Bulldogs must flush Alabama, its aura, and the past Saturday

Credit: AJC file photo/Bob Andres

Credit: AJC file photo/Bob Andres

Alabama the ideal is unbeatable. That’s the powerful, pulsing aura it has created by winning half of the past dozen national championships and by consistently pulling out Georgia’s hopes and dreams by the roots and turning them into a side salad for its own victory feast.

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That swirly crimson “A” represents the combined misery of every rejection letter ever written. Every first date that flopped. Every bully’s wedgie.

Ah, but Alabama the football team as currently constituted, is eminently beatable. For the first time it seems since all there was to bet on in Las Vegas was scorpion races, the Crimson Tide are not favored in Saturday’s SEC Championship game. And for good reason. Georgia is better.

All that’s left for the Bulldogs is to follow through on its ample advantages in speed and muscle and put to rest the Bama tyranny. Granted, there are two areas – quarterbacking and coaching – where Bama holds the edge, both considerable pluses. Still, the great bulk of overall manpower favors Georgia.

They’ve done all the hard work. Stacked up top recruiting classes like cordwood. Spent like drunken politicians to ensure their players have the same gold-plated, Bluetooth-enabled, Disneyesque facilities as all the other powers in the sport. Recalibrated expectations to the championship-or-bust level. Now the Bulldogs just have to convince themselves they can close the deal with Alabama.

They can beat this team. But can they beat this name? That’s really what they’re playing for now, to demystify all that goes with one seven-letter word so powerfully self-assured that it requires only a single vowel: ALABAMA.

Georgia’s past three meetings with the Tide were loaded with the could-haves/should-haves. The Bulldogs carried leads into the second half of each. Perhaps the time has come to carry that lead all the way out the door of Mercedes-Benz Stadium and onto Northside Drive at the end of business Saturday.

There’s a narrative running loose about how Alabama comes into this one so much more battle-tested than Georgia. Why, just look at the way the Tide drove 97 desperate yards to tie Auburn, then win in overtime Saturday. While Bama has won four games by seven points or less – and losing a three-pointer to Texas A&M – Georgia has glided through its conference schedule and been only marginally tested by Clemson.

No one can know how this batch of Bulldogs will react should they find themselves in a tight game in the final minutes. They say they have drilled for that situation in practice, which is nice but absurd. That’s like saying you can fully prepare for a hurricane by turning your hair dryer to high.

What’s next for UGA?

After the Georgia Bulldogs’ first loss of the season to Alabama, what happens next?

The Bulldogs fell from No. 1 to No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings and are set to face No. 2. Michigan (12-1) in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Eve.

Journalists from the AJC are providing complete coverage of the SEC Championship and the decisions on Sunday about the College Football Playoffs.

Readers will find updated coverage in print and ePaper editions, the AJC app and on ajc.com.

Sunday ePaper College Football Extra: Expanded photos and coverage of UGA and the SEC Championship

On Twitter: Follow UGA reporter Chip Towers @ctowersajc, @AJCSports and @ajc

On Facebook: UGASportsNewsNow

On Instagram: @ajcnews

Championship Saturday: Scores from all the conference title games

Latest UGA updates

Those blinded by the Alabama aura look at these facts and say, see, the great Saban always will find a way.

Those more attuned to the now might respond that maybe there’s a sound reason the Bulldogs are winning so easily, one that might hold for the next month or so: They’re just that good.

Playing the comparative score game is dangerous business, but apt in this case: Georgia and Bama have had four common opponents this season – Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas and Auburn. The Bulldogs have beaten them by a combined score of 146-34. For Alabama, that score is 149-110. Such a massive difference, especially in defensive performance, must have some practical application this weekend at the Benz.

As Alabama’s Nick Saban himself said, “It’s great to have the resiliency to overcome (deficits), but you’d like to be able to sustain with consistency so you don’t get in those situations.”

Coaches being coaches, both Saban and Kirby Smart attempt to distance themselves from their one-sided recent history. But the past very much matters, be that in civics or in football. Georgia always will be the team that can’t beat Alabama – and has been outscored 62-14 in the second half, and 31-0 in the fourth quarter, of the past three meetings – until it isn’t. Those memories are bound to bounce around inside helmets and headsets until forcefully evicted.

The Bulldogs can’t allow themselves to be done in by a name, a track record, a reputation this time. There’s only one way to rewrite the course of Georgia vs. Alabama, and it is overdue.

That’s to beat the beatable team, smash the unbeatable aura, and make your own damn name.

What’s next for UGA?

After the Georgia Bulldogs’ first loss of the season to Alabama, what happens next?

The Bulldogs fell from No. 1 to No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings and are set to face No. 2. Michigan (12-1) in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Eve.

Journalists from the AJC are providing complete coverage of the SEC Championship and the decisions on Sunday about the College Football Playoffs.

Readers will find updated coverage in print and ePaper editions, the AJC app and on ajc.com.

Sunday ePaper College Football Extra: Expanded photos and coverage of UGA and the SEC Championship

On Twitter: Follow UGA reporter Chip Towers @ctowersajc, @AJCSports and @ajc

On Facebook: UGASportsNewsNow

On Instagram: @ajcnews

Championship Saturday: Scores from all the conference title games

Latest UGA updates

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