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The Stats and Matchups that Will Define the College Football Championship

The Stats and Matchups that Will Define the College Football Championship

After two semifinals that weren’t exactly close, we have a rematch of the SEC Championship Game in a matchup that most would agree is between the best two teams this season: Georgia and Alabama.

In the aforementioned SEC Championship Game, Alabama won 41-24 behind 461 total yards and 4 total TDs from Bryce Young and two takeaways by their defense. Now, Georgia gets a chance for revenge, a proposition which historically hasn’t meant much in terms of predicting a winner. A study by the Oklahoman in 2019 found that just over 51% of in-season CFB rematches are won by the same team that won the first game. Below, we break down of some key stats to note for both teams and from their previous meeting as well as matchups to look out for.

Key Stats:

Alabama is the only team to score more than 17 points against Georgia this season (They scored 41)

Alabama will likely score above 17 points again, as they haven’t been held below 20 points yet this season. But they may struggle to reach 41 again. If Georgia can hold them to a point total in the low twenties, they’ll give themselves a solid chance of winning this game, so that has to be the goal.

Georgia ranks 9th with 39.0 PPG and 1st with 9.5 PPG allowed, the fewest by any team since 2011 Alabama while Alabama ranks 4th with 41.1 PPG and 20th with 20.2 PPG allowed

Both these teams are exceptional on both sides of the ball, which is not surprising for two teams that are in the Championship game. The most notable part of this is Georgia’s offense, which received very little attention for much of the season because of their historic defense, but has been among the very best in the FBS at putting up points. Alabama’s defense hasn’t been at a lock down level, so Georgia can feel reasonably confident about their chances to win if, as mentioned above, they are able to hold Alabama to fewer than 25 points.

Alabama ranks No. 1 in the FBS in 3rd down conversion rate at 55% (they converted 7/14 in the SEC Championship) with Georgia coming in at 29th in 3rd down conversion rate against at 34.7%

Third down conversions are enormous in deciding games, as getting off the field is key for defenses and sustaining drives can lead to major success for offenses. In their last matchup, Alabama converted 7 of 14 with Georgia converting just 3 of 12. If Georgia can close the gap or reverse it, they will put themselves in great position to do the same to the score differential. That will not just come down to 3rd down execution though, as performance on early downs will be key for them. Setting themselves up with 3rd and short rather than 3rd and long is key to make sure they don’t put Stetson Bennett in difficult situations 

Georgia and Alabama rank 3rd (81.9) and 4th (82.1) respectively in rush yards allowed per game

Basically, don’t expect much rushing success in this game. Cincinnati struggled to stop Brian Robinson and Alabama’s rushing attack, but Georgia’s front seven is at an entirely different level, so it’s tough to expect similar success for Alabama. On the other side, Georgia has a solid rushing attack of their own, but they too had minimal success running the ball last time they faced off, so there isn’t much reason for optimism there.

Alabama is 3rd in sacks (52) and Georgia is 2nd in sacks allowed (11)

Something will have to give here, and in the first matchup between these two teams, Alabama registered three of the 11 sacks Georgia has allowed. Georgia’s OL will need an improved performance, especially against Will Anderson, and Bennett will need to be better getting the ball out quickly. Even beyond the sack numbers, Alabama’s constant and relentless pressure definitely seemed to affect Stetson last time, and a repeat of that would be disastrous for Georgia.

Notable Matchups:

Jameson Williams vs Derion Kendrick

Williams had 7 receptions for 184 yards and 2 TDs in their last matchup, so containing him will be a key focus for Georgia. John Metchie will miss this game due to the ACL injury he sustained in the first half of their prior matchup, and he already had 6 catches for 97 yards and 1 TD at that point, so Georgia’s secondary will feel less threatened in his absence. 

If Kendrick and Georgia’s secondary have an improved performance against Williams (the 7 receptions for 62 yards and 0 TDs that Cincinnati allowed to him would be a solid effort), Georgia should be in good position to win by forcing Alabama to win with their 3rd or 4th options. Contrary to Cincinnati, Georgia’s run defense should prove up to the task of stopping Brian Robinson, which they did the first time holding him to 55 yards on 16 carries.

Stetson Bennett vs Will Anderson

Will Anderson has been arguably the most disruptive defensive player in CFB this season, with 97 total tackles, 34.5 TFL, and 17.5 sacks, the last two leading the FBS. In their last matchup, he had 6 tackles, 2 TFL, and 1 sack, but his impact goes beyond just those stats, as he had a pressure that directly led to Stetson Bennett’s first interception. In addition, he constantly demands the attention of multiple blockers and the QB because of how destructive he can be.

As for Bennett, his performance against Alabama wasn’t terrible, but also wasn’t great, with his two interceptions hurting Georgia’s chances and his third down struggles being clear for everyone to see. At the time, his season high for pass attempts was 29, but he blew past that with 48 attempts. A repeat of that wouldn’t bode well for Georgia, as their game is predicated around not typically needing to throw the ball frequently. A game plan similar to the one they used early and often against Michigan may be recycled for this one, with short passes and screens being used to make life easier for Bennett and nullify the elite pass rushers of the opposition, namely Anderson in this case. 

Brock Bowers vs Alabama Secondary

Despite Georgia’s overall struggles in their last matchup, Brock Bowers was incredibly productive, something Alabama will be hoping to prevent this time around. Bowers had 10 catches for 139 yards and 1 TD, with 9 catches for 121 yards and the TD all coming in the second half. As Georgia was trailing and Bennett needed to throw often, he zoned in on Bowers to great success. Despite being a true freshman, Bowers has been one of the best tight ends in all of CFB this season, and Alabama will struggle to contain him, but must do their best. George Pickens and James Cook are two other options that Bennett does like to throw to, but limiting Bowers would be huge for Alabama’s defense and put them in prime position to win the game.

Overall, this is the two best teams in all of CFB going head-to-head for a second time and fans should be happy about that. Expect a closer game, as Georgia’s defense should be in for an improved performance over their last meeting. On paper, this game has the makings of a potential classic, and hopefully it lives up to that billing.