All the things the sport has sorely missed during the height of the pandemic will be on full display when the two best teams from the nation’s best congress meet in what has become the the sport’s capital for the past decade.
It’s first place Georgia and third place Alabama going head to head in the SEC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and it doesn’t get any better than this!
Alabama has been the dominant force in college football for decades. The Crimson Tide has won six national championships and seven SEC titles under legendary coach Nick Saban.
A lot of their 106 players made it to the NFL during that time period – 38 of them in the first round. Six of the first picks came from last year’s team, which spent a 13-0 season en route to another national title.
Losing all that talent to the NFL could cause some teams to rebuild, but not Saban and the Crimson Tide. They just reload.
Alabama is the nation’s top-ranked team and national title favorites once again as 2021 begins, with a new central midfielder at center Bryce Young and a new offensive coordinator in Bill O’Brien.
After a 2-0 start, they had all they could ask for in their first real road game in Florida. The Gators rebounded from an 18-point shortfall and had a chance to equalize with three minutes left but failed to convert to two. ‘Bama went on to win 31-29.
Tide won 5-0 when they faced Texas A&M, and that’s when their unbeaten streak went down – Seth Small’s last-second goal gave the Aggies a stunning 41-38 win.
The rest of the Crimson Tide players wondered if their national title dreams were now over as they waded through the sea of A&M fans who stormed the field to celebrate in sadness. But you can never underestimate a champion’s heart, and that’s what Alabama has shown for the rest of its run.
They won five games in a row, including a tight pair of wins over LSU and Arkansas, to secure another SEC title game landing. But they wouldn’t have stayed in the national title hunt without a multi-period comeback against in-state rival Auburn.
After struggling for the whole game, Bryce Young led Tide on a 97-yard slide in the last minute and 43 seconds to end the game in the 10th minute.
Young will not be rejected during overtime. His two-pointed pass broke the deadlock in extra time, giving ‘Bama an unlikely win in the first 58 minutes of the game.
Young’s performance led many to consider him a top contender for the Heisman Trophy and helped his team weather another storm.
“Throughout the season, I think sometimes things don’t go well, the players react very well,” Saban told reporters after the Crimson Tide’s win over Auburn. “It’s great to have the resilience to get through it, but you want to be able to maintain (it) consistently, so you don’t get into those situations.”
They will need to find consistency in the face of their toughest test of the year against the Georgia Bulldogs.
Dawg days are over?
After winning his fourth national championship in seven years as Alabama’s defensive coordinator, Kirby Smart decided to leave his mentor and friend Nick Saban and take a job as head coach at the convention. rival Georgia in early 2016. The Bulldogs were already a good team (19 games in a row but now they want to be great.
Georgia’s last national title was in 1980 and they’ve only won the SEC twice since 1982, but they believe Smart is the one who can take them to the promised land.
Kirby brought his mentor’s successful plan to Athens: a strong defense, a solid running game and an effective passing attack – and it paid off immediately. .
Georgia entered the national championship game, but failed, in Smart’s second season. And that loss to end the 2017 season was a painful one, as it was against – you guessed it – Alabama.
The game was in Atlanta and the Bulldogs led 13-0 after halftime. ‘Bama’s QB star Jalen Hurts was struggling, so Saban decided to bring on freshman Tua Tagovaiola in the second half.
Tua led an epic comeback, ending with a 41-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith, helping Tide win in extra time 26-23. It was their fifth national title under Saban and his first without his top assistant, who must find a way through the pain of that defeat and move forward. .
Georgia made a number of flops over the next three years but none made it to the knockout stages of college football, and fans were starting to get a little nervous.
But 2021 is a different story. Dawgs put on a perfect 12-0 record, beating their opponents by almost 34 points a game.
They lead the nation in terms of the fewest points allowed and the fewest yards allowed per game and their most recent win was a 10-3 win over Clemson in their opening game of the season. That’s the season Alabama has ever had, not Georgia.
The Bulldogs have held the No. 1 spot in the country since Alabama lost to Texas A&M and plunged into the SEC title game with a lot of confidence and even a bit of swagger.
“This team has done all the things we challenged them to,” Smart said after beating Georgia Tech on Saturday. “We hit them with different things every week, the things we want to really focus on – accountability from their point of view of holding other players accountable from week to week. for different things. And they did it every time.”
What is at stake?
So, for the first time since that national title game meeting nearly four years ago, Alabama and Georgia meet again. And it’s in Atlanta again, this time for the SEC crown.
Both teams felt as if they needed this win but for very different reasons.
For Alabama, the 3rd place team in the college football playoff rankings, the chance to win a seventh national championship in the Nick Saban era is here: no team with two losses has made it to the playoffs. college football since the four-team format. starting in the 2014 season.
A lot could have happened in Saturday’s other conference title games that could have allowed the Crimson Tide to sneak in with a second loss, but they couldn’t believe it was happening.
Georgia is #1 in the playoffs and with a loss they still secure a spot in the top four, even if it’s not the number one seed.
But for this team, it’s beating Alabama. Kirby Smart 0-3 to his former boss and the Bulldogs have lost six in a row in the series overall – their last win came in 2007, which was Saban’s first season with the Crimson Tide.
“Each year is independent of the previous one,” Smart said. “Our job is to play the best game we can. That’s what we’ve been trying to build on this year. We haven’t played our best yet and we think our best. It’s still there. That’s the goal.”
Another Georgia team, the Atlanta Braves, had to overcome the Los Angeles Dodgers, which had haunted them for years on their way to their first World Series championship in 26 years. For the Bulldogs to win the national title that has subdued them for the past 41 years, they will have to overcome their own fighter: Alabama.