3 Things to Watch for in Tonight's National Championship
ATLANTA, GA-- The fourth installment of the College Football Playoff will come to a close tonight after No. 4 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia square off in the first SEC-only meeting in the newly formatted championship.
There are plenty of storylines heading in to the game at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart is looking to be the first ever Nick Saban assistant to knock off his former boss. Saban is looking to tie Paul "Bear" Bryant's record of six national titles. Oh and there's even going to be the first ever championship halftime show by rapper Kendrick Lamar.
Ahead of tonight's matchup, here are three things you need to look out for:
1. Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama
The 6-foot-2 signal caller for Alabama is the main Texas tie to this game. The Channelview High School (Houston) graduate is on the verge of becoming the first Texas born QB to win a national championship since Matt Flynn did so with Louisiana State in 2008.
Last year, Hurts took the Crimson Tide back to the national championship for the second consecutive year, only to fall to Deshaun Watson and the Clemson Tigers. This year, Hurts has a chip on his shoulder after losing the championship in his freshman season. His stats in 2017 haven't matched his freshman season. But the one area the sophomore has done well with this season is ball security. In the 2016-17 season, the Houston native threw nine interceptions. This season he's thrown just one. That will be a key factor against a Georgia team with 11 interceptions this season.
2. Georgia's Two Headed Rushing Attack
You can argue that this is the best run game Georgia has had since Herschel Walker. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel have given teams nightmares all season.
Chubb and Michel have combined for 2,491 yards on the ground. That's nearly 63% of Georgia's 3,981 rushing yards this season. Oh, by the way, the two have put up 31 rushing touchdowns combined this season.
Last week in the Rose Bowl, Michel carved up Oklahoma's defense to the tune of 181 yards and three scores. Chubb had a more modest 145 yards with two scores to his name. If Alabama can stop both running backs, Alabama may come away with another national title.
3. Home Field Advantage76,500
While the Bulldogs don't call Atlanta their home, Athens is a short 90 minute drive to the southwest.
When the Bulldogs played Auburn in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta, 76,500 fans crammed in to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium to watch Georgia romp Auburn 28-7. It'd be a safe estimate to say roughly three-quarters were Georgia fans. Tonight the stadium will likely see upwards of 83,000 fans, most of which rooting for the Bulldogs. Will that play an advantage on the field or will Alabama's play negate that.
Kickoff is slated for 7:00 pm on ESPN.