If you’ve been following the SEC this season, you probably found yourself looking ahead and wondering what a conference title game between Alabama and Georgia would look like. We’ve all heard the talk. The Dawgs dominated each opponent this season, while the Tide found a way to get to Atlanta after a few close calls. But it’s always been about this game and whether Georgia could finally finish this thing off.
Georgia opened as a 6.5 point favorite, according to FanDuel.
It’s hard to walk away and not talk about that looming giant when you’re consistently dominating opponents. Let’s face it, Georgia hasn’t had to play a four-quarter game in a while. So it could’ve been easy for them to look ahead. But they didn’t. Georgia players and coaches have been getting the question about the collision course in Atlanta for the past month now, but most of them have been focused on the task at hand, even after they had the East locked up.
The fact that Georgia put their head down and continued to work without discussing Alabama publicly doesn’t mean they weren’t thinking about it. But Kirby Smart has done a fantastic job of getting his team to focus on the task at hand, which now leads to the showdown on Saturday.
“Everyone’s kind of had it circled and seen it out there,” Smart said. “We’ve really tried to work hard on getting better. That’s been the emphasis — what can we improve on? The last two weeks, we’ve been trying to be ascending. We’ve tried to get some guys back healthy. And that’s going to be the focus this week — nobody trying to do more than they should.”
Even going back to Saturday against Georgia Tech, Kirby Smart didn’t have to worry about the team and their focus because of the leaders who have stepped up and led the charge. They wanted to finish a perfect regular season, which they did with the 45-0 win over Georgia Tech.
But the one thing you could question about this squad is their ability to play for four quarters and get into a sixty minute fight. The Dawgs haven’t had to do this since the Clemson game, which came down to the final minutes. I know it sounds crazy, but that is the only time this team has truly been tested for an entire game. The starters have usually been on the sidelines with a towel over their head whenever the final quarter began, so it’s not wrong to wonder whether this team is ready for a 12-round fight. But Kirby Smart said that this team has held each other accountable during the week, especially on keeping their stamina in the right spot.
“The Clemson game was the first game of the year, and I thought we were a little tired. We had to play the whole time,” Smart said. “But we’ve worked really hard on Mondays and Tuesdays, running guys, trying to make sure we’re keeping our stamina up. We hold each other accountable. They’re up for the task. They’ve answered the bell, and they’ve done the right things.”
When asked after the game what it meant to beat Georgia Tech, quarterback Stetson Bennet acknowledged the importance of the perfect regular season but also expressed excitement about what lies ahead.
“It means a lot. It’s the first 12-0 season since 1982. It’s a big accomplishment. Now, all the fun starts.”
Saturday will mark the third time Georgia and Alabama have met for the SEC conference crown. Alabama was victorious in the two previous meetings in 2012 and 2018 and has beaten the Dawgs six straight times. But we all know that previous meetings don’t have much influence on the current game if you don’t let it get into your head (see the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry for further proof.) Kirby Smart made it clear that they aren’t thinking of the past. He actually thinks their best game is yet to be played, which is a scary thought.
“Well, I hadn’t been a part of all those (previous games against Alabama), but obviously, 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, make it some kind of overlap. Every year is independent of the previous. Our job is to go play the best possible game we can. That’s what we’ve been trying to build towards this year. We haven’t played our best yet, and we think our best is still out there. That’s the goal.”
The entire college football world has been waiting on this matchup for a few months now, and it’s finally upon us. After a hard week of practice, each team will head to Atlanta on Friday and meet with the media one more time. After that, the talk and buildup will finally end. It will be time to suit up and collide on the field.