The College Football Playoff National Championship is just about here with No. 1 Alabama meeting No. 3 Georgia at Lucas Oil Stadium in Monday night in Indianapolis. This national title showdown is a rematch of their SEC Championship Game meeting on Dec. 4, a game the Crimson Tide, who are looking for their second straight national title and seventh under coach Nick Saban, won 41-24.
The Tide earned their spot in Monday's national title game thanks to a 27-6 victory over No. 4 Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl semifinal that saw running back Brian Robinson Jr. rush for a career-high 204 yards. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, dominated No. 2 Michigan 34-11 in the Orange Bowl semifinal. Starting quarterback Stetson Bennett threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns in the win and provided much-needed balance to an offense that is predicated on establishing the run.
What should you expect in Indianapolis on Monday night? Let's break down the game and make picks straight up and against the spread.
CBS Sports will be with you Monday night with live coverage of Alabama vs. Georgia for the national championship. Follow along for score updates, analysis and highlights from the CFP National Championship.
Alabama vs. Georgia: Need to know
What went wrong?: The first game between these two teams -- a 41-24 win for the Tide in Atlanta -- saw the Bulldogs defense collapse for the first time all season. Considered for much of the season to be an all-time great unit, it failed to get Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young on the ground once in the loss.
"Ultimately we want to create pressure," said Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning. "We want to be able to get after Bryce. As far as how to do it, I don't want to give away our secrets yet, but wait until the game to figure that out. We want to generate pressure. And certainly there's a lot of different ways you can do that. And he's really good at avoiding the rush. And they did unique things to protect him. We have to attack it a little bit differently, but how we do that, there's a lot of different ways we can do it."
The strategy is simple: bring more than four. The Bulldogs didn't bring five or six players much in the SEC title game, most likely because they had been so successful bringing four for much of the season. And it's not like Alabama's offensive line was playing well leading into that game. Expect linebackers Nolan Smith, Nakobe Dean and Quay Walker to be big pieces of the puzzle this time around.
Robinson's breakout game: The top running back on Alabama's depth chart was the focal point of the Tide offense against the Bearcats, which allowed Saban's crew to control the tempo of the Cotton Bowl from the outset. While Robinson has had a great season, it was the first time that Alabama truly attempted to establish the run against a good opponent from the moment toe met leather.
There's no doubt that the passing game is the backbone of the Alabama offense. However, wide receiver John Metchie III's absence will likely be felt much more in this game than it was against the Bearcats. Expect Alabama to use Robinson a little bit earlier in the game to open up those passing lanes for WR Jameson Williams and the rest of the Crimson Tide passing attack.
The Boogeyman: Georgia coach Kirby Smart wants no part of the storyline that he becomes a deer in headlights when he squares off against Saban, his former boss, in big games. This might come as breaking news, but it's really hard to beat the greatest coach of all time who, not coincidentally, routinely hauls in the top recruiting class in the nation.
"I don't know exactly what that is, so it's hard for me to answer that question, other than they've also been a problem and a thorn for any team they've played besides ours," Smart said this week. "We have that in common with a lot of teams. They've played they have a really good football team, really good coach, really good program. It starts with really good football players. And they've done a good job recruiting those. And I think when you look at the skill set of some of the guys they've had come through there, and I know myself, just looking at the last two or three times we've played them, I think somebody said either six or seven first-round wideouts have all played."
