5 things Georgia does better than Alabama
To be the best, you have to beat the best, and Georgia has a chance to do just that in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game on Monday night.
That’s because the Bulldogs will square off against a fellow SEC squad in Alabama. As we all know, coach Nick Saban’s squad has won four national titles in the past 10 years and will be looking for its fifth in Atlanta in a few days.
The Crimson Tide’s run of dominance in the SEC has been impressive, but coach Kirby Smart is building a juggernaut that can rival the Tide over in Athens.
Georgia will be the underdogs Monday, but not by much. That’s a testament to the squad Smart has built, and the Bulldogs will have a few advantages over the Crimson Tide.
Here are just a few things Georgia has done better than Alabama this year:
1. Convert in the red zone
Georgia has the fourth-best red-zone conversion rate in the country, coming up with points on 96.23 percent (51-of-53) of its drives inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
Alabama ranks No. 42, coming away with points on only 87.30 percent (55 of 63) of its red-zone drives.
While the Tide have 10 more red-zone drives than Georgia in one fewer game, both teams figure to have about the same number of deep drives Monday. If that proves to be the case, the advantage goes to the Bulldogs.
2. Protecting the quarterback
Georgia’s true freshman quarterback, Jake Fromm, has been sacked only 16 times this year. That’s been a huge part of the Bulldogs’ success, as young players (and everyone else, for that matter) tend to make more mistakes when they’re rushed.
Surprisingly, even with Alabama QB Jalen Hurts’ rushing ability, he’s been brought down 23 times. Hurts is still growing in the passing game, as is Fromm, but sometimes he holds onto the ball too long, which is something not even the best offensive lines can protect against.
With both teams having outstanding pass rushes, it will be very interesting to see which young quarterback manages to avoid sacks on Monday night.
3. Third-down conversions
Field position and keeping the ball away from the other team will be especially important, and Georgia has the advantage when it comes to moving the chains.
The Bulldogs have converted 81-of-176 third downs this year (46.02 percent), while Alabama’s success rate is slightly lower at 42.07 percent (69-of-164).
Time of possession will be critical Monday, so when each team faces third-down situations, the offensive coordinators will have to dial up their best plays to keep drives alive.
4. Punt/kickoff returns
Mecole Hardman has yet to score on a kickoff or punt return, but he’s had a few big plays in the return game. He flipped the field twice with returns in the Playoff semifinal against Oklahoma.
Meanwhile, Alabama has struggled with consistency in that aspect, with Henry Ruggs III and Trevon Diggs showing flashes of brilliance, but also making a few costly mistakes.
Georgia’s averages of 24.87 yards per kickoff return and 9.58 yards per punt return are both better than Alabama’s averages (22 and 7.97, respectively). In what should be a tight game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, one big special teams play could be the difference. When it comes to that, the Bulldogs are more likely to pull off such a feat.
5. Big running plays
As I noted earlier this week, Georgia has one of the most explosive rushing attacks in the nation. In fact, the Bulldogs lead the country with 46 rushes of 20 yards or more, while Alabama only has 26 such runs.
Of those 46 long runs, 40 have come on Georgia scoring drives (and 17 of those big runs have gone for touchdowns). If the Dawgs can break off a couple of big runs against a tough Alabama defense, they’ll be in a good position to win the game.
Interestingly, Alabama has 112 runs of 10+ yards, compared to Georgia’s 110, but the Bulldogs get more huge plays on the ground, and that will be a huge key to Monday’s game.