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CFB National Championship Roundtable: What to watch for

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 08 CFP National Championship Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The College Football Playoff National Championship game will be played in Atlanta at 8pm on Monday. It will be an All-SEC affair, as the Alabama Crimson Tide square off against the Georgia Bulldogs. Tune in for a knock down, drag out, smash mouth showdown.

What to watch:

Alabama’s offensive line features five maulers from left to right. Future first round tackle Jonah Williams is the most gifted blocker on this experienced group that paved the way for the NCAA’s tenth most productive rushing unit. The Crimson Tide’s stable of punishing running backs - including Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough and Najee Harris - wore down opposing defenses all season long.

The foundation of Saban’s dynasty has always been recruiting the biggest, baddest, toughest players from the high school ranks. Smart took this blueprint to Georgia, and may field a more talented roster than Alabama as soon as next season. The Bulldogs do possess some bluechip talent on their defensive front, specifically linebacker Roquan Smith and defensive tackle Trenton Thompson.

Still, the little brother is not quite strong enough to overtake the big brother this year. Expect ‘Bama to bludgeon the Bulldogs into submission with their power rushing attack, and eventually pull away in the fourth quarter. - Vasilis Lericos

Running backs:

This game will feature four highly talented running backs; Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris. All four of these players are considered day two or day three picks, but as proven correct in last year’s draft, mid-to-late round running backs can be provide a huge spark.

Michel could be an impact player from day one in the NFL. It is worth mentioning, in the CFP semi-final, Michel had 11 carries for 181 yards and three rushing touchdowns. He also added four catches for 41 yards and a touchdown. Michel averaged 16.5 yards per carry.

Chubb is another physical, punishing running back who could be a solid NFL player. Chubb will need to improve his ability to catch passes out of the backfield. However, Chubb’s downhill running style could entice several teams at the next level. Against Oklahoma, he finished with 145 yards and two touchdowns off of 14 carries.

Scarbrough has received several comparison to former Alabama running back Derrick Henry. Scarbrough, like Henry, is a big-bodied, downhill, physical, punishing running back. Scarbrough is projected to be a day three prospect, but with his height and weight, he could be an intriguing player. He stands at 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, per ESPN. It is worth noting, he is a junior.

Damien Harris is an interesting prospect. He was Alabama’s leading rusher this season. He is projected to be a day three pick, but he has the potential to make an impact immediately. He is another physical, punishing runner. His greatest skill is likely his ability to break tackles. Harris, like Scarbrough, is a junior. - Logan Levy

Mentor versus Student

Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Georgia head coach Kirby Smart boast teams with similar styles. Both coaches have offenses predicated on power, and defenses that are loaded at every level. They both play prototypical SEC football. Though a lot of the similarity may come from the fact that both Smart was on Saban’s staff at Alabama from 2007-2015, serving as the defensive coordinator. Smart knows what Alabama does well, and will face the Tide for the first time at Georgia. Dabo Swinney defeated his Alma Mater (Alabama) in last’s year National Championship game, and this year, Smart can lead his Alma Mater (Georgia) to a title over his mentor, Nick Saban.

Both teams have an excellent core of running backs, Harris and Scarbrough for Alabama, Chubb and Michel for Georgia, that lead the offense. Neither teams asks its quarterback to do too much, especially in the case of Georgia. Both teams have excellent front sevens, and reliable secondaries. The Tide and Bulldogs both want to beat you with physicality, and they will try to see who will break first tonight.

Because of how similar these two teams are, this game could come down to coaching. Will the mentor be able to out-coach his former coordinator, or can the student beat the teacher? -Matt Cohen

Prediction:

Below I’ll list the position groups, and which team has the edge, followed by a game prediction.

Coach: Alabama

Quarterback: Alabama

Running backs: Georgia

Wide receivers/tight ends: Alabama

Offensive line: Even

Front seven: Georgia

Secondary: Alabama

Prediction: Alabama has the edge at the two most important spots, coach and quarterback. The experience of Jalen Hurts will be immense in a game of this magnitude, and the experience and ability of Nick Saban is unquestioned. These two teams are very similar both in talent and ability, but I think the experience of Alabama will make the difference as Saban gets his fifth title at Alabama and sixth overall. 24-20 Alabama. - Matt Cohen