Alabama Football Rare Underdog For SEC Title Game Vs. Georgia — Not Since 2015

No. 1 Georgia is in the Alabama role.

And No. 3 Alabama is in the Georgia role.

It should be an interesting night of role playing when the SEC East champion Bulldogs (12-0, 8-0) “host” Alabama (11-1, 7-1) in the SEC Championship Game Saturday (3 p.m. central, CBS) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, which is 73 miles from the Georgia campus in Athens.

Funny, when the first two SEC title games were played at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., which is 53 miles from the Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa, it was a major controversy because of a perceived advantage for the Crimson Tide. Alabama won the first SEC title game over Florida in 1992 in Birmingham and lost the second one before the game moved permanently to Atlanta in 1994. Georgia, though, has not received the same pushback.

This will be the third SEC title game between Alabama and Georgia in Atlanta. Alabama won 32-18 in 2012 before going on to win the national championship 35-28 in 2018.

The most striking role reversal, though, is the fact that Georgia, like Alabama usually is, is the favorite — a touchdown pick by FanDuel.

Alabama, which is defending SEC and national champions, is an underdog for the first time since No. 8 Georgia (4-0, 2-0 SEC) was favored by a point or two to beat the No. 13 Tide (3-1, 0-1 SEC) in Athens on Oc.t 3, 2015. Alabama won 38-10 and went on to win the national championship.

That game marked the first time Alabama was an underdog since the No. 2 Tide (12-0, 8-0 SEC) played 4.5-point favorite and No. 1 Florida (12-0, 8-0) in the 2009 SEC title game and won 32-13.

What is different about this Alabama team and the previous two underdogs is that this one has clearly struggled in multiple games in addition to the 41-38 loss on Oct. 9 to a Texas A&M team that finished 8-4 with a loss last week to what was a 6-5 LSU. The Tide was fortunate to beat a 6-5 Auburn team 24-22 in four overtimes last week and struggled to beat LSU 20-14 on Nov. 6. Arkansas also came close to beating Alabama.

Georgia, meanwhile, has not been in a game since beating Clemson 10-3 on Sept. 4 as it coasted through its SEC season like no one else.

The Bulldogs, who beat Georgia Tech 45-0 in Atlanta Saturday, have won by an average score of 40-7 this season. Alabama has won by an average of 42-18.

“We don’t really look at that,” Alabama freshman linebacker Henry To’oTo’o said. “We’re there to play a full 60 minutes, and however much longer that we need to, if necessary.”

Alabama junior safety Jordan Battle will be an underdog for the first time in his college career.

“I don’t really look at it as an underdog,” he said. “Obviously, Georgia is No. 1. Obviously, they are a great team. They have a great defense. They have a great offense.”

Alabama junior offensive tackle Evan Neal is more concerned with the line he will be playing against — as in defensive line. Georgia is No. 1 in the nation in fewest yards allowed at 230.6 and is No. 1 in fewest points allowed at 6.9.

“It is not often that Alabama is on the other side of that (point spread),” he said. “I don’t feel like us being an underdog is motivating to us. We’re approaching this game with intentions to win.”

Alabama has won its last seven SEC title games. There is another number associated with this game that is hard to ignore. Alabama has won six straight against Georgia, including the last three against coach Kirby Smart, a former Alabama defensive coordinator under Saban. Alabama beat Georgia 26-23 in the national championship game on Jan. 8, 2018, after trailing 13-0 at the half.

“Well, I hadn’t been a part of all those,” Smart bristled. “This year is this year, and every year is independent of the previous. I don’t think there’s any overlap between the two. I know people want to make it that.”

 

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

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  1. I think folks might be surprised at how well Alabama plays in this game. I think they’re highly motivated but we’ll see. Georgia is coming into this game as the clear favorite over the champs. That’s a lot of pressure. You can’t tell me Saban isn’t motivating his team this week with all the talk about how great Georgia is and how their D is going to wipe the floor with the tide. Yikes. I want UGA to win, but I wouldn’t go tugging on super man’s cape. Saban is still 24-1 versus former assistants, and the one win took every ounce of energy from A&M. There’s a LOT of pride in that Bama program, they are young, haven’t played their best yet this year, came back to win a gritty game Last week, and that can bring a team together in a special way. I think Young, for example, became a man last week on that 97 yard drive. I’m just saying…I’m rooting for you, but you’d better be ready to go 12 hard rounds with the champ UGA.

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