With the NFL regular season coming to an end this weekend, attention will turn to the offseason for 18 of the league’s 32 franchises, including the all-important process of evaluating college talent ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft in April.
Every NFL team will send scouts to the NCAA Championship Game on January 10, where the two best teams in College Football – the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs – will square off in a repeat of the 2017 Championship Game – a game which saw the emergence of Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Here is all you need to know about the 2022 NCAA Championship Game, including prospects to look out for, how the teams made reached the ‘College Super Bowl’ and the betting odds.
How the NCAA Play-offs work
The NCAA play-offs work differently from the NFL postseason as only four colleges out of 130 are selected for the final four – and they are not necessarily the four teams with the best records.
The selection process is determined by a number of factors – strength of schedule, strength of conference, strength of victory – and is selected by a 13-person committee which seeds the top four teams in the country. The same committee, throughout the second half of the season, issues a Top 25 ranking which gives an indication of who might qualify.
In 2022 the four teams selected to the play-offs were #1 Alabama (12-1), #2 Michigan (12-1), #3 Georgia (12-1) and #4 Cincinnati (13-0).
Alabama Crimson Tide
- Season Record: 12-1
- Defeated Georgia 41-24 in Southeastern Conference (SEC) Championship Game
- #6 Total Defense, #13 Scoring Defense
- #6 Total Offense, #3 Scoring Offense
- 18 National Titles, 3-2 in National Championship Games
The Alabama Crimson Tide, led by arguably the greatest coach in NCAA history Nick Saban, have secured a National Championship Game berth for the sixth time in eight seasons.
Saban’s squad earned national titles in 2015, 2017 and 2020 with wins over the Clemson Tigers, Georgia and the Ohio State Buckeyes respectively. Their two defeats came in 2016 and 2018 – both at the hands of Clemson.
‘Bama’s 2021 season started with five successive victories – including wins over Top 25-ranked opposition in #14 Miami [Florida] in week one, #11 Florida in week three and #12 Ole Miss in week five. An upset defeat at the hands of the Texas A&M Aggies in week six dropped Alabama to #5 in the rankings.
The Crimson Tide then reeled off six more victories to rise to #3, before a SEC Championship Game victory over #1 Georgia (41-24). Defeat would have almost certainly ended their hopes of a play-off berth.
Back at #1 heading into the semi-finals, Alabama was selected to meet the #4 Cincinnati Bearcats – who had enjoyed an unbeaten season in the American Athletic Conference (ACC). The Crimson Tide proved too much for the Bearcats in a 27-6 win on New Year’s Eve.
Three names to watch
OT Evan Neal – 6”7, 350lb – #4 Pick in Squawka NFL Mock Draft to New York Jets
Junior offensive lineman Neal is a potential top-five pick in the 2022 NFL Draft – especially with the lack of top-end talent at the quarterback position. Neal is likely to declare for the Draft as an eligible underclassman rather than stay for his senior year.
WR Jameson Williams – 6”2, 189lb – #32 Pick in Squawka NFL Mock Draft to Green Bay Packers
Another junior in the Alabama ranks, Williams will be hoping to emulate former Crimson Tide receivers Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith in becoming a first-round draft pick at the position.
LB Christian Harris – 6”2, 232lb
Another underclassman, Harris has showcased himself as a three-down linebacker in the Crimson Tide defense and should earn first-round consideration should he declare for the Draft.
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- Season Record: 12-1
- Lost to Alabama 41-24 in SEC Championship Game
- #2 Total Defense, #1 Scoring Defense
- #20 Total Offense, #9 Scoring Offense
- 2 National Titles, 0-1 in National Championship Games
The Georgia Bulldogs, led by head coach Kirby Smart, return to the NCAA Championship Game for the first time since the 2017 season when they suffered a 26-23 defeat to Alabama.
The Bulldogs will be gunning for their first National Title since 1980, and will be hoping their #1-ranked defense can halt the powerful Alabama offense. Something it failed to do in the SEC Championship Game.
Georgia’s 2021 season began in tremendous fashion with a 10-3 win over the #3 Clemson Tigers. Also included in 12 straight victories to start the season were wins over the #8 Arkansas Razorbacks, #18 Auburn Tigers and #11 Kentucky in back-to-back-to-back games in October.
That SEC Championship Game loss to Alabama wasn’t enough to take the Bulldogs out of the play-offs, with the #3 seed selected to take on the #2 Michigan Wolverines in the semi-final. A sensational performance from Georgia earned them a 34-11 victory and a rematch with the Crimson Tide at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on January 10.
Three names to watch
NT Jordan Davis – 6″6, 340lb – #12 Pick in Squawka NFL Mock Draft to Minnesota Vikings
Mammoth senior nose tackle Davis is the powerhouse of the #1 defense in the nation. A space eater in the centre of the line, 3-4 defenses in NFL will certainly look his way in round one of the 2022 NFL Draft.
EDGE Travon Walker – 6″5. 275lb – #23 Pick in Squawka NFL Mock Draft to Los Angeles Chargers
Fellow defensive lineman Walker will also earn first-round consideration – he has five sacks on the season and has the physical metrics NFL teams crave in a pass rusher.
LB Nakobe Dean – 6”0, 220lb
Junior linebacker Dean may not have the size that you usually associate with a three-down linebacker in the NFL, but he is a playmaker. He leads the Georgia defense in sacks and is capable of covering receivers in the passing game.
National Championship Game Odds
- Alabama Crimson Tide (+120, or 5/4) – Bet365
- Georgia Bulldogs (-130, or 7/10) – SkyBet