Follow along as The Telegraph and Ledger-Enquirer live blog the College Football National Championship between Georgia and Alabama.
12:08 a.m. Rodrigo Blankenship's 51-yard field goal is good. Georgia leads Alabama 23-20 in overtime. The Bulldogs offense continues to struggle, as it lost nine yards on the first possession of overtime. Alabama cna win the game with a touchdown.
12:05 a.m. A missed field goal by Alabama means we're headed to overtime, boys and girls. Georgia starts with the ball.
11:44 p.m. Tua Tagovailoa finds Calvin Ridley on a 7-yard touchdown pass. Game tied 20-20 with 3:49 to go in the 4Q. The All-Alabama fourth quarter continues, as the Crimson Tide convert on a risky 4th-and-4 from the Georgia 7-yard line. It took a few seconds to develop, but Tagovailoa did an excellent job of standing in and waiting for the play develop. At this point, Georgia needs to turn Jake Fromm loose and let the true freshman win or lose the game.
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11:27 p.m.Andy Pappanastos' 30-yard field goal is good. Alabama cuts Georgia's lead to 20-13 with 9:24 left in 4Q. Georgia safety Dominick Sanders almost made a game-changing play on Alabama's last third down of the drive, nearly intercepting the contest pass in the back of the end zone. However, Sanders bobbled the ball, and after review the call of an incomplete pass was upheld. A touchdown for Georgia would do wonders at this point.
11:08 p.m.End 3Q: Georgia leads Alabama 20-10. A play that should not be overlooked: Roquan Smith's tackle on the last third down for Alabama. The Crimson Tide looked ready to convert, but the Montezuma maniac made the tackle to stop Alabama two yards short. The Bulldogs continue to do enough to control the game. Can they do it for 15 more minutes of play?
10:56 p.m. Andy Pappanastos' 43-yard field goal attempt is good. Georgia's lead over Alabama shrinks to 20-10 with 5:15 left in 3Q. Georgia looked ready to deliver the knockout punch after Deandre Baker's interception on the Alabama 36-yard line. An interception after a deflection, however, gave the Crimson Tide the ball right back. The Crimson Tide are down but certainly not out.
10:43 p.m.Jake Fromm connects with Mecole Hardman on an 80-yard touchdown pass. Georgia leads Alabama 20-7, 6:52 3Q. Georgia desperately needed an answer when nothing was going right, and they got one here. Fromm threw an absolute dart to Hardman, who somehow stayed in bounds and brought it in for a score. Tua may have the Alabama offense feeling it, but Georgia isn't going dormant anytime soon.
10:35 p.m. Tua Tagovailoa hits Henry Ruggs III on a 6-yard touchdown pass. Georgia's lead shrinks to 13-7, 8:52 3Q. Nick Saban opted to pull Jalen Hurts, and it looked like the right call judging from the Crimson Tide's second drive of the third quarter. On a play that may be one to remember, Tagovailoa seemed trap on a third-down run, shook off several tacklers and ran free to his left for a first down. The Alabama offense is clicking. Georgia needs a response.
First Half Thoughts
Alabama's opening drive of the second half will be key, but it's hard to not come away impressed with what Georgia did in the opening two quarters. The Bulldogs showed they weren't afraid to let Jake Fromm fire the football, as the true freshman had 23 attempts in the first half. The most impressive part of the offense was its success on third down, as Georgia went 6-of-11 on third down in the first two quarters, all 6 coming on plays in which it needed at least five yards. By comparison, the Alabama defense had only surrendered 30 such third-and-at-least-five conversions all season.
Perhaps more impressively, the Georgia defense has left Alabama completely flustered. Jalen Hurts has looked uncomfortable in the pocket and has had to throw the ball away several times thus far. His first half stat line: 3-of-8 for 21 yards.
Georgia entered halftime as the team with all the momentum. Will Nick Saban and Company get the Crimson Tide rolling to start the third quarter? We shall soon find out.
9:50 p.m. Mecole Hardman runs it in for a 2-yard touchdown. Georgia leads Alabama 13-0, 0:07 2Q. Georgia offense coordinator Jim Chaney got creative right before the half, putting Mecole Hardman in at quarterback for the first time this year. Hardman made a good read on the play, opting to take the ball to his left and race into the end zone. Plenty of football left, but the Bulldogs looked good through the first half.
9:25 p.m.Rodrigo Blankenship's 27-yard field goal attempt is good. Georgia leads Alabama 6-0, 7:33 2Q. Georgia's drive ran out of steam on the 10-yard line, but the Bulldogs were able to get something out of it. The most impressive play of the drive came courtesy Javon Wims, who went up against the Alabama defender in coverage and made an outstanding reception to convert on third down.
