The Post’s Zach Braziller breaks down the national championship game (Monday, 8 p.m., ESPN) between No. 1 Alabama (13-1) and No. 3 Georgia (13-1) at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
When Alabama has the ball
It’s the story of this showdown: Can Georgia’s top-ranked defense rebound after the beatdown it took in the SEC Championship game just more than a month ago? The unit that allowed just 7.2 points per game in its other 13 games was shredded for 41 points and 536 total yards by Bryce Young, Jameson Williams and Co. It failed to produce a single sack. Don’t expect history to repeat itself. The Bulldogs are just too good up front, with too much next-level talent — defensive tackle Jordan Davis and linebacker Nakobe Dean are first-round picks — to get shredded like that again. The absence of leading receiver John Metchie III (torn ACL) will be felt more here than it was in the Cotton Bowl rout of Cincinnati, because the Crimson Tide won’t just be able to push around Georgia like they overwhelmed the Bearcats. Young, the Heisman Trophy winner, will make his share of plays, but Georgia’s defense will have its moments, too.
When Georgia has the ball
Stetson Bennett IV has faced Alabama twice — and thrown five interceptions. Georgia has lost those games by 17 points apiece. The Crimson Tide will again put this game on the former walk-on’s right arm, loading up against the Bulldogs’ stout rushing attack. Bennett did throw for 340 yards in the first meeting, although a lot of that was after the game was well in hand. And he will have to deal with an improving defense that, aside from one ugly performance against Arkansas, has performed well for the last two-plus months and is third in the country with 52 sacks.
Both kickers, Georgia’s Jack Podlesny and Alabama’s Will Reichard, missed once in the semifinals, but they are as dependable as college kickers come. Keep an eye on Alabama’s Williams in the return game. He has taken two kickoffs back for touchdowns in just 10 returns.
Nick Saban has faced former assistant coaches 27 times, and lost just once, this season to Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M. He’s owned Kirby Smart, his former defensive coordinator, since Smart made the move to Georgia. Saban, who is looking for his record eighth title, has gotten the better of Smart twice in the SEC Championship game and once in the national title game four years ago.
Players who could decide the game (non-quarterbacks)
LB Will Anderson Jr., Alabama: The numbers — 17.5 sacks, 98 tackles, 34.5 tackles for loss — are absurd. The sophomore has had at least one sack in his last eight games, and should’ve been a Heisman Trophy finalist. You don’t stop him. You just hope to slow him down.
WR JaCorey Brooks, Alabama: Georgia isn’t going to let Williams single-handedly beat it again after his seven-catch, 184-yard, two-touchdown masterpiece a month ago, which should create opportunities for Brooks, a five-star freshman who has begun to emerge. His 44-yard touchdown catch helped put away Cincinnati. Remember, it was a then-unheralded freshman, DeVonta Smith, who caught the game-winning score in the title game four years ago for the Crimson Tide against Georgia.
TE Brock Bowers, Georgia: Only a freshman, Bowers is already one of the premier tight ends in the sport. An argument can be made that he’s the best one in the country. Alabama would know — Bowers torched the Crimson Tide for 10 catches, 139 yards and a touchdown in the SEC title game.
Alabama has the greatest college football coach of all time and the best players on the field, in Young and Anderson. This will not be similar to the SEC Championship game romp. It will instead be reminiscent of the 2018 title game, as Young rallies the Crimson Tide late, hitting Brooks for the game-winning touchdown in the final minutes. Anderson ices it with a strip-sack, his third sack of the game, as Alabama repeats and beats Georgia for the eighth straight time.
Alabama 28, Georgia 24