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I keep hearing Georgia is better than Alabama.
I keep reading that No. 3 Georgia (13-1) is favored to beat No. 1 Alabama (13-1) in the national championship game Monday night in Indianapolis (8 p.m. Eastern, ESPN). FanDuel has the Bulldogs as a 2-point favorite.
And I keep wondering what games these people have been watching.
Did they see Alabama beat Georgia 41-24 on Dec. 4 in the SEC Championship Game? Did they notice that Georgia was not in the game in the third quarter?
Do they realize that even if Georgia gets out to an early lead Monday, it won’t really matter? Because it led in that SEC title game by 10 and lost. It led in the SEC title game in 2018 by 14 and lost. It led by 13 in the national championship game on Jan. 1, 2018 and lost. It led by a touchdown in the 2020 regular season and lost.
They say Georgia rolled through its regular season in significantly more dominant fashion than did Alabama. This is true. After a 10-3 win over Clemson on Sept. 4 in the season opener, Georgia struggled with no one until it played Alabama. The closest anyone came was Kentucky, which fell 30-13 on Oct. 16.
Alabama lost 41-38 on Oct. 9 to a Texas A&M team that finished 8-4 and 4-4 in the SEC with a loss to LSU, which finished 6-7 and 3-5. LSU, which really was a bad team, had a chance to beat Alabama on Nov. 6 before losing 20-14. Florida, another really bad team that finished 6-7 and 2-6, should have beaten Alabama on Sept. 18, but lost 31-29. Arkansas, which was the best SEC West team after Alabama and Ole Miss, went toe-to-toe with the Tide on Nov. 20 before losing 42-35.
And Auburn, another really bad team that finished 6-7 and 3-5, had Alabama beat 10-3 in regulation if tailback Tank Bigsby stays inbounds in the closing moments. The Tide instead won 24-22 in four overtimes.
But how well Georgia played in the regular season will not help it Monday. And, funny, how poorly Alabama played at times in the regular season will help it Monday as it did when it fell behind Georgia 10-0 on Dec. 4.
“You have to do whatever it takes to get to this stage,” Alabama junior safety Jordan Battle said Saturday. “And we know it’s going to be hard. But that’s what it comes with. We know we have to overcome adversity, and that’s what this team has done this year.”
Georgia has not. It succumbed to Alabama on Dec. 4 when the crimson blob began oozing all over them. Quarterback Bryce Young found wide receiver Jameson Williams for a 67-yard touchdown in the second quarter to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 10-7. Then he found wide receiver John Metchie III for a 13-yard touchdown and 14-10 lead four minutes later. Young hit Williams again for a 55-yard touchdown and 31-17 lead in the third quarter. If it wasn’t over then, it was when Battle picked Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett and returned it 42 yards for a 38-17 lead.
“Everybody’s got to understand the importance of you’ve got to play your best at the end,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Sunday. His team did not when it counted the most.
“And that’s what we’ve been climbing, trying to do,” he said.
Georgia may play Alabama closer this time and may have a chance to win. And it could win. The Tide will not have Metchie because of a knee injury suffered in the first Georgia game. He leads Alabama in receptions with 96 and is second in receiving yards with 1,142. But it still has Williams, who caught seven for 184 yards in the first Georgia game. He leads Alabama with 1,507 yards and 15 touchdowns on 75 receptions.
Alabama will also not have starting cornerback Josh Jobe, who played in the first Georgia game but has since had surgery on a foot that had bothered him throughout the season.
The Tide has shown it has enough depth in the secondary and at wide receiver to keep to its standard, which will likely be just enough again on Monday.
If Alabama prevails, how close it came to losing here and there during the regular season or Monday night will just be lost under the glimmer of national championship No. 19 and No. 7 under Saban.
“We’ve gotten to see them once already and know how good they are,” Smart said. “They really do not have any weaknesses across the board. They’re playing really good football right now.”
Key words — right now.
Part of the reason Georgia may be considered a favorite right now is the fact that there is a notion that it is difficult to beat the same team twice in a season. In the previous time there was a rematch in the national championship game, No. 1 LSU lost to No. 2 Alabama and Saban 21-0 after LSU had defeated the Tide 9-6 in overtime in the regular season.
“I don’t know that that experience is going to have anything to do with this experience,” Saban said. “I don’t know if there’s anything I can really take from that experience that’s going to have any effect or impact on this one.”
The important part to remember about that national championship pairing in the 2011 season is that LSU won a very close game in overtime in the first meeting after Alabama outgained it and missed three field goals. Georgia was done in the third quarter of its previous game with Alabama.
Alabama also had no inferiority complex festering against LSU, even though the Tigers had won two straight against the Tide entering that national title game.
Georgia, meanwhile, has been seeing red ever since 2008 as the Tide has won seven straight for the longest string of success ever in a series that began in 1895. Alabama’s previous high for consecutive wins was five from 1960-64.
Smart, who left Alabama’s defensive coordinator post after the 2015 national title to be Georgia’s coach, is 0-for-4 by himself with three of those in the postseason.
And Georgia has not won a national championship since the 1980 season. All the above numbers can add up to medication — self or otherwise.
“No, I do not,” Smart, a former Georgia defensive back, said Sunday when asked whether he thinks about about Georgia’s 41-year drought on national titles. Alabama has won seven since then.
“That’s the furthest from my concern,” Smart said.
“How does that make you feel?” Dr. Melfi might ask.
“What I feel is how do we stop Bryce Young?” Smart said. “And how do we control their front and how do we run the ball? How do we throw the ball with efficiency? How do we convert third downs and stop them in the red area?”
That’s a lot of questions.
And here is one more. If Bennett can’t do it again as in the first game, do you go with JT Daniels?
Yes. Smart needs to this time.
But that won’t be enough either. Alabama 38, Georgia 31.