Who are the Bulldogs to watch for the College Football Playoff National Championship game featuring Georgia versus Alabama?
KIRBY SMART (HEAD COACH)
Incredible is the right word for the accomplishment of Georgia’s head coach as Smart, in just his second season in Athens, has the Bulldogs at 13-1 and in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game Monday night against the team where he worked for nine years under Alabama’s Nick Saban. Both head coaches have to know the mindset and schemes of each other in this unusual matchup and for Smart, it will be a case of designing a plan for moving the football against the Crimson Tide’s rugged defensive front and, also, coming up with a defensive scheme to stymie Alabama’s run-oriented offense and the scrambling of quarterback Jalen Hurts.
JAKE FROMM (QB, #11)
And just as remarkable as Smart taking the Bulldogs to the national title game in his short UGA coaching career is that a freshman quarterback has led Georgia into Monday’s championship showdown against the Crimson Tide. Fromm played splendidly in the 54-48, 2-overtime win over Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl with 20-of-29 completions for 210 yards and two touchdowns and will need another big performance against the talented Alabama secondary, so as the Tide can’t load the box to stop Georgia’s potent running attack.
JAVON WIMS (WR, #6)
Maybe the biggest surprise on the Bulldogs’ offense this season – in addition to Fromm – is this 6-4, 215-pound receiver who leads Georgia in receptions. Wims was instrumental in the shootout win over Oklahoma with six catches for 73 yards and a touchdown and will need to step up once again against the Minkah Fitzpatrick-led Tide secondary.
J.R. REED (SAF, #20)
While Fromm and Wims rate the Bulldogs’ biggest surprises this season on the offensive side of the ball, Reed could surely get that honor on the defensive unit. Third on the team in tackles with seven in the Rose Bowl win over Oklahoma, behind leaders Smith and Lorenzo Carter, Reed will have to provide good run support come Monday night as well as help stymie the Tide passing attack which features one of the nation’s top receivers in Calvin Ridley.
NICK CHUBB (TB, #27)
If there hadn’t been a phenom named Herschel Walker, Nick Chubb would be the all-time career rusher in the Southeastern Conference. Unbelievable! And what a show Chubb (145 yards, 2 TDs) and fellow senior tailback Sony Michel (181 yards, 4 total TDs including the game-winning score in the second overtime) put on in the scintillating victory over Oklahoma. Yards are going to be harder to come by against the staunch Bama defense but for the Bulldogs to become national champions, Chubb and Michel must again have a big night.
ROQUAN SMITH (ILB, #3)
Think about the greatest defensive players in UGA and SEC history and you can put this guy right up there with them. Georgia’s first-team All-America and Butkus Award winner for the nation’s top linebacker, Smith has played splendidly in every single game this season. After earning Rose Bowl MVP defensive honors with 11 tackles, a great performance by Smith will be needed more than ever in the national championship game as the Bulldog defense gears up to slow down the Crimson Tide running and passing attack.
RODRIGO BLANKENSHIP (PK, #98)
From just trying to hold on to the starting placekicker job at the season’s outset, the bespectacled Blankenship evolved into one of the country’s most reliable kickers in this championship campaign. In the Rose Bowl, Blankenship connected on a crucial 55-yard field goal on the final play of the half – a career long and new bowl record – as well as a 38-yard kick in the first overtime period that kept Georgia’s victory hopes alive. With two defenses like Georgia and Alabama field, the national championship game could well come down to a winning kick.
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