two are going to need to be involved underneath often.

It wouldn't surprise me, given the emergence of Williams, that the team focuses on getting the ball to Billingsley and Latu, who have been quiet for much of the year. This could be the wrinkle Alabama uses come Monday.

Pass Rush is Key, but Shut Down the Run First

Stetson Bennett struggled in the SEC Championship, throwing two interceptions and plenty of more turnover worthy passes.

This is not the typical lock down Alabama defense, but they do have arguably the best player on the field in Will Anderson at linebacker. While Anderson will factor in heavily when Bennett drops back to pass, the team must put them in passing situations first.

I'll speak on Georgia's offense in their preview, but the reason why the Crimson Tide did so well against Bennett is that they stopped the UGA ground game.

The Bulldogs are run first team, but were limited to just 3.6 yards per carry in the SEC title game and didn't have a run over 12 yards.

A big factor will be defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis who had 12 tackles for loss this season. The team must win at the line of scrimmage and avoid giving the Bulldogs second or third and shorts. The Alabama secondary is the weak spot of the defense, and you don't want to let the Bulldogs open up the playbook with short down and distance.

Can Tide Follow Up SEC Championship Performance

While the SEC Championship was an impressive result and a thorough thrashing by the Crimson Tide, it's tough to beat the same team twice.

As Stuckey from the Action Network noted this week, teams that lost the first game are 15-7 in the second meeting in bowls, winning the last nine times.

Alabama had a lot more to lose in that game with their potential CFP bid on the line while Georgia was locked into the top four. We saw an aggressive game script from Saban's team and the Bulldogs could have been saving a few play calls for the game as well as potentially not taking the game as seriously with the stakes lower than their opponent.

It's tough to beat the same team twice in a year so this final blurb will be to not just base your bet on the first meeting between the two as the stakes are much different come Monday night.

It's also worth noting that sportsbooks responded swiftly to Georgia's 34-11 win over Michigan, moving them to -3 from a lookahead number of -1 in between the games. The Bulldogs looked the part as National Champions in Miami on New Year's Eve.

While the Tide has edges in the explosive passing game and the best coach of this generation who has owned Georgia in recent years, this is going to be a war.