Alabama and Georgia meet in the College Football Playoff championship game on Jan. 8 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta (8 p.m., ESPN). It’s an all-SEC national championship game, and one last chance for Sporting News to make a pick this season.
Our staff had to choose between Nick Saban — who is going for a fifth national championship and sixth overall — or Kirby Smart, Saban’s former defensive coordinator looking to lead the Bulldogs to their first national title since 1980.
MORE: Bama vs. Georgia: Numbers that make the matchup
College Football Playoff championship picks
Bill Bender’s pick: Alabama 21, Georgia 14
For all the storylines that will emerge from the matchup between Saban and Smart, it comes down to the old-school football principle of running the ball vs. stopping the run. Georgia’s offense averaged 267.4 rushing yards per game. Alabama’s defense allowed 91.8 yards per game on the ground. If the Bulldogs can get out to an early lead and let the Atlanta atmosphere take over, they have a chance to break that national championship drought that extends back to 1980. Alabama just won’t let it happen this year behind sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts, who comes up with those few plays that make the difference. — Bill Bender
Vinnie Iyer’s pick: Alabama 27, Georgia 17
The Crimson Tide came out possessed to exact revenge on Clemson. Now Saban will use the “extra motivation” of taking out the SEC champions. Jalen Hurts and Calvin Ridley will connect for a few big plays, and then Alabama’s defense will do the rest in containing Georgia’s running game and flustering Jake Fromm. Bama gets back on top to spoil the party in Atlanta. — Vinnie Iyer
BENDER: Georgia, Oklahoma elevate Playoff with perfect Rose Bowl
Tadd Haislop’s pick: Alabama 35, Georgia 24
The difference between the two best teams in college football will be pros: Alabama simply has more. As it does against almost every opponent, the Crimson Tide have more size and athleticism on defense. And as good as true freshman Jake Fromm has been, the added element of Jalen Hurts’ speed tips the scale of offensive firepower, which otherwise is a draw between the two running games, in Bama’s favor. — Tadd Haislop
John Hoover’s pick: Alabama 21, Georgia 7
The Crimson Tide made short work of Clemson with line-of-scrimmage dominance and huge defensive plays. Georgia’s offense is good — really good — but Bama does something Oklahoma could not: tackle. Those gaping holes Nick Chubb and Sony Michel had in the Rose Bowl won’t be there. It’ll be low-scoring (unless the Tide defense finds the end zone again), which is just how Nick Saban wants to win his sixth national title. — John Hoover
AL-KHATEEB: Bama proved its playoff worthiness vs. Clemson