Welcome to the final Sneaky Stats column of the 2021 college football season! Michigan finally ended their season in embarrassing fashion like they usually do. Cincinnati was politely shown the door by Alabama’s clearly superior athletes. More semifinal blowouts and the furthest thing from drama. But now, we get a rematch between Jedi Master and Padawan, sensei and grasshopper, student and teacher, whatever cliche your heart desires! Nick Saban and his former assistant coach-turned-fearsome nemesis, Kirby Smart, face off for a fifth time, and for the second time in the last month or so. This should be a fantastic matchup between the best two teams in the nation. But who will win this time around? Let’s dive into some sneaky stats that could help predict which of the two blue blood programs wins it all in this year’s College Football National Championship!
Why and how did we get here once again, with two SEC teams, and a rematch of the SEC Championship Game? Between Alabama and Georgia, the two schools have brought in 52 five star recruits in the last five years. And they’ve brought in 181 four stars. These teams are absolute stacked to the brim with elite talent more than any other schools in the entire nation.
The number of starting snaps that Alabama could be missing from the offensive line that helped the Crimson Tide get red hot down the stretch of the regular season. Emil Ekiyor (RG), Chris Owens (RT), and Darrian Dalcourt (C) could all be out, leaving a much less experienced group to face off with one of the best defensive front sevens in the history of college football. Seth McClaughlin has been a good replacement starter for Dalcourt at center. But Damieon George, Amari Knight, and JC Latham? Not so much. Things could get ugly for over half the Alabama offensive line.
The number of pass rush pressures allowed by Georgia’s left guard Justin Shaffer the last time these two teams faced off. The rest of the team combined for seven more. Yeah, both teams have some holes at offensive line. Alabama just likely has more. If Alabama can take advantage of Shaffer again this could get ugly. But! If Georgia patches this up with some RB and TE help in pass protection, they may be able to give Stetson Bennett a little more time.
7 (again, but a different 7)
However, despite all the pressures Georgia allowed against Alabama in the SEC Championship game, they only allowed seven total pressures against Michigan and the supposedly dominant Aidan Hutchinson. How did they do it? By helping their offensive line with chips and additional players in pass protection.
The key to bringing pressure for Alabama regardless of what Georgia does? Will Anderson had six total pressures and two sacks against Cincinnati, showing again that he is without a doubt the best defensive player in the entire country. If Alabama brings pressure with some other players, too, like they did with Christian Harris and Dallas Turner last week, that could be enough to really disrupt any flow that Georgia wants to create on offense.
Alabama came into last week’s semifinal matchup averaging just shy of 348 passing yard per game. They managed just 181 against Cincinnati. 166.9 yards fewer than they were averaging on the season. 60 fewer passing yards than they had thrown for all season long. Yes, part of that was game script. But part of it was that Jameson Williams couldn’t do it all on his own. Without John Metchie to focus on, Cincinnati blanketed Williams all game long and Alabama didn’t really throw it, outside of a solid slot fade to Jacorey Brooks. The Tide will, of course, be without Metchie once again.
Speaking of limited receiving options, the last time Georgia played Alabama they targeted true freshman tight end Brock Bowers 15 times. Good things generally happened when they targeted him. 10 catches for 139 yards and a score isn’t bad. But the problem is that no one else stepped up alongside him and saw more than even five targets. George Pickens saw five targets, but only caught two for 41 yards. James Cook, their receiving back, was targeted five times, but only managed 28 total yards through the air. Jermaine Burton and Ladd McConkey both posted meager yardage marks in the 30s. The Bulldogs desperately need someone besides Bowers to step up in the receiving game.
In summation, this game looks like it is going to come down to the trenches. Both teams are allowing 2.66 or fewer yards per rush attempt. But they both might be more reliant on the run due to personnel issues on the perimeter. And if there aren’t personnel issues on the perimeter, there are weak links on the offensive line, which could lead to sacks, turnovers, inefficiency, and the perfectly snail-pace game that Georgia is looking to play.
Enjoy the final game of the College Football season! If you have questions or want more content like this follow me on Twitter @FF_TravisM or check out the College to Canton podcast!