Georgia ground game, Alabama run defense coming off stellar showings

Georgia senior tailback Sony Michel scores one of his three touchdowns during Monday's 54-48 win over Oklahoma in double overtime at the Rose Bowl.

Georgia rushed for 317 yards in its Rose Bowl victory over Oklahoma.

Alabama yielded 64 rushing yards in its Sugar Bowl victory over Clemson.

That's a 253-yard difference, and it sets up an obvious and intriguing aspect to follow Monday night when Kirby Smart's Bulldogs (13-1) and Nick Saban's Crimson Tide (12-1) collide for the national title inside Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

"Alabama is known for having a good run defense and just an overall good defense," Bulldogs senior running back Sony Michel said. "I'm excited for the challenge. This offense is. This team is, and we're looking forward to it."

Michel and fellow senior Nick Chubb are coming off their most dynamic performance as a tandem, combining on 25 rushes for 327 yards and five touchdowns in the 54-48 win over Oklahoma in double overtime. Chubb rushed 14 times for 145 yards (10.4 per carry) and two touchdowns, while Michel had 11 carries for 181 yards (16.5) and three scores to earn offensive MVP honors.

Their efforts in Pasadena resulted in Chubb and Michel becoming the NCAA's top all-time rushing duo (8,284 yards), surpassing SMU's tandem of Eric Dickerson and Craig James (8,193) in the early 1980s.

"They're some excellent backs," Alabama junior defensive lineman Da'Ron Payne said. "As a defensive front, we're just going to keep trying to create a new line of scrimmage up front and wreak havoc in the trenches just like we did this week."

photo Georgia running back Nick Chubb (27) scores a touchdown against Oklahoma late in the second half of the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game, Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

By the time Michel raced in for the winning score from 27 yards out, Alabama already had been dominating Clemson's offense, limiting the Tigers to minus-7 rushing yards in the first quarter in New Orleans. Clemson eventually would get into positive territory but finished the long night with 33 carries for 64 yards, an average of 1.9 yards per rush.

Alabama's defense tallied a robust nine tackles for loss.

"We had wanted to prove ourselves to the world because I think we felt a little disrespected," Payne said. "We just went out there and tried to prepare and listened to everything Coach had to say and just tried to do everything the right way. I think, as a defense, that we just went out there and executed the game plan and just tried to get after it."

Alabama will enter Mercedes-Benz leading the nation in rushing defense, allowing 91.8 yards per game, while Georgia leads the Southeastern Conference and ranks eighth in the country in rushing offense with 267.4 yards per game. The flip side should be interesting as well, with the Crimson Tide rushing for 255.8 yards per game and the Bulldogs yielding 121.9 rushing yards per contest.

Yet after what transpired Monday, witnessing Chubb and Michel taking on the vaunted Tide defense will be worth the price of admission, though that price right now is insanely high.

"We've got plenty of plays running downhill, and our offensive line did a tremendous job blocking," Michel said of the Rose Bowl showing. "Our receivers did a tremendous job blocking downfield, and I think those guys just gave a lot of effort, which made it so much easier for me."

Said Saban: "I don't think there's any question that Georgia may be the best team in the country right now with the way they're playing. It's going to be a real challenge for us to be able to stop them."

Spectator Trump?

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Wednesday afternoon that President Donald Trump is planning to attend Monday's championship game. The paper reported that Trump would be hosted by Nick Ayers, an alumnus of Kennesaw State University and the Chief of Staff for Vice President Mike Pence.

First Lady Melania Trump also is expected to attend, according to the AJC.

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.