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.
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.