Alabama vs. Georgia: 10 things to think about while watching the CFP title game

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Nick Saban and Kirby Smart: together again. Kind of. (Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

Ten things to think about as Alabama and Georgia play for the College Football Playoff title Monday at sparkling Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta:

1. Been there, done that: The Tide are going for their fifth title in the last nine seasons — and would be going for three in a row if not for Clemson’s last-ditch touchdown drive a year ago in Tampa, Florida. Georgia hasn’t won it all since the 1980 season, when some were calling Herschel Walker the greatest college running back ever.


The facts:7 p.m. Monday, ESPN, 1000-AM.

The records:Alabama 12-1; Georgia 13-1.

The line:Crimson Tide by 3½.

2. 11-0: That’s Alabama coach Nick Saban’s record against opponents coached by his former assistants. The Bulldogs’ Kirby Smart was the Tide’s defensive coordinator in 2008-15. Think of Smart as a 42-year-old version of Saban, with a little more outward emotion and the unmitigated gall to think he can make the aforementioned record 11-1.

3. 70 miles: That’s about the distance from Athens to Atlanta, close enough that Georgia ought to have a noticeable crowd advantage — especially considering this is the first opportunity of its kind for most of its fans. Tuscaloosa is only about 200 miles away.


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4. Best on best: No one can match the Bulldogs’ running back duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, who rushed for a combined 326 yards and five touchdowns — on only 25 carries — in the semifinal victory against Oklahoma. Yet Alabama’s No. 1-ranked run defense, anchored by frightening nose tackle Da’Ron Payne, has allowed 2.7 yards per carry this season. What a battle it’ll be.

5. Fromm’s arm or Hurts’ legs? Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm is a true freshman, but he oozes ‘‘future NFL first-round pick.’’ Alabama’s Jalen Hurts isn’t the same caliber of passer, but he can be a backbreaking scrambler. Will the Tide’s defense rattle Fromm as it did Clemson’s Kelly Bryant last week? Will Bulldogs linebacker Roquan Smith, the premier defender in the country, shadow Hurts effectively?

6. Calvin Ridley: Remember his name all night. Hurts won’t chuck it all over the field, but he’ll take at least a couple of deep shots to Ridley, who is, in terms of game-breaking talent at wide receiver, the Tide’s successor to Julio Jones and Amari Cooper.

7. Mel Tucker: Yes, that Mel Tucker. Marc Trestman’s former defensive coordinator with the Bears — ugh, the memories — has the same role on Smart’s staff. And guess what? He’s doing a bang-up job, his boss will be the first to tell you. It’s only a matter of time before Tucker gets his shot as a head coach. A college head coach, that it.

8. Quoting Fromm: ‘‘Honestly, you know, sometimes I really don’t feel like a freshman at all. The guys really don’t treat me as one. You come into work every day and get treated like everyone else, and I love it. At the end of the day, go out and play a football game.’’

Sounds good. Hey, maybe he’s the next Tom Brady.

9. Quoting Saban: ‘‘How about I just recommend to you a couple of books that you could read? Like, there’s a book [on] stoics, and it’s got all of Marcus Aurelius’ philosophies on how you should think and how you should sort of be positive and not get affected by things that you can’t control.’’

Who knew Aurelius was the father of coachspeak?

10. The pick: Saban — who is on the brink of his sixth national title overall — is so locked in, he has his team convinced it’s the all-time underdog. We all saw how that translated against Clemson. Roll Tide, 27-21.

Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.


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