Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel and Pete Thamel, and Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde discuss Alabama’s rematch with Georgia in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, and debate how Georgia’s ability to effectively get pressure on Heisman-winning QB Bryce Young could decide the All-SEC title game.
DAN WETZEL: We saw this game, what, a month ago? Almost a month ago?
PAT FORDE: Yeah, it'll be--
DAN WETZEL: Bama--
PAT FORDE: Yeah, like five weeks between.
DAN WETZEL: Five weeks. Bama 41, Georgia 24. Game was dominated by Bryce Young, 26 of 44, 421 passing yards, three TDs passing, a rushing TD. Stetson Bennett threw three TDs but had a big pick. And Saban is 24 and 1 against former assistants, which Kirby Smart is. Only Jimbo Fisher has beat him.
Thoughts going into this game. I mean, this is going to get broken down a million ways, but just what would you say the key is for-- what are you focused on going into this game here? Pat?
PAT FORDE: My focus is Georgia's ability to affect Bryce Young. I think that's going to be not everything, but a huge, huge thing. They had zero sacks of Young when they played in the SEC championship game. It's the only game all year Georgia did not record a sack. They had, I think, 42 of them on the season. And they lit up Michigan's quarterbacks. They've lit up every quarterback. They couldn't light up him, and that's partly due to the fact that Young is a superb athlete who could maneuver out of trouble a lot of times.
But it's also due to the fact that, while they blitzed some, they didn't throw a lot necessarily at him. I think they were more concerned about trying to bracket both wide receivers, Jameson Williams and John Metchie because they were concerned that their corners were the weak link. And they are the weak link, although Derion Kendrick played awfully well against Michigan.
Now you've only got one of those two wide receivers to deal with. So I think you can be a little bit more hell bent on getting to the quarterback up front. And so I would expect them to throw much more at Young in that respect. And Bryce Young was brilliant in that game. I mean, he was awesome. I got to see him do it again because that was, I thought, by far the best game I've seen him play.
He was-- I mean, he was really good against New Mexico State and Southern Miss. And he was very good against Arkansas. I mean, he had a great season. But I also saw him struggle for 58 minutes against Auburn and struggle against LSU and struggle against Tennessee and, at times, struggle against Texas A&M.
And so if I'm Georgia, I'm saying, man, our defense is better than them. And our defense is better than it showed. And we're going to go out and show it. We're going to play physical and we are going to get after the quarterback. And then we'll see if they can possibly replicate that performance.
PETE THAMEL: I will say this. I did one of these-- I'm doing one of these stories for Yahoo later in the week where I talked to a bunch of coaches who played both teams and they break it down. And I'm going to attempt to go a little bit outside my comfort zone here because I thought the best point came from an SEC DC who watched the SEC championship and then the semis.
So Georgia runs what's called simulated pressures, right? And we've talked a little bit about these on the pod. They are basically if you rush somebody from like linebacker, for example, your defensive end drops into coverage, right? So you're not actually giving up a numeric advantage. You're just sort of taking one from-- you know, if you send in a rusher, you send somebody else out.
And this coach thought that they were tipping their hand defensively when they were going to run simulated pressures, which meant they were going to play zone. And he felt like the combination of the lack of pass rush, which Pat brought up, combined with pre-snap tipping through pre-snap motions, gave Bryce Young just a very clear picture of what to expect.
And what we saw from him in that game is he was very comfortable, and he knew exactly where to go. And the simulated pressures became predictable. And it gave Bryce Young a chance to pick apart the defense like he did. I mean, I think that chess match and how they figure out how to generate pressure becomes, you know, the focal point of the game we'll all be watching.
And then it's your guy Stetson Bennett, Dan, the law firm. Will Sully be able to hang in like he did against Michigan? I mean, he picked Michigan apart over the top, underneath, with his legs. He was dynamic. Does he transcend game manager? And can he hang in the pocket with Will Anderson barreling down on him and figure out a way to pull out a win?
DAN WETZEL: Big deal. They beat Michigan with those quick passes to the side. I just don't think-- I think Alabama is going to tackle in space better. And, you know, we'll see. But this is very much a coaching match-up. Like this is very much-- I mean, what does Stetson Bennett do? I guess we can move right to picking them.
But I mean, my thing with this is you go into the game, who's got the better quarterback? Alabama. Who's got the best player on the field? Will Anderson, Alabama. Who's got the best coach? Alabama. Who won the last time? Alabama. I keep trying to talk myself into Georgia and I try to-- and then who am I supposed to never pick against?