ATLANTA—My heart says, “Pick Georgia. It’s been a long time for them. It would be nice to see a new face up there—and they have a team fully capable of winning.’’
My head says, “Pick against Nick Saban and Alabama? As that other great coach from West Virginia, Lou Holtz, used to say: You’ve gotta be kidding.’’
1) TOO MANY DISTRACTIONS FOR GEORGIA
The emotions of the huge second-half rally and overtime win vs. Oklahoma shouldn’t matter. The long flight home from Pasadena shouldn’t matter. The excitement of playing a virtual home game in Atlanta shouldn’t matter. The chance to give Georgia its first national championhip in a long time while playing in its first national championship game in a long time shouldn’t matter. But add them all up and. . . they matter.
There will be plenty of Alabama fans in the Mercedes-Benz Dome, too. And for Bama, this is a business trip, not a crusade.
2) THE JANUARY BAMA IS BETTER THAN THE NOVEMBER BAMA
Remember the Alabama that got clobbered by Auburn? That needed to rally to get past Mississippi State? That didn’t dazzle against LSU? That had its only dominant win in November against Mercer?
Remember that Alabama? The one that left the door open for Ohio State to sneak into the playoff? That’s just a memory now. The Crimson Tide showed in their 24-6 steamroll of Clemson that they have fixed whatever was missing.
3) TAKE THE SOPHOMORE PHENOM AT QB OVER THE FRESHMAN PHENOM AT QB
Jake Fromm “State Farm’’ is as good as freshman quarterbacks come. He’s going to be an exceptional quarterback, if he isn’t already. But Alabama’s Jalen Hurts, who lost a heart-breaker to Clemson in last year’s championship game, has been there, done that. And his running ability leaves him less prone to interceptions, which Fromm will need to avoid against an Alabama defense that’s going to do a lot of things designed to confuse a freshman QB.
4) THE TIDE WILL REIN IN THE RUN
Georgia has an excellent running tandem in Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. Alabama will have an excellent run defense that won’t allow them to do what they did against Oklahoma, when Michel had 181 yards and three touchdowns, and Chubb had 145 yards and two TDs. That’s not happening this time.
5) PICK THE TEACHER OVER THE STUDENT
All credit to Kirby Smart for the impressive start he is off to in his first two years at Georgia. When the day inevitably comes that Nick Saban puts down his straw hat and coaching whistle, Smart may be The Next Great Guy. For now, though, stick with the guy who taught him how to be The Next Great Guy.
Alabama 30, Georgia 27
Yeah, it should be a lower-scoring game than that. And yeah, there always seem to be more points in these games, owing to trickery and desperation.