It will be the second time in seven years that two teams from the Southeastern Conference will meet for a national crown as No. 2 Georgia and No. 4 Alabama will battle Monday in the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship.
For the Bulldogs and their fans, this is an opportunity decades in the making. Georgia has not played for a national title since 1983 nor brought home the championship since 1980. The Crimson Tide, meanwhile, will be playing in their third straight title game and sixth over thel last nine seasons. Alabama is 4-1 in its previous five such games and defeated LSU 21-0 in that prior all-SEC meeting to win the 2011 title.
Alabama coach Nick Saban and Georgia coach Kirby Smart have their history, as do their respective staffs. Will Saban move to 12-0 all-time against his former assistants, or will Smart's youth and guile give him an edge over his former boss?
Here's what our panel of CBS Sports college football experts think will happen on Monday night.
Dennis Dodd, senior college football insider: Alabama's defense is "fixed." Not that it was ever broken, but this unit simply wasn't up to Nick Saban's own standards this season. But going from giving up 35 to Clemson a year ago to six last Monday sends an encouraging message. Sony Michel and Nick Chubb aren't going to have free run of the field like they did against Oklahoma. Despite losing linebacker Anfernee Jennings, the D is dialed in. Alabama 21, Georgia 17
Barton Simmons, senior college football writer: We're all programmed to overthink this game, dig into the details of every matchup, every strength, every weakness. But this matchup in particular is two evenly matched teams with two very similar identities on both offense and defense who do it with personnel that is pretty even. So in a game like this, it boils down to execution, and I just trust Georgia to execute better. The game will be close, and it may just be a matter of two mistake-averse teams waiting the other out to see who blinks first. I trust Jake Fromm and Georgia slightly more to win that staring contest. While Georgia played in the closer, more emotional contest in the semifinals, Alabama played in the more physical game that cost it two starters. With razor thin margins, that will be enough for a three point win. Georgia 20, Alabama 17
Jerry Palm, CFP & bowls expert: Alabama has the best talent and the best coach. That is really all the reason you need to pick the Crimson Tide to win this game or any game. Obviously, Alabama does not win them all, but the Tide's problem this year has been more health than anything. The team is as healthy and motivated as it has been all year and has been in this situation before. Also, I don't know what it is about coaching against his former assistants, but Nick Saban is 11-0 in those games. Make no mistake: Georgia is good enough to win this game, but I'm not going to bet on it. Alabama 20, Georgia 13
Chip Patterson, college football writer: This just feels like a game that both teams are more than happy to play in a phone booth, and when it comes to strength-on-strength with a national championship on the line, the logical pick is Alabama. It would not surprise me if Georgia, in the midst of a wild year that will certainly spark more SEC championship and College Football Playoff runs in the future, pulls off the upset, but it will take a few turnovers and big special teams plays to get it done. The issues that Oklahoma had with alignments, run fits and open field tackling aren't going to be there for the Tide, so I just don't think that Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will be able to spring enough explosive runs to sustain drives against an Alabama defense that was in full boa constrictor mode against Clemson. Alabama 23, Georgia 16
Tom Fornelli, college football writer: I can't go against Alabama here. Yes, these two teams are similar, and both are very good. Georgia could win just as easily as Alabama, but I'm not going to pick the Dawgs to do it. The reason is simple: While they're near mirror images of one another, Alabama is better in the areas where it's better than Georgia than Georgia is in the spots it's better than Bama. Also, after watching last week's game, I fear that Alabama's defense is back in Death Machine mode, and God help anybody that gets in the way of Alabama's Death Machine. Alabama 27, Georgia 21
Barrett Sallee, college football writer: It comes down to one simple thing: Georgia is a more complete football team than Alabama. They prefer to get down and dirty and play the physical style Alabama is known for playing, but can also open it up when they need to -- as they showed in the Rose Bowl when quarterback Jake Fromm led them down to tie the game at the end of regulation. Georgia will pick and choose its time to open things up, hit a few big plays and control the game throughout. Keep an eye on D'Andre Swift and Sony Michel as receivers out of the backfield. They could be big parts of the game plan as weapons during when coach Kirby Smart decides to get creative. Georgia 24, Alabama 17
Ben Kercheval, college football writer: Considering how dominant Alabama and Georgia's respective defensive fronts were in the semifinals, it should be no surprise this projects as a lower-scoring game. The difference is Georgia's smashmouth offense, while efficient, plays right into Alabama's strength on defense. If the Sugar Bowl taught us anything, it's that the Crimson Tide's death by slow suffocation is back and brutally effective as ever. Georgia won the Rose Bowl in a style that was out of its comfort zone. It doesn't feel like this is the type of game (or opponent) in which it can afford to do that again. Alabama 24, Georgia 20
Adam Silverstein, assistant managing editor: Experience counts -- not just on the field and on the sidelines but in the postseason. Add that to Georgia's extensive travel -- not just from California back to Georgia but between Athens and Atlanta constantly in preparation for the game -- and the Crimson Tide seem to have every off-the-field edge. And in a game featuring familiar coaches and defenses, those added advantages count. Add to that Jalen Hurts' mobility as an X-factor, and the fact that Alabama specializes in shutting down Georgia's strength (it's tremendous run game), and I think the curse of the favorites at recent championship games (0-4 ATS, 2-2 SU) comes to an end Monday. Alabama 27, Georgia 20
Brandon Wise, college football editor: Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will do something no other rushing duo in the country has accomplished: crack Alabama's vaunted front seven. With a little help from freshman Jake Fromm and a powerful offensive line, Chubb and Michel will methodically break the defense down and score multiple times to bring the Bulldogs a title. Georgia 31, Alabama 27