Patrick Grudberg ‘24
For the third time since 2010, Georgia and Alabama are set to meet in the SEC Championship Game. This rivalry has given us some of the greatest games of college football in recent memory. The 2018 National Championship game had Tua Tagovailoa’s unexpected heroics in a heartbreaking comeback win (it still pains me to watch the game-winning pass to Devonta Smith four years later). Some people forget the 2019 SEC Championship, where Alabama once again overcame a two score lead to beat Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs. However, this year’s installment could have been a whole lot wackier. Alabama narrowly escaped defeat last weekend in the Iron Bowl versus Auburn. If the Crimson Tide had lost that game, the playoff committee would have a difficult decision to make if Bama wins the SEC as a two loss team. Regardless, here we are, an undefeated Georgia team who has looked immortal all year going against the perennial juggernauts of Alabama with Heisman hopeful Bryce Young leading the charge.
In all honesty, is there a roadmap for Alabama to win this game? History would tell you yes, the Crimson Tide have more than a fighter’s chance. Saban’s team has won the last six outings against the Dawgs dating back to 2008. No matter how good Georgia seems, it always seems risky to pick Georgia over Alabama. The way Alabama wins this game is by disrupting Georgia’s passing attack, led by former walk-on Stetson Bennett. Nicknamed the Mailman, the senior quarterback stepped in after JT Daniel’s injury and has kept the offense rolling without skipping a beat. Even with Daniels healthy, Kirby Smart has decided to keep Bennett in as the starter. But in big games, Georgia fans would probably feel more comfortable with Daniels at the helm. After stepping into the starting role last season, the USC transfer completely revamped the Bulldogs’ offense. Whoever is starting at QB, Alabama’s defense, who ranks just outside the top ten in defensive efficiency, will need to get some stops in order to stay in the game. If they let Georgia take an early lead, it’ll be extremely difficult to come back playing against Kirby Smart’s historically elite defense.
As good as Bryce Young is, it’ll be hard for him to win this game himself. This will by far be the toughest defense he has faced in his short career as a starting quarterback. Unsurprisingly, Georgia ranks first in defensive efficiency and almost all other defensive metrics. However, this is also the best offense the Bulldogs have had to face this season. If Young is truly a Heisman candidate, he needs to find a way to put up points and keep his team in the game.
As a Georgia fan, the thing that worries me the most is taking a big lead into halftime. We saw it in both the ‘18 National Championship game and the ‘19 SEC Championship. Georgia was up 20-7 and 21-7 respectively in those games. And as we all know, Georgia lost both those games. It might be better for the psyche of Georgia fans to be tied or losing at half so there is no chance of a choke job. No matter how good Georgia has looked this season, I knew it would come down to a showdown with Bama. It always has to be. They’re the final boss battle in Kirby Smart’s journey towards a national championship. Will a former Nick Saban assistant claim only the second win against the master on Saturday afternoon? We’ll just have to wait and see.