INDIANAPOLIS – Georgia coach Kirby Smart was asked if he heard or felt the drought at the national championship for the program, which dates back to the 1980 college football season.
Smart added a factual answer to the coaches’ teleconference on Sunday.
“No, I don’t,” Smart said. “What I feel is how we stop Bryce Young and how we control their front and how we guide the ball, how we throw the ball effectively, how we turn third downs and stop them in the red area.”
MORE Nick Saban, Alabama will not play loser card in retaliation with Georgia
Suffice it to say that Smart is locked at No. 1 in Alabama (13-1) ahead of Monday’s College Football Playoff championship at Lucas Oil Stadium. To break the drought in the national championship, No. 3 Georgia (13-1) needs to break a series of seven defeats with Alabama that dates back to 2008.
Smart is also in place. If Georgia wants to win, then attention starts with the Alabama quarterback. Here are three keys to winning Bulldogs:
Young secured the Heisman Trophy by winning 41-24 against Georgia in a SEC championship match on December 4. He hit 26 of 44 passes for 421 yards and three touchdowns, added three passes for 40 yards and another score. Alabama recorded 536 yards of total attack against the unit, which allowed 258.3 yards in its first 12 games.
“We talk about him as Houdini because people may miss him,” Smart said. “He’s getting rid of the ball. People don’t even count how many times this guy avoided the bags and threw the ball with no intention of being caught. But he knows where to throw the ball so he doesn’t take the bag.”
Georgia didn’t have a bag at the first meeting, so the key will be landing under pressure with Nakobe Dean and Devonte Wyatt, who had two rushes at the first meeting. Will Georgia Defense Coordinator Dan Lanning use Dean in a spy role more often? This is another trend that needs to be followed.
Alabama receiver John Metchie III is out with a torn ACL, and now Georgia can focus on stopping Jameson Williams, who had seven catches of 184 yards and two touchdowns in the first encounter.
Dean said the bulldogs were considering all possible options.
“Basically everything,” Dean said. “We look at every little thing from the scheme we use, the scheme they used, to how we can use some of the things we’ve done.”
DECOURCY: Expansion is a must for the College Football Playoff
Keep the games running
This is a common saying for any championship game, but Smart said there was a different level in dealing with Alabama.
“In fact, you can win the skirmish line and you can lose the game because of the explosive games,” Smart said. “You have to be careful about that.”
Georgia reduced Alabama to 115 rushing yards at the first meeting. This needs to be repeated as Crimson Tide runs back to Brian Robinson, who was lost by 204 rushing yards in the Cotton Bowl 27-6 semifinal against Cincinnati. Here’s a look at the rushed totals in the last seven matches:
* CFP Championship Game
** SEC master game
These numbers suggest that Georgia needs to hit the ball 40 times with a trio of Zamir White, James Cook and Kenny McIntosh. This would limit Alabama’s chances on the offensive side.
It would also relieve pressure from Stetson Bennett, who finished 29 of 48 to 340 yards and three touchdowns in the SEC championship game. He also dropped two interceptions. Georgia wants this game to be played over the next 20 years.
MORE: Georgia’s Stetson Bennett takes the chance to play a “hero” in the CFP championship
Big players show up
Georgia’s Brock Bowers – who had 10 catches at 139 yards and a score in the first encounter – is inconsistent with Alabama’s back seven and should see favorable coverage in sets with receiver George Pickens. Bowers has had six touchdowns in the last four Bulldogs games.
Another key is Jordan Davis’ all-American defense intervention. Can it disrupt Crimson Tide’s inland attack? He had four tackles in the first match and must be a factor in early descents. In the end, Georgia must set the tone for that ugly defense, which allowed only 9.6 points per game. Davis said he expects the Bulldogs to adapt against Alabama for the second time.
This is the one that was seen during Michigan’s 34:11 domination in the Orange Bowl semifinals.
“Our defense is what you’ve seen in the last 12 weeks in the baseline,” Davis said. “Alabama, they gave us a little work. They threw a lot of haymaking and we couldn’t react the way we wanted.”
“But it will get better over time,” he said. “You’ll learn more about yourself as a defense. You’ll learn more about Alabama, you’ll come into play this time. So it’s definitely going to be different this time.”