Georgia is one win away from the program's first national championship since 1980. However, in order to end the drought, the Bulldogs have to go through Alabama. Georgia coach Kirby Smart is 0-4 against his former boss Nick Saban, and the last two meetings were decided by a 41-24 score. Although the Bulldogs have come up short against the Crimson Tide, oddsmakers have installed Smart's team as the favorite on Monday night. An elite defense is hungry to prove the SEC Championship Game was a fluke, and Georgia's offense is in good hands with Stetson Bennett after a strong showing in the Orange Bowl win over Michigan.
While all eyes will be on Bennett, defensive lineman Jordan Davis and linebacker Nakobe Dean, a couple of under-the-radar players always break out with performances that could help decide the winner of the national championship. Which players or other aspects could be an x-factor on Monday? Here are five things to watch:
5 Georgia X-Factors That Could Determine National Title
Stetson Bennett, QB, Georgia
It's hard to call a quarterback an x-factor, but Bennett's play could decide whether or not Georgia wins the national title. The senior has been solid all season, leading the SEC in yards per attempt (10.1) and throwing 27 scores to just seven interceptions. However, Bennett tossed two interceptions in the last meeting (one returned for a score) and had issues against Alabama's pressure. The senior's mobility is also an area to watch in Indianapolis.
James Cook, RB
Zamir White is Georgia's No. 1 back, but Cook is the more versatile and all-around weapon for coordinator Todd Monken. In the win over Michigan, Cook caught four passes for 112 yards and a touchdown and added 32 more yards on the ground. For the season, Cook rushed for 651 yards and seven scores and grabbed 25 receptions for 269 yards and four touchdowns. Cook could be a valuable playmaker in a couple of different roles on Monday night.
Derion Kendrick/Kelee Ringo, CB
Latavious Brini, Lewis Cine, Christopher Smith, S
Georgia's pass rush and coverage on the back end will have to work together in tandem to slow Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. The Bulldogs will certainly switch up looks in the secondary and throw a few different wrinkles at Young and the Crimson TIde compared to the first meeting. However, the starters at cornerback and safety, have to play a lot better than they did in Atlanta. Whether it's man coverage or simply being in better position, this unit will be crucial to keeping Young and receiver Jameson Williams in check.
George Pickens, WR
Pickens is among the top receivers in the SEC, but a torn ACL suffered in the spring kept him sidelined until the Nov. 27 game against Georgia Tech. The Alabama native caught two passes for 41 yards in the SEC title loss to the Crimson Tide, but with a month to knock off the rust, Pickens could be more involved in the rematch.
Winning in Key Situations
In the first matchup, Georgia converted just three of 12 third-down attempts, finished three of five in scoring opportunities in the red zone, lost two turnovers, and failed to generate a sack. By comparison, Alabama converted 50 percent of third-down attempts (7 of 14), went three for three in the red zone, did not commit a turnover, and recorded three sacks. The Bulldogs need to reverse those numbers to win in Indianapolis on Jan. 10.
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