ATLANTA—If I were using pure logic to pick a winner for Monday night’s CFP national championship game, the obvious choice would be Alabama.
The Crimson Tide was in this game last year. They were in this game the year before that. Alabama’s coach, Nick Saban, has played in six of these things and won five of them.
Georgia hasn’t played in a national championship game since the 1982 season.
But sooner or later logic has to take a vacation. I am picking Georgia (13-1) to upset the Mighty Crimson Tide (12-1) . Here are five reasons why.
1—Thunder and Lightning: Herschel Walker, as most of you know, is the leading rusher in Georgia history with 5,259 yards in only three seasons. The No. 2 and No. 3 rushers in school history—Nick Chubb and Sony Michel—will both be on the field Monday night for Georgia. Last week against Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl Michel ran for 181 yards which included touchdown runs of 75, 38, and 27 yards. He caught a 13-yard pass for another touchdown. Chubb had a 50-yard touchdown run. Yes, Alabama held Clemson to 64 yards rushing in the Sugar Bowl. But the Crimson Tide, who lost linebacker Anfernee Jennings against Clemson, has not seeing a running duo like Georgia’s.
2—Jake Fromm: The plan for Georgia going into the 2017 season was to let Fromm, the highly-recruited quarterback from Warner Robins, Ga., take a redshirt season. Things changed when starter Jacob Eason got hurt early the opening game with Appalachian State. Eason, one of the most talented young players in the game, got Wally Pipped by Fromm, who plays a game that is well beyond his years. As a freshman he’s won at Notre Dame, won in the SEC championship game, and won in the Rose Bowl. Those moments were not too big for him and this one won’t be either. In March Georgia Coach Kirby Smart told me that Fromm had one of the highest football IQs he has ever seen. Alabama will concentrate on the Georgia running game and bet that Fromm can’t make enough big throws to win. He will.
3—The linebackers: Remember these names—Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy, Reggie Carter, Roquan Smith. They comprise what is surely the best linebacker unit in all of college football. Carter and Bellamy bring an incredible amount of pressure from the outside and will force Alabama’s Jalen Hurts up the middle. When that happens Smith and Carter will be there to contain him and keep him from making the big runs. Smith, the Butkus Award winner, might be the best tackler (124 this season) to ever play for the University of Georgia.
4—Special teams: Georgia’s special teams are coached by Shane Beamer, the son of former Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, and all season long they have found different ways to impact the game. When Oklahoma made the ill-advised squib kick right before halftime of the Rose Bowl, the Sooners were trying to avoid kicking it to Mecole Hardman. The sophomore from Bowman, Ga., led the SEC in both kickoff returns (27.4 avg.) and punt returns (11.3 avg.). Placekicker Rodrigo Blankenship has made 17 of 20 field goals this season including a career-long of 55 in the Rose Bowl. He has not missed a field goal of less than 40 yards this season. Punter Cameron Nizialek averaged 44.9 yards on 55 punts and has dropped 25 of them inside of the opponents’ 20. Opponents have returned just 12 punts all season for only 63 yards.
5—It’s Georgia’s time: Georgia hasn’t won a national championship in the sport of football since 1980, when the Bulldogs and freshman running back Herschel Walker beat Notre Dame 17-10 in the Sugar Bowl. Walker is now 55 years old. Vince Dooley, Georgia’s Hall of Fame head coach, is now 85. They sat together at the SEC championship game. They sat together at the Rose Bowl. They will be sitting together at the game Monday night. This season Georgia has won at Notre Dame, avenged its only loss (to Auburn) in the SEC championship game, and rallied from a 31-14 deficit to beat Oklahoma in double overtime at the Rose Bowl. Sometimes a team, despite the odds against them, simply finds a way to win. In 1980 Georgia was such a team. Monday night, almost four decades later, Georgia again becomes a team of destiny.
FINAL SCORE: GEORGIA 20, ALABAMA 17