The arrival of 2018 marks the beginning of a new year, but also the end of another great season of college football. Monday’s National Championship Game will decide who wins the FBS title; two SEC teams will collide when the No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1 SU, 6-7 ATS) meet the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs (13-1 SU, 10-4 ATS) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. ESPN has the coverage starting at 8 PM ET. It’s basically a home game for the Bulldogs, but at press time, they’re 5-point underdogs on the National Championship odds board.

Choosing a winner won’t be easy. Both Alabama and Georgia were considered sharp picks for their CFP semifinal games, and they came through in spades, with the Tide (–3) getting their revenge on the Clemson Tigers at the Sugar Bowl, and the ‘Dawgs (+2) rallying to beat the Oklahoma Sooners in overtime. However, Alabama didn’t escape Clemson without taking some damage. Linebacker Anfernee Jennings hurt his knee during the victory and is out Monday after undergoing surgery.


Chubb-Michel Express Carrying Georgia

This could be the opening Georgia fans were looking for. The Crimson Tide are already missing two linebackers: Shaun Dion Hamilton (fractured kneecap) and Dylan Moses (broken foot). This is still one of the best defenses in the nation, but with all these injuries, Alabama will have a harder time containing Georgia’s running game and beating the College Football Playoff odds.

And what a running game the Bulldogs have. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel have absolutely lit it up this year, each rushing for over 1,000 yards and combining for 31 touchdowns on the ground. Georgia has also enjoyed solid results from freshman quarterback Jake Fromm, who has performed at a somewhat higher level than his Tide counterpart, sophomore Jalen Hurts – at least through the air. Hurts makes up for it with his scrambling ability; he’s Alabama’s second-leading rusher behind Damien Harris.


Special Teams Edge for Bulldogs

If Fromm and the Bulldogs’ offense can gain some ground against Alabama’s wounded defense, they should be able to take care of business at the other end of the field and win the championship. Hurts is a better quarterback than he was last year, but he doesn’t have as many quality targets to throw at, with ArDarius Stewart and OJ Howard having moved on to the NFL. Georgia’s defense, on the other hand, is every bit as good as their offense. Monday’s National Championship game total of 45 points shows how difficult it’ll be to score against either of these teams, even if they’re playing under the dome in Atlanta.

Which is where Georgia’s special teams come in. Place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship doesn’t miss very often, nailing 17 of his 20 field-goal attempts (including all 13 from inside 40 yards) and all 61 of his PATs. That’s a step ahead of Alabama’s Andy Pappanastos at 16-for-21 on field goals and 54-for-54 on extra points. Will it be enough for the Bulldogs to pull off the upset? We’ll find out on Monday.


*Odds as of January 4, 2018