It’s an all-SEC showdown on Jan. 10 to decide the 2021-22 college football national champion. Alabama easily defeated Cincinnati 27-6 in the Cotton Bowl, while Georgia dominated Michigan 34-11 in the Orange Bowl to join the Crimson Tide in Indianapolis for the title game.
High-stakes meetings between Alabama and Georgia are nothing new. These two teams met for the national title in the ’17 season, with the Crimson Tide winning in overtime 26-23. Alabama won 35-28 over the Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game a year later, followed by a 41-24 victory in a 2020 regular-season matchup. The Crimson Tide entered the SEC title game for ’21 in desperation mode, needing a win to book a trip to the CFB Playoff. Coach Nick Saban’s team responded by playing arguably their best game of the year, defeating the Bulldogs 41-24.
With the showdown in Indianapolis taking place on Jan. 10, there’s plenty of time to dissect the matchup in the coming days. However, it’s never too early to think about what’s ahead when these two teams face off again. Here’s a quick look at five things to watch.
CFB National Championship: 5 Storylines to Watch for Georgia vs. Alabama
1. Can Georgia slow down Bryce Young? In the first meeting, the Alabama quarterback threw for 421 yards and three touchdowns to lead his team to a 41-24 victory. Young’s 421 yards were only the second time Georgia has allowed more than 400 to a player since Kirby Smart took over in 2016. The Bulldogs have the best defensive front in college football, but the secondary was exposed by Young in the last meeting. Can Smart and coordinator Dan Lanning find a few answers this time around?
2. How does the absence of receiver John Metchie III impact the Alabama offense this time around? Metchie III suffered a torn ACL in the second quarter of the SEC Championship Game and will miss the national title game. The Crimson Tide still have Jameson Williams, and Ja’Corey Brooks and Slade Bolden combined for seven catches against Cincinnati. It’s unlikely Alabama can run the ball as well as it did against Cincinnati (301 total rushing yards, 204 by Brian Robinson Jr.) against Georgia. The Crimson Tide will need even more out of their other receivers to replace Metchie and beat the Bulldogs on Jan. 10.
3. Can Stetson Bennett continue where he left off in the Orange Bowl? After throwing two interceptions and playing an overall uneven game in the SEC title game, Bennett was on fire against Michigan. The senior completed 21 of 31 throws for 310 yards and three touchdowns and added 32 rushing yards in the Orange Bowl to lift the Bulldogs to a 34-11 victory. Bennett didn’t play particularly well against the Crimson Tide in December, but the senior has been solid outside of that game. Is the Orange Bowl a sign of things to come? Or will Alabama’s defense turn out to be too much again for Bennett?
4. The line of scrimmage. Which team wins more battles up front? In the first meeting, these two teams combined for 224 rushing yards on 56 attempts. Also, no rush went for more than 15 yards, and the two defenses combined for 10 tackles for a loss. Both Alabama and Georgia dominated at the point of attack in the semifinals, and the line of scrimmage is going to be a huge area of focus once again. Neither team needs to pile up 300 rushing yards to win, but both offenses would like to churn out some yards to keep the defense off balance and win in pass protection. Also, which defense can generate enough negative plays? Whichever team can keep defenders away from their quarterback and allow the passing game to click downfield is probably going to come out on top.
5. Does the rematch favor Georgia? Or does Alabama simply have an edge over the Bulldogs? Nick Saban (the teacher) is 4-0 over Kirby Smart (the pupil). Georgia won't lack for motivation after the loss to the Crimson Tide in Atlanta. However, in order to win the national title, Smart's program will have to go through its biggest rival on the biggest stage.