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INDIANAPOLIS — After steamrolling opponents during the regular season, Georgia found its season coming to a crossroads in Atlanta. The defense had played phenomenal up until they ran into Bryce Young and the Alabama offense for the SEC Championship, giving them their first loss of the season. This game also gave a bit of doubt to the folks that predicted the Bulldogs would take home a National Championship.
Heading into their game against Michigan, the storyline was based around the Georgia offense, wondering who would step up and lead this team towards a rematch with the ‘Tide. We soon figured out that this football team had used that first loss as a tool to refocus on what got them there in the first place. There’s no denying this team has every tool needed to take home the hardware on Monday night, but Jordan Davis summed it up well for his team, saying this group used the Alabama loss to reset, especially on the practice field.
No. 1 Alabama (13-1) plays No. 3 Georgia (13-1) on Monday night at 8 eastern on ESPN. Georgia is a 2.5-point favorite on FanDuel.
“After the last Alabama game it was like our wake-up call. We realized that we had a lot of work to do and we hadn’t arrived yet. And we just came back, worked hard, and went out and played Michigan. And we’ve seen the result of that game. It’s just a different mindset switch from practice to where we carry ourselves in the locker room, especially like this week, grinding hard.”
But this team has also used that first meeting as a learning experience, knowing they didn’t respond in ways they had proven over the previous twelve games. A lot of punches were thrown by the Bill O’Brien led offense, which caught Georgia in a spot in which they didn’t respond quick enough. It’s not just an excuse, because Jordan Davis truly feels they’ve learned more about themselves over the last number of weeks. This Georgia team knows they didn’t respond correctly, so they are banking on responding differently on the field this time, according to Davis.
“Our defense is what you’ve seen for the last 12 weeks in the regular season. Alabama, they gave us a little fit. Threw a lot of haymakers and we couldn’t really respond like we wanted to. But with time, you get better. You learn more about yourself as a defense. You learn more about Alabama this time going into the game. So definitely this time around definitely will be different.”
For Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean, he understands the rivalry between the two coaches, even if it’s not about them in the locker room. The game hypes itself up, it doesn’t need any type of trash talk between the two teams, especially with a National Championship on the line. It’s not lost on Dean what this game means, but he also understands that he cannot get caught up in things he can’t control. This game will come down to who can execute the best in crucial spots, but he’s also well aware of the perception from the outside.
“It’s a rivalry, of course. Everybody hypes it up. Our coach once coached underneath the other coach. Everybody hypes it up. Of course it’s a big rival. It’s an SEC game.
“But as far as this game, it’s the national championship. This is the national championship,” Dean added. “Feel like everybody should be prepared to play at their best level, at their highest clip. And like I said before, the only thing that we’re focused on is winning. No matter how we get it done, we’ve just got to get it done.”
Looking back on that first meeting, Georgia has focused its attention over the past week on not just what Alabama did, but what other opponents had success with during the regular season. That means looking back at teams like Auburn, Tennessee and Arkansas, and finding the things Alabama could use against them on Monday night. This is key for Georgia, according to Dean.
“We’re looking at every little thing from the scheme that we use, the scheme that they used to how we can possibly take advantage of some things that we did – how we can play better, finish better, and from the back end to the front seven.
“So we looked at every little thing how we can get better,” Dean added about preparation. “Not just from that game but from the games throughout the season where we feel like they might attack us and basically what other teams have had success in going throughout the season. We looked at every little thing. We’re trying to leave every stone unturned.”
When it comes to proving that the regular season wasn’t a fluke, this Georgia football team isn’t worried about proving anyone right, they’re just focused on finishing the job. The team set a goal during winter workouts last year, which was to be in this spot, playing for a championship. So you won’t have to worry about any change in mindset for this group, according to Nakobe, with just over 24 hours until they take the field at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“As far as proving, I don’t feel like we’re going in with that mindset that we’ve got to prove anything. We’re just going in with the same mindset that we always go in. And that’s to be elite and have complete dominance. And it’s one main goal for this last game and that’s to win. So no matter how it happens, how ugly or pretty it is, it’s just one main goal, winning the game.”
It’s almost time for the Bulldogs to go out and make good on the goal they set last January. This team is dangerous and they’re ready to prove that point one more time.