The rematch: Alabama football prepares to defend national title against Georgia Bulldogs


Wide receivers Jameson Williams and Ja’Corey Brooks moments before kickoff at the SEC championship game on Dec. 4, 2021.

Ashlee Woods | @ashleemwoods, Sports Editor

Then there were two. 

Alabama football will face the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship game on Monday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. This is the Crimson Tide’s sixth appearance in the last seven seasons. 

Deja Vu

The last time these two teams met was just over a month ago on Dec. 4 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. Georgia was the top dog in college football. Alabama was in the top four but wasn’t seen as a formidable opponent to Georgia. 

Many college football fans and analysts predicted the Bulldogs to win in dominant fashion over the Crimson Tide. The majority was wrong in this case, and Alabama won its second straight SEC championship. 

Now the stage has been set. As many predicted at the beginning of the season, it’s Georgia and Alabama vying for the title. One is looking for its 19th title; the other is looking for its first since 1980. 

“There is some optimism given how dominantly Georgia handled Michigan,” said Drew Hubbard, the sports editor at The Red & Black. 

The same optimism trickling through Athens, Georgia, and Bulldogs fans across the country is now spilling over into national media. The Bulldogs are once again favored, making this just the second time in a month that Alabama is the underdog. Before the SEC championship game, Alabama was the favorite in 92 consecutive games. 

The Crimson Tide are not afraid of being the underdog, however. Alabama understands the challenges Georgia presents to them and how they must be ready for it.

We know everything to expect from Georgia,” Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. said. “We never want to go out to a game with a big head. Everybody’s been levelheaded. We’ve been good. Everybody has been humble. Everybody will come to practice ready to practice hard, play hard and pay attention to details, get everybody focused and get ready for this game.”

Limiting the big threats

Both Georgia and Alabama have a plethora of big threats on their offenses. Any one of these playmakers can change the game in favor of the Bulldogs or the Crimson Tide. Alabama will have to keep an eye on freshman tight end Brock Bowers. 

Tight ends have given Alabama trouble in recent years, and Bowers is no different. He had a career game against the Crimson Tide. He set an SEC Championship record for receptions and yards by a tight end, with 10 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown. 

“I think this guy is one of the premier players in college football,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “I know he’s just a freshman. But this guy’s got great size. He’s a good blocker, he’s physical, he’s tough, and he’s got wide receiver skills in every way, shape or form, which makes it difficult, being a bigger guy, for bigger guys to cover him, and it makes it also difficult for smaller guys to cover him.” 

Bowers had a quieter day against Michigan — only five catches for 55 yards and a touchdown — but he still remains a threat to the Alabama defense. Bowers has become one of Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett’s favorite targets. He set records for single-season receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns by a Georgia tight end, with 52 receptions, 846 yards and 12 touchdowns. 

Bowers’ pass-catching ability is rare, especially for his position and his size. But the Crimson Tide must be ready for it. 

“It’s about contesting it, making them execute and doing a good job,” Alabama defensive coordinator Pete Golding said.

Can he handle the pressure?

When the season began, few expected the quarterback matchup to be Bryce Young vs. Bennett. But those are the two quarterbacks who will take the field Monday night. It has been quite the journey for Bennett to Indianapolis. 

The Jones College transfer played in just five games in 2019. Now, he’s the guy who could lead Georgia to its first championship in 41 years. 

Bennett started the season opener against the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He was, then, named the backup for the next two games, against South Carolina and Vanderbilt. Fellow quarterback JT Daniels injured his oblique against the Commodores, and the rest is history. 

Bennett took advantage of the opportunity and led the Bulldogs back to the national title game for the first time since 2017. He is currently fourth in the country in passing efficiency and yards per completion. He is second in the country in yards per pass attempt. 

Being among the top in individual statistics is great, but does Bennett have what it takes to beat Alabama? 

“I think he is good enough,” Hubbard said. 

Bennett can’t afford to throw multiple interceptions against Alabama this time around. The turnovers cost a bit more in this game. He has to prove that he can handle the pressure the Alabama defense will give him and the pressure from his fans. 

Kickoff for the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship game is set for Monday, Jan. 10, at 7 p.m. CT. The game will be held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, and can be viewed on ESPN.