PASADENA, Calif. — The College Football Playoff Championship Game matchup is set, and there will be no shortage of storylines.
Alabama beat Clemson on Monday night in the Sugar Bowl, setting up a an all-SEC title game after Georgia beat Oklahoma in double overtime earlier in the day in the Rose Bowl.
The national championship game will be next Monday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
It will be the first time in six years that two teams from the same conference have met in college football national’s championship. That one also featured Alabama, which in a rematch knocked off LSU.
Georgia and Alabama will be playing each other for the first time since the 2015 regular season — when Kirby Smart and Nick Saban were on the same sideline.
Smart was Saban’s assistant coach for nine years, the last eight as defensive coordinator. They won four national titles together before Smart left to become the coach at Georgia, his alma mater.
Alabama then replaced Smart with Jeremy Pruitt, who had been Georgia’s defensive coordinator from 2015-16. Pruitt, who butted heads in Georgia’s administration but had success on the field, is leaving the Crimson Tide to become the coach at Tennessee once the playoffs are over.
This game will be a matchup of similar styles, as well. Both Georgia and Alabama are built around defense and running games, and their styles ultimately won out over offensive juggernauts in the semifinal games. Alabama won more easily, 24-6 against Clemson, while Georgia had to outlast the Sooners in a wild 54-48 double-overtime win.
Georgia now also has to fly back across country and prepare for the game. The tentative plan was for the Bulldogs to arrive back in Athens early on Tuesday morning, then remain there and practice until it’s time to go to Atlanta for championship game events that begin this weekend.
In that previous meeting in 2015? Alabama routed Georgia 38-10 on Oct. 3.
But the two teams played a classic in the 2012 SEC Championship Game, with the Bulldogs coming up just short in a 32-28 loss. At that point, that was the closest the program had been to reaching the national championship since 1980.
Now the Bulldogs are in the title game. But to win it they must once again go through Alabama.