Two programs whose semifinal matchups replicated more of a mid-season blowout than a playoff game, Alabama and Georgia are primed to face off for a national title—it has set up the way the CFP was intended. And while the process has been criticized due to its lack of nail-biting affairs—the average victor in a semifinal has enjoyed a 21-point gap versus their opponent when the clock hits zero—this year’s version of the CFP National Championship has all the fixings to be one of the most intriguing showdowns in the seven-year history of the postseason tournament. Let me take you back to Dec. 4. A Moment that was looked upon as Georgia’s chance to take down Goliath in Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide, the Bulldogs quickly saw its fortunes spoiled as Alabama ran roughshod around Georgia’s historic defense. A 41-24 blowout in the SEC title game ushered expectations back down to Earth for Kirby Smart’s unit, and once again solidified Saban’s group as the team to beat come the turn of the New Year. This brings us to today, and to next week's encore. For Georgia, a lot has changed since Bryce Young torched their secondary for 421 yards and three scores. It welcomed skepticism about the Bulldogs’ overall ability to compete for a ring when things are all set and done. The calm, smooth waters they sailed throughout their campaign were met with squalls and uncertainty… just what they needed to further fuel their fire. In what was a dominant performance against the Big Ten champion Michigan Wolverines, Georgia was different on Friday evening. They had extra juice, an extra chip on their shoulder, and a desire to run through the face of Jim Harbaugh’s group with just one team in mind throughout the course of their 23-point victory. However, as their game plan evolved to prepare for the elite ground attack of the Wolverines, it will once again have to attempt to prepare for Young, and in a drastically different way than before if they look to remain in the ballgame against the Tide. It starts up front by getting after Young, similar to how the Cincinnati Bearcats approached the second half against Alabama after deploying a head-scratching three-man front and heavy Cover 1 concepts for most of the first two stanzas. With Devonte Wyatt, Jordan Davis, Travon Walker, etc—the names go on and on—Georgia should be able to push the pocket and make things uncomfortable early and often for the Heisman-Trophy-winning gunslinger. That was the game plan a month ago as well, but schematically, Georgia has to diversify their alignment both pre and post-snap to keep the Crimson Tide’s front five with their head on a swivel and unsure of which bodies are. That doesn’t mean you constantly have to find yourself plus-one in the box at all times to account for the run game or threat of Young off-schedule, but dialing up some exotic looks and allowing your athletes within the front seven to slide, stunt, and track down the football with the elite athletic ability they have could reward Georgia with a turnover or two. For Alabama and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and for their high-octane offense, they’ve begun to fire on all cylinders following a massive 198-yard performance on the ground from Brian Robinson Jr. For Young, it’ll be about weathering the storm that will be a fired-up Bulldogs defense and getting on the board early. While the key to exiting the game as national champs will rely on his ability to deliver the football accurately and on time to the Tide’s arsenal of perimeter talent, it’s a constant he’s been able to provide all year long. A quarterback with a calming confidence to his game where nothing seems to faze the redshirt sophomore, it’s almost a matter of circumstance and not an "if" his season finale could result in another gaudy stat line. A rematch of SEC powerhouse programs, it’s hard not to assume Alabama will, once again, be Alabama once the clock begins to wind down on Jan. 10. And while a persistent hunger and the role of playing underdog could assist Georgia, at the end of the day, the cream always rises to the top.
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