ATLANTA – At this point, there’s not much else Alabama or Georgia can do to prepare for Monday’s College Football Playoff Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. UA coach Nick Saban and UGA coach Kirby Smart met with the media Sunday for the last time, and the news conference was their last obligation to the public. How they spend the night before game day is up to them.
Both teams are going to see a movie.
“To be honest with you, I’m not sure of the name of it,” Smart said. “I’m excited about it, but I’m told it has a lot of purpose. We’ve got a special release.”
He thinks Georgia will watch “12 Strong,” which Alabama saw a week ago before the Sugar Bowl.
“Yeah, it’s a good movie,” Saban said. “I don’t know what we’re watching. Don’t ask.”
All right, moving on.
Saban and Smart are about to face off for the first time as head coaches. Two things that have been addressed multiple times: Smart used to be Alabama’s former defensive coordinator, and Saban is 11-0 against his old assistant coaches.
“I hate to lose,” Saban said, “and I’ve been around Kirby long enough and he’s been on my basketball team long enough that I know he hates to lose, too.”
One of them has to. The Crimson Tide is shooting for its 17th national championship title, fifth under Saban. The Bulldogs will be aiming for their third overall. This is Smart’s second season at UGA.
It’s going to be a battle, especially in the trenches.
“They’ve got extremely physical offensive and defensive lines,” Smart said. “They are as big and as physical as we’ve faced, and we know we like to run the ball and we like to stop the run.”
Georgia has the No. 8 rushing offense in the nation, averaging 267.36 yards per game. Alabama is 10th with a 255.77 average.
On the flip side of the ball, Alabama has the No. 1 rush defense nationally. It has held its opponents to an average of 91.77 rushing yards per game. Georgia, meanwhile, is 20th, allowing a 121.86 average.
“Because they’re two physical teams, can you control the line scrimmage?” Saban said. “Are you going to make the kind of errors in a game that are going to be critical factors in the outcome of the game, and turnovers would be a big part of that.
“Tackling, I always worry about in bowl games and games where you haven’t played for a long time.”
The Clemson game was a week ago, but prior to that, Alabama hadn’t faced any live competition since the Iron Bowl on Nov. 25, the game that robbed the Crimson Tide a chance at the SEC championship title that the Bulldogs now claim.
This is it. Monday will officially mark the end of the 2017 season and determine the new college football champion.
“Every team that gets in the playoff has got something to prove,” Smart said. “But how you approach things in the last 24 hours and what you do mentally are really important to your team’s success.”