2022 CFP National Championship Preview: Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Georgia Bulldogs
A preview and prediction of the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship game that will pit SEC rivals Alabama and Georgia.
By Stone Lexington
Updated: Jan. 8, 2022 • 8:50 AM ET
Nick Saban - Picryl
There have been seven iterations of the College Football Playoff, and one fact about the tournament that determines college football’s national champion remains: The SEC is king.
When the College Football Playoff National Championship game takes place on Monday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, two South Eastern Conference teams will meet to determine college football’s latest champion. The No. 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide will face the No. 3 slotted Georgia Bulldogs, but it won’t be the first time the two schools meet for all the marbles.
Two SEC teams have previously played for a national title in the College Football Playoff, ironically being Alabama and Georgia in 2018. Alabama came out on top in that game with a 26-23 overtime victory over Georgia, largely aided by Tua Tagovailoa’s game-winning 41-yard touchdown pass to future Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, affectionately known by fans as “2nd and 26.” Unfortunately for the rest of the nation, it was just one of several results that delineate why Alabama has been the standard in the College Football Playoff era.
The Crimson Tide have won three national titles since the College Football Playoff began in 2014, reaching the four-team tournament each year with one exception, 2019-20. Although Alabama didn’t reach the playoff in the 2019-20 season, it didn’t stop the SEC from producing another champion, as LSU was the last team standing that season. Alabama, though, will play for a record-extending fourth national title under the current format on Monday. Aside Alabama, no team has won more than two national titles since the College Football Playoff began, and Georgia is still seeking its first college football national title of any form since 1980.
Georgia, though, has arrived in Indianapolis after nearly dominating its entire regular season schedule and losing only one game all season. That loss, however, came to Alabama in the SEC Championship game, and the contest wasn’t particularly close. Alabama defeated Georgia 41-24 last month to claim their second straight SEC championship, and the Tide will be seeking their eighth straight victory over the Bulldogs overall.
Georgia will play in the National Championship game for the first time since that loss to Alabama in 2018, and the consistent losing to the Tide has to have the Dawgs beyond frustrated. Bulldogs head coach and alumnus Kirby Smart is a disciple of Alabama head coach Nick Saban coaching tree, arriving in Athens from Tuscaloosa after the 2015 season. Yet, the former Bulldogs All-SEC safety is 0-4 against his mentor, despite being 65-15 overall as a head coach.
Smart’s Bulldogs spent most of the regular season ranked No. 1 with a suffocating defense that never allowed more than 17 points to any opponent. Then the SEC Championship game happened, when the Georgia’s defense allowed a season-high 41 points to an Alabama team that wasn’t as impressive during the regular season.
In September, Alabama defeated a Florida Gators team that ultimately went 6-7 by two points. In October, the Tide fell to a Texas A&M Aggies team that ultimately lost four games. In November, Alabama squeaked-out a six-point victory over an LSU Tigers team that went 6-7, while also achieving a two-point overtime win later in the month over an Auburn Tigers team that went 6-7. However, the Crimson Tide looked like a different team in the SEC title game and carried that dominating spirit into their semi-final matchup against the Cincinnati Bearcats.
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Alabama ceased Cincinnati’s unbeaten campaign, handing them their first loss of the season in their semi-final matchup on New Year’s Eve. The Tide topped the Bearcats 27-6, as Cincinnati’s offense had no answers for a faster Alabama defense. Defense has been a calling card for Saban, who is widely considered as the greatest coach in college football history.
Going for an eighth national title on Monday, Saban already has a record seven national titles under his belt. He’ll also attempt to win back-to-back titles for the second time as Alabama’s head coach, previously taking home the hardware in 2011 and 2012. It may not be an easy undertaking against a Georgia team that bounced back from the SEC title game loss with a dominant 34-11 victory over the Michigan Wolverines in its semi-final matchup.
Beating a team twice in the same season is never easy, but Saban’s Tide will attempt to do just that on Monday night. No matter who wins the SEC showdown, the conference will crown its fifth national champion in eight iterations of the College Football Playoff.
Prediction: Alabama 34, Georgia 31
• Start time/how to watch - The 2022 College Football National Championship game can be seen on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET this Monday, Jan. 10.