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Lane Kiffin breaks down the national title game

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Kiffin tired of criticism on Hurts (1:36)

Florida Atlantic head coach Lane Kiffin says it isn't fair that QB Jalen Hurts is receiving so much criticism, as he is 24-2 as a Sophomore. (1:36)

NEW ORLEANS -- From Lane Kiffin's perspective, Alabama has a clear advantage over Georgia in Monday night's College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T (8 ET, ESPN).

Kiffin, who just won 11 games in his first season as Florida Atlantic head coach, has a pretty keen perspective, too. He was a part of Alabama's 2015 national championship staff and worked alongside Alabama coach Nick Saban and Georgia coach Kirby Smart for two seasons as the Crimson Tide's offensive coordinator.

"It's the matchup that Alabama wanted," Kiffin said of Georgia's inclusion in the title game over Oklahoma. "If you look at who beats Alabama, it's spread teams with a quarterback that can move around like Baker Mayfield. They probably wouldn't admit it, but Alabama would prefer this matchup rather than the other way. Whenever Alabama has played the more traditional offenses, that is when Alabama usually shuts them down -- the Georgias, the LSUs. So that favors them.

"Georgia doesn't run the quarterback, but if you watched Georgia in the [Rose Bowl Presented by Northwestern Mutual], those backs are really good. Alabama is going to have to stay in the gaps, because it's not like you're going to run these guys down. Normally, Alabama is so fast that they don't give up explosive run plays."

Kiffin was in New Orleans for Alabama's 24-6 beatdown of Clemson in the Allstate Sugar Bowl and said it was more a case of Tide's defense being dominant than it was the Tigers' offense not being up to the task.

"Alabama looks as good and healthy as they've looked on defense right now, with those guys coming back from injury," Kiffin said. "Clemson just beat the heck out of Miami, and their quarterback [Kelly Bryant] had a great day in that game. So it's not like Clemson was a bad offense. And yet, Alabama just completely shut them down to six points.

"Georgia is going to need to get some breaks and have an unbelievable coaching day where you just find ways. There are going to be some matchups they struggle with in this game, and they've also got a freshman quarterback [Jake Fromm]."

Most intriguing to Kiffin will be the "chess match" within the game, because there are so many ties between the two staffs. Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt held the same position at Georgia before joining the Tide. And, of course, Smart spent nine years in Tuscaloosa, most of them as defensive coordinator, before taking over at his alma mater in 2016.

"These guys know each other's personnel and schemes inside and out," Kiffin said. " ... These guys are going to have to think about signals because they know each other's signals. There's so much run-over. Mel Tucker [is] there at Georgia as defensive coordinator. Glenn Schumann [is] over there on defense, too, and he also came from Alabama. Everybody knows everybody, so they're going to be trying to steal signals."

The fact that Smart knows Alabama's defensive personnel so well could help Georgia, Kiffin said, especially as Bulldogs offensive coordinator Jim Chaney devises a game plan and looks for ways to exploit the Tide's defense.

"You've got to take into account that Kirby knows a lot of their personnel, recruiting a lot of these guys -- especially the defensive players -- to help Chaney on offense," Kiffin said. "Chaney is going to sit in there and say, 'Tell me about Rashaan Evans. What does he do well? What does he not do well?' Same with guys like Minkah Fitzpatrick, all the players Kirby recruited and coached. But it's the same way with Jeremy. He recruited a lot of those guys at Georgia, too.

"So, again, they know each other inside and out. You almost have to watch out for overthinking and overanalyzing because they know each other so well."

One of the things Kiffin was always pushing Saban to do at the end of the season was cut back on practice repetitions.

"It's one of the things we were always fighting about because I just felt like we weren't as fresh, and it showed in some of those late-season games," Kiffin explained.

In the weeks leading up to the Clemson game, Alabama did reduce its practice reps by about 25 percent. Kiffin will be interested to see if Saban follows that script leading into the Georgia game, particularly since he doesn't have a month to prepare.

"He's going to have a real dilemma," Kiffin said. "He's going to say, 'All right, I like how fresh we were.' But I also know how he thinks, and he's going to say, 'But we need these reps.' He's going to have to figure that out and decide if he follows what he just did and try to keep those fresh legs or revert back to what he knows and has done for 40 years.

"He's old-school, but he will change and finally did against Clemson. Guys had gone in there for years and years and said, 'Coach, we've got heavy legs and there's a reason for that,' and I was one of those guys. So he finally said, 'OK, I'm going to do this.' Luckily for that staff, it worked, because if it hadn't have worked, it would have been a really nasty week."

To Kiffin's point, Alabama allowed at least 35 points in its final game in each of the previous four seasons -- 35 to Clemson a year ago, 40 to Clemson in 2015, 42 to Ohio State in 2014 and 45 to Oklahoma in 2013. Even more telling, the Crimson Tide gave up more than 500 yards in total offense in all four of those games.

Kiffin said it's paramount that Georgia plays well up front defensively and keeps Alabama in third-and-long situations.

"Alabama doesn't have a lot of deficiencies, but Georgia does have some really good pass-rushers and the ability to create havoc back there," Kiffin said. "But it's going to be a tough game for Georgia because they're a running team, and Alabama is always a running defense and Georgia doesn't go super-fast. Over time, who's really moved the ball well against Alabama going slow? The people who've moved the ball are: Ole Miss -- fast; Ohio State -- fast; Oklahoma -- fast; and Clemson -- fast."

So how does Georgia win?

"They're going to have to find a way to do it nontraditional, be really good on special teams, maybe make fourth-down conversions or fakes," Kiffin said. "They're going to have to play as the underdog because Alabama is just too strong."

Kiffin expects Georgia to do everything it can to make quarterback Jalen Hurts beat the Bulldogs from the pocket, which is easier said than done.

"They're going to play an extra guy in the box the whole day, and Kirby does a lot of that anyway," Kiffin said. "They're going to make Alabama try to throw the ball and keep the edges so Jalen can't get around the edges.

"... At the end of the day, I think Alabama wins based on Jalen's ability to get out of trouble, and that showed up against Clemson. They had guys come loose and come free, and they just couldn't make the play on him."