How to watch Alabama vs. Georgia live
Alabama vs. Georgia prediction, picks
Barrett Sallee: The best lessons in life come from failures, and Smart's defense failed miserably against Alabama last month. That won't happen again. Georgia knows now that it has to bring pressure in a variety of ways, so expect that pressure to come from multiple players both up the middle and off the edge so Young can't get loose outside the pocket. That will keep the game in Bennett's wheelhouse and allow offensive coordinator Todd Monken to use all of his weapons in a variety of ways. Pick: Georgia -2.5 | Georgia 28, Alabama 20
Tom Fornelli: It's incredibly difficult to beat a good team once, and it's much harder to do it twice. 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. I expect Georgia will look for ways to get more pressure on Young by mixing up coverages and bringing blitzes. I also think Georgia might show a bit more vanilla zone coverages in hopes of keeping Williams in front of them, limiting big plays. It could 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 QB Stetson Bennett in the first game, baiting him into two interceptions. I expect Georgia to put a little less on Bennett's plate in this game. If Georgia can take care of the ball and limit Alabama's big plays, it will win. Pick: Georgia -2.5 | Georgia 28, Alabama 24
Dennis Dodd: The Dawgs defense can't be as bad as it was in the SEC title game. Smart will finally break through against the master. Remember this name Jack Podlesny. He'll kick a game-winning field goal late. Then get ready to release the hounds as Georgia wins its first national championship in 41 years. Still, it'll be inside the number. Pick: Alabama +2.5 | Georgia 27, Alabama 25
Chip Patterson: Alabama's advantage against Georgia in this rematch evolves from one of the same it had in the SEC Championship Game -- not just at quarterback or head coach, but in the experience that this 2021 Crimson Tide team has had during the year. While Georgia steamrolled through its competition only lightly-tested, Alabama had to win in different ways all throughout the back half of the season. The Crimson Tide have won low-scoring grinders and high-scoring shootouts. They've needed a 97-yard game-tying touchdown drive just to keep their title hopes alive. There are very few game scripts where Alabama will find itself in new territory, and that confidence in being able to overcome any in-game setback is a mental edge that powers my pick. Pick: Alabama +2.5 | Alabama 28, Georgia 27
David Cobb: Alabama's back was against the wall when these teams met on Dec. 4 in the SEC Championship Game, and it showed. The Crimson Tide turned in a second quarter for the ages and raced to a 41-24 victory that de-legitimized Georgia's accomplishments during a dominant regular season. The nature of that loss -- with the Crimson Tide dissecting UGA's celebrated defense -- will motivate the Bulldogs, who will use what they learned to play much better defensively in the rematch. This time, it's Georgia playing with a chip on its shoulder, and that will show as the Bulldogs finally breakthrough for the program's first national championship in over four decades. Pick: Georgia -2.5 | Georgia 38, Alabama 20
Shehan Jeyarajah: Alabama was the first team that was truly able to challenge Georgia downfield, and the results speak for themselves. While Metchie is out, Brooks proved he can be a game-breaking deep threat in the win over Cincinnati. While Georgia will make changes and have a strong game plan heading into the Dawgs' biggest game in decades, I'm not betting against Saban in an adjustment contest. Pick: Alabama +2.5 | Alabama 31, Georgia 17
Jerry Palm: Alabama and Saban know how to do two things well: win championships and beat Georgia. The Tide are looking for a seventh straight win over the Dawgs. Georgia got torched in the teams' first meeting in the SEC title game, but look for both teams to make adjustments for the rematch. I trust Saban to make the better ones. Pick: Alabama +2.5 | Alabama 31-21
Adam Silverstein: It's not often you'll get Saban and Alabama as an underdog, and while I will wait to try and get a full field goal prior to kickoff, the Tide are the right side. Georgia opened some eyes by throttling Michigan in the semifinal, while Alabama picked up as ho-hum a 21-point win as I can remember over Cincinnati. Anderson and Dean are a wash at linebacker. Georgia is stronger up front, but we've already seen it struggle to get after and contain Young. Bama has the edge overall at the offensive skill positions, and we've seen more than once how defenses can wear down with playmakers taking over late. The Dawgs will have every chance to compete and potentially win this game, but my slim edge goes to the Tide. Pick: Alabama +2.5 | Alabama 31, Georgia 27
Jack Crosby: I have learned far too often to rarely bet against Saban and the Tide, no matter what the numbers from Las Vegas may suggest. Georgia was impressive in its Orange Bowl semifinal win over Michigan, but I still can't shake the fact that it was mere weeks ago we witnessed that Alabama knows how to tame the Bulldogs when it matters the most. I expect a very competitive game, but I also see the Alabama offensive line stepping up again, allowing Young to get his work done and lead the Tide to their second consecutive national title in Indianapolis. Pick: Alabama +2.5 | Alabama 31, Georgia 21
Ben Kercheval: To be clear ... if Georgia finally captures that elusive national championship for the first time in four decades, you will not find me surprised in the least given how impressive it's looked all year save for that one blip in Atlanta. But I've also seen what the Tide look like when they're operating at 100% power. I've seen Young make plays that aren't there. If all other things are equal -- and they generally are between these two titans -- give me the better quarterback and the coach who's done it a time or two (or seven). Pick: Alabama +2.5 | Alabama 33, Georgia 28
More expert picks and predictions to come!
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