On Monday night, the 2021 college football season will reach its conclusion in Indianapolis. When the dust settles inside Lucas Oil Stadium, either No. 1 Alabama will have won a second consecutive national title or No. 3 Georgia will have claimed its first crown in more than four decades. Either way, an SEC team will be hoisting a the College Football Playoff National Championship trophy with confetti falling all around them for the fifth time in the eight-year history of the event.
And it’s not even the first time Alabama and Georgia have met in the CFP National Championship. In fact, it’s not even the first time they’ve met this season. A little over a month ago, the Crimson Tide beat the Bulldogs 41-24 in the SEC Championship Game.
Still, while this isn’t the first time these two have played for a title, it is the first time we’ve seen a championship game featuring two teams that faced off earlier in the same season. So, will Alabama take down Georgia a second time and pick up its seventh national title under Nick Saban, or will UGA finally break through to win its first crown since 1980?
I don’t know! Nobody does, but that’s not going to stop us from trying to figure it out, is it? So here are my thoughts on what we’re most likely to see on Monday during the CFP National Championship along with plenty of picks from my fellow scribes. Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
National championship: (1) Alabama vs. (3) Georgia
Featured Game | Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Georgia Bulldogs
Spread: The thing about rematches is that it’s incredibly difficult to beat a good team once, and it’s much harder to do it twice. While Alabama knows what it has to do to beat Georgia (because it just did so last month), now the Dawgs know how the Tide plan to attack and can counter or at least work on the problems exposed in the first matchup. If you’re Alabama, you’re not sure what to change because you don’t know what Georgia will do to switch things up. That said, if it were as simple as just betting the opposite of the first game, gambling would be a lot simpler.
Still, it’s important to note that even though Alabama won the first meeting by 17 points, Georgia opened as the favorite in the rematch, and the line hasn’t moved much, if at all. So the question we have to ask ourselves is simple: Are the power ratings way off, or did Alabama play a great game and catch Georgia having a bad day in Atlanta? I lean more toward the latter.
While my confidence level is more of a six on a scale of 10, I’m leaning toward the Bulldogs. I expect Georgia will look for ways to get more pressure on Alabama quarterback Bryce Young — the first meeting was the only time all season the Dawgs defense didn’t record a sack — by mixing up coverages and bringing blitzes. I also think Georgia might show a bit more vanilla zone coverages in hopes of keeping wide receiver Jameson Williams in front of them and limiting big plays. It could look to invite Bama to run more of its RPO stuff and take away the passing option, forcing the defending champions to run the ball right into the strength of the defense.
On the flip side, Alabama’s defense did a tremendous job of confusing Georgia QQ Stetson Bennett in the first game, baiting him into two interceptions. (The Tide should’ve had more picks, honestly.) I expect Georgia to put a little less on Bennett’s plate in this game because while Bennett doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves from fans, he’s still not a guy you want throwing 40 times per game.
If Georgia can take care of the ball and limit Alabama’s big plays, it will win this game. But, again, that’s hard to do because Bama is really good! So as I said, my confidence level here isn’t high, but I believe Georgia covers more often than not. Pick: Georgia -2.5
Total: This pick is somewhat contradictory. The way I see the game playing out, the lower-scoring it is, the better for Georgia. The higher scoring, the better for Bama. So here I am picking Georgia to cover and the over! It’s not that complicated. This total is based on how Georgia’s defense has played all season, and it doesn’t give enough consideration to the offenses Georgia faced as compared to this Alabama offense.
Furthermore, have you seen the history between these two? There have been four meetings between Saban and Smart, and only one of those four featured fewer than 52 points — Alabama’s 26-23 overtime win in the first title game. The three meetings since have featured an average of 64.3 points per game. I don’t think we get that high again — barring another overtime game — but we should get past this number. Pick: Over 52
Which College Football Playoff picks should you make, and will any underdogs will win outright? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread — all from a proven computer model that has returned almost $3,600 in profit over the past five-plus seasons — and find out.