College Football National Championship Game Expert Betting Advice: Keys for Alabama
It seems bizarre to say, but even though Alabama has won four national titles under Nick Saban they probably should have won more. They have let a couple of opportunities slip away - none more than last year against Clemson. They almost didn't get another chance this year, but now that they have one they seem determined to make the most of it. But to win a title against a very good opponent they are going to have to be on top of their game. Here are four big keys to success for Alabama as they seek to make the most of being 3.5-point favorites and win their fifth national title of this era.
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Controlling the Georgia run game: Sony Michel and Nick Chubb are just a terrifying one-two punch in the Georgia backfield. Against Alabama they were all but unstoppable, amassing 326 yards on the ground and five touchdowns. Oklahoma is not exactly a dynamic defense, though, while Alabama ranks No. 1 in the country against the run. If Michel and Chubb are able to play their game then they give the team so many advantages. They control the clock, and they keep the pressure off the shoulders of freshman QB Jake Fromm. When Fromm doesn't have to be the primary option he is more relaxed and effective - he played well against Oklahoma in his supporting role. Alabama had health woes in the linebacker corps, but they are back to health, and that will be a big boost for them here. They have been very tough to run against this year. Simply put, if the Tide can control the run showdown here then they will win another game, and another title. If Georgia can win the matchup, though, then the game is wide open. Alabama doesn't have a potent pass rusher this year like they frequently do, so Georgia can afford to really focus on the run without worrying about getting their QB killed. Alabama needs to be ready for that, and they need to have an answer.
Not being predictable: Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has been in Athens for two years. Before that he spent most of a decade side-by-side with Nick Saban, working under him at LSU, with the Dolphins, and through all the titles at Alabama. Smart knows most of the Alabama personnel recruited many of them, and he knows better than anyone on the planet how Saban thinks and what his tendencies are. Coaches face former assistants all the time, but it is rare to see a showdown of this magnitude between guys who know each other this well. If Smart is able to accurately predict what Saban and company are going to do then that would obviously be a massive advantage. Saban needs to find ways to keep his protege guessing and off balance.
Creating turnovers: Alabama has at least one turnover in 41 of their last 43 games, and the two they forced Clemson into last time out really defined that victory for the Tide. They are such an opportunistic defense, and they can't move away from that in this spot. If Alabama can contain the run to some extent and then force Fromm to make a mistake or two then they could really get into the head of this young QB and really turn the game their way. Smart is obviously going to be aware of this strength, and will have worked to protect against it, so this promises to be yet another fascinating chess game in a matchup full of them.
Coming out fresh: The Tide have played very well defensively for many years now. Over the last four years, though, they have really struggled stopping opponents in the last game they have played. Clemson scored 35 in a win last year and 40 in a loss the year before. Ohio State scored 42 to win the national title in 2014. And Oklahoma put up 45 against the Tide in the Sugar Bowl to end the 2013 season. In each of those games it is as if the season has caught up with them, and they have looked tired and weary defensively. In this game they can't afford that - Georgia will torch them on the ground. Lane Kiffin had no shortage of flaws, but the one thing he was adamant about when at Alabama was that the team needed to practice less heading into bowl games. He didn't get his way when he was around, but the team did dial back their pre-Clemson practice time significantly this year. They need that to have made a big difference, because they really need to reverse this recent trend.
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