9:02 p.m. Rodrigo Blankenship's 41-yard field goal attempt is good. Georgia leads Alabama 3-0, 14:14 2Q. Georgia's 14-play, 55-yard drive was the most impressive so far today. The drive was highlighted by a huge third-down run by Sony Michel, who broke loose to his right and sidestepped the sideline for a 26-yard gain. Georgia strikes first.
8:59 p.m. Game tied 0-0 at the end of the first quarter. The Georgia offense has shown glimpses of being able to move the ball on the stingy Crimson Tide defense. On the other side, the Bulldogs' defense has given up a few plays but has held its own so far. The missed field goal by Pappanastos was the biggest play of the opening quarter.
8:38 p.m. Raise your hand if you predicted Georgia throwing seven consecutive times to open the game. Now put your hands down, you filthy liars. The Georgia offense had some promise on the second drive, but it flamed out after a good pass breakup by Alabama safety Deionte Thompson.
8:31 p.m. Huge stop by the Georgia defense forces an Alabama field-goal attempt. After a false start moved the Crimson Tide back 5 yards, Crimson Tide kicker Andy Pappanastos hooked his attempt wide left. The Alabama kicker phenomenon stays true to form to start this one.
8:15 p.m. The Bulldogs take the field. Alabama wins the opening coin toss and defers to the second half.
— Jordan D. Hill (@JordanDavisHill) January 9, 2018
The wait is almost over: we’re just a few hours away from kickoff of the College Football Playoff national title game between Georgia and Alabama. Before the game gets underway, here’s what you need to know.
7:41 p.m. Georgia tight end Charlie Woerner is out for tonight's game. Woerner, who Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said was doubtful early in the week, is on crutches as the Bulldogs warm up. Linebacker Natrez Patrick is in attendance but is only in sweats.
6:58 p.m. In a weird twist of events that could only occur in Atlanta, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium's roof is leaking. Keep an eye on that as this game gets underway.
Where to tune in
TV Crew: Chris Fowler (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (commentary), Tom Rinaldi (sideline), Maria Taylor (sideline)
Radio: ESPN Radio
Radio Crew: Sean McDonough (play-by-play), Todd Blackledge (commentary), Holly Rowe (sideline), Ian Fitzsimmons (sideline)
Matchups to watch
Georgia’s running backs vs Alabama’s front seven
Monday’s game is the essence of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. On one side, Georgia enters with one of the top rushing attacks in the nation, averaging a cool 267 yards per contest. On the other side is the stingy Alabama defense, which has surrendered 92 rushing yards per game. The Bulldogs have relied heavily on their running backs all season, but if the Crimson Tide defense is this dominant again, Georgia may have no choice but shy away from the run.
Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts vs. Georgia’s pass rush
In Auburn’s victory over Alabama, the Tigers defense never let Hurts set in the pocket, instead forcing him to roll out and repeatedly force throws or haplessly scramble out of danger. Hurts had a pedestrian day against Clemson (16-of-24, 120 yards, 2 TDs), but it was more than enough. The Bulldogs must make Hurts feel uncomfortable and capitalize on any mistakes the sophomore makes.
Georgia special teams vs Alabama special teams
In a game anticipated to come down to the wire, the special teams may be the deciding factor. Georgia certainly made the most of its special-teams play last week, as Rodrigo Blankenship’s 55-yard field goal and Cam Nizialek’s punts were key in Georgia’s comeback win over Oklahoma. Keep an eye on Georgia punt returner Mecole Hardman, whose speed could produce a game-changing play.
Georgia coaches vs. Alabama coaches
It’s student vs teacher for a national title, as longtime Alabama assistant Kirby Smart takes on former boss Nick Saban. Saban and Smart aren’t the only ones who know each other well, as Georgia assistants Glenn Schumann and Kevin Sherrer were previously at Alabama and Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt was previously at Georgia. There’s been a lot of talk about the mind games that could be involved, and we’ll soon see how they factor into this showdown.
With a win, Georgia's Jake Fromm will become the first true freshman quarterback to win a national title since Oklahoma's Jamelle Holieway did it in 1985.
No matter who wins Monday's game, the Southeastern Conference will have won 11 national championships in the last 20 years.
With a win, Alabama's Nick Saban will have six national championships as a head coach. A win for Georgia would give Kirby Smart his first.
If Georgia wins, Kirby Smart would be the first head coach to lead his alma mater to a national title since Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer in 1998.