Patrick Grudberg ‘24
Since the introduction of the College Football Playoff, a pantheon of four elite programs have emerged; Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma. The four have combined for twenty appearances in the Playoff while the rest of the college football landscape has mustered only eight appearances. The only other teams to even reach the championship since 2014 are Oregon, Georgia and LSU, with LSU being the lone champion apart from the elite four. Entering this college football season, most fans expected the same dominance that has defined the Playoff era of college football.
But, to the surprise of almost everybody, we finally have chaos at the top. Clemson has been extremely mediocre, starting off 3-2 and barely squeaking out a victory this past weekend versus Boston College. Ohio State stumbled at home against Oregon in Week Two, then Oregon went and laid an egg versus Stanford this past Saturday. In the latest AP poll, the top ten is filled with newcomers like Iowa, Penn State, Cincinnati, Michigan, and BYU. Other than the SEC, major conferences like the ACC and the PAC 12 are headlined by the likes of Wake Forest, Oregon State and Arizona State. In what kind of world is Wake Forest, who has achieved double digit wins only once in school history, ahead of Clemson, Florida State and Miami?
Yet, despite all this chaos and wide-openness of this year’s landscape, two teams have remained dominant; the Alabama Crimson Tide and Georgia Bulldogs. Honestly, we expected nothing less from Nick Saban’s well-oiled machine, who have outscored opponents 228-91 so far. But for Georgia, it’s safe to assume that nobody expected this level of play. After finishing 8-2 in last year’s shortened season, the Bulldogs have looked unstoppable, outsourcing their opponents 205-23. Georgia’s defense has only allowed 4.6 points per game so far! And these victories came against respectable opponents, including Clemson and 13th ranked Arkansas. With the rest of college football stuck in a tornado of chaos, Bama and UGA sit cautiously in the eye of the storm for now.
If results go according to plan, the two will likely meet in the SEC Championship game. It would be the next chapter in what has been a thrilling saga of matchups. The recent battles between UGA and Bama started in the 2012 SEC championship when Mark Richt’s Georgia came yards short of a conference title. The rivalry was renewed when the two met in the 2018 College Football Playoff Championship Game, which produced arguably the most captivating championship game in the Playoff era. All Georgia fans cringe in pain when they hear Chris Fowler’s iconic call of the walk-off touchdown from Tua Tagovailoa to Devonta Smith. Later that calendar year, Saban and Kirby Smart’s teams met once again in the SEC championship game. And once again, Alabama broke the hearts of all Georgia fans, storming back from a 14-28 deficit to claim another conference title.
As much as I’d love to see new teams get their shot at the Playoff, there is nothing I want to see more than a rematch between Georgia and Alabama. We know they will most likely meet in the SEC championship, and they might even meet again in the Playoff. Can you imagine Georgia’s historically dominant defense battling against Bama’s offense led by young starter Bryce Young? We know Alabama will always have one of the best offenses and defenses in the country. But Georgia’s offense, which has been the inconsistent missing piece in the past, boasts four elite running backs in Zamir White, James Cook, Kendall Milton and Kenny Mcintosh. Even with JT Daniels injured at QB, their backup Stetson Bennet IV (nicknamed “The Mailman”) has been slinging it around with ease. I may be biased considering that I am a huge Georgia Bulldogs fan, but I doubt anyone wants another Bama vs. Ohio State or Oklahoma in the championship game. If we can’t get one of the newcomers like Iowa or Cincinnati in the Playoff, give us the newest chapter in the most underrated modern rivalry in college football.