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2018 CFP CHAMPIONSHIP: Tide favorite on paper but not among CFB fans

Raekwon Davis and the Alabama defense would like a repeat performance from the Sugar Bowl in Monday’s national title game. (Photo courtesy Unv Alabama Athletic Dept.)

By Tim Gayle
RRS Correspondent

(January 8, 2018)

2018 CFP National Championship

Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Atlanta, Ga.
7 p.m. CT (ESPN)

Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1)

HC Nick Saban

"I would say that my biggest concern is how do we execute in terms of things that are important in having success in a game. Some of them Kirby mentioned; because they’re two physical teams, can you control the line of scrimmage; 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. We missed some tackles in last week’s game, and the quality of running backs that they have and the skill players that they have, I think those factors are going to be huge in a game in terms of doing a good job in those areas."

Georgia Bulldogs (13-1)

HC Kirby Smart

"They’ve got an extremely physical offensive and defensive lines. 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, but when you look at the unit that he’s comprised and got, it’s a dominant, physical team. We’ve got to match the physicality. They do a tremendous job in all phases. There’s no weakness when you look across the board. They play their best players on special teams. We’ve taken a lot of pride in special teams this year at University of Georgia, and we know what we’re up against in these guys because they’ve got tremendous athletes, tremendous speed, and they’ve had some injuries to deal with, they’ve overcome those and created some depth with a lot of the injuries they’ve had getting some guys back.

"But the biggest concern for us will be the size of the offensive and defensive lines and the physicality of those guys."

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ATLANTA - Alabama is a slight favorite to win its fifth national championship in nine years when it takes on Georgia in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday night.

But what Las Vegas is betting on and what the rest of the college football world wants are two entirely different things. No one outside of Alabama’s fan base is pulling for the Crimson Tide.

Those viewers who tune in Monday will be pulling for anyone not named Alabama to win the national title.

“People get tired of seeing the same team win,” tailback Josh Jacobs said. “Think of the NFL. You’re either a Patriots fan or you hate them. You love them or hate them, that’s just how it is. We kind of expect that.”

The New England Patriots of college football have been hearing it all year – there are those who downright hate them and those who believe the trendy talk is to hype a new champion and talk about the Tide as part of a bygone era.

“We’re used to that,” said defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs, who has spent only a year in the program and is already tired of the outside chatter. “They know Alabama is the best. That’s always going to come across. People in the outside world, we don’t look at that, but you know they want other people to be in (the College Football Playoffs). But it’s what we do here at Alabama. The best teams are always going to be in it every year.”

Even before the Crimson Tide took the field against Clemson in Tampa to decide the national champion last January, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook was already listing the odds for this year’s champion. Alabama was a 3-1 favorite, followed by Ohio State, Florida State, Oklahoma and Southern California, all at 8-1. (Georgia was 30-1).

Alabama is a four-point favorite in this year’s CFP National Championship, the 112th time as the favored team in 113 games dating back to the 2010 season. Alabama’s only time as an underdog came in 2015 at Georgia, a game the Crimson Tide settled in dominating fashion, 38-10.

But while Las Vegas bookmakers know it’s not a good idea to bet against the Tide, the college football analysts, taking their cue from the fans, seem to show less and less respect for a team they’re tired of seeing in the national championship game.

“We are here a lot, aren’t we?” Alabama cornerback Levi Wallace said. “It’s our goal at the beginning of the year, every year, to win a national championship, not just the SEC. This is always our goal, to be the No. 1 team in the nation. And to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.”

But what Alabama has done in the past 10 years – a sub-standard, 10-win season in 2010 aside – is almost unfathomable. The Crimson Tide was one quarter away from playing for a national championship in 2008, won titles in 2009, 2011 and 2012, missed the opportunity for another on a kick six at Auburn in 2013, lost in the CFP semifinals in 2014, won again in 2015, lost in the final seconds in 2016 and is playing for another title in 2017.

It’s not human nature to be able to sustain that level of success over a decade. And the meteoric rise of opinions through social media have made the distractions caused by naysayers and haters even more prevalent.

“There is a lot of information out there and a lot of times people get a lot of positive self-gratification from that,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “But it also can be a little bit negative at times. The way I try to get our players to sort of understand it is that really shouldn’t be your motivation. It shouldn’t be what somebody else thinks. It really should be the self-respect that you have for what you want to do, what you want to accomplish.”

And his merry band of Sabanites go about their business in that manner, maintaining their own standard while trying their best to ignore all of those who want a different national champion.

“I feel like it’s been like that every game,” sophomore tight end Irv Smith said. “We’re used to it. We’re not too worried about that, we’re worried about ourselves and doing what we have to do to win the game.”

If Georgia wins, college football analysts will talk about a new era of college football, how Alabama has been passed as the college football king. If Alabama wins, a number of those same analysts will lobby for a new standard, an eight-team playoff or a new way to choose the CFP participants. The system can’t be fair. After all, Alabama wins too much.

“There’s always been a lot of people against us, from the very beginning,” Jacobs said. “A lot of people are talking down the Southeastern Conference and they didn’t even want to see us in the playoffs. We’re just trying to prove a point and make a statement with this game.”


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