College Football gets its inevitable Georgia-Alabama title revenge

Georgia, the defensive mammoth, and Alabama, the perennial juggernaut, appeared to be on a collision course to the top of college football all season.

They got a shot at each other at the Southeastern Conference Championship in December – a game where the Bulldogs barely looked like the giant they had been from their first game. On Friday, each team frolic past their College Football Playoff semifinal opponent and earned the chance to meet again in the battle for the Indianapolis National Crown on Jan. 10 – if the game is not disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Alabama (13-1), which has won six national titles under Nick Saban (he took over the team in 2007), advanced to its sixth national championship game since 2015. Georgia (13-1), a program that has come close but has not won a national championship since 1980, advanced to his second national title game in five years (the Bulldogs lost to Alabama in overtime in 2018).

Alabama, after pummel Ohio State in January to end one of the most dominant seasons in college football history, entered the 2021 season with the rest of the nation in the wake.

Living up to last season’s output seemed unlikely as Crimson Tide – who lost a handful of players to the 2021 NFL draft, including their 2020 Heisman Trophy winner, DeVonta Smith – hardly edged out Florida in their SEC opener and lost to Texas A&M less than a month later.

Georgia, which went into 2021 with the country’s top-rated recruiting class, took over No. 1 spot, according to 247Sports, as it rolled through its schedule and went undefeated in conference games.

And Alabama, despite its inconsistencies, remained a top-five team heading into its regular season finale against Auburn. Saban, strict as ever, admonished his fans’ criticism of his team’s imperfections ahead of the Iron Bowl in late November.

“When I came here, everyone was happy to win a match,” Saban said said in his radio program. “Now we are not happy to win a match anymore.”

A week after theirs Iron Bowl victoryAlthough offensively stagnant in the game, the Crimson Tide smashed the nation’s best defense, collecting over 500 yards of total offense against a Georgia team that only allowed about 250 yards per game. match. Before giving away 41 points to Alabama, the Bulldogs had only given up more than 13 points in a game once this season.

The loss dropped Georgia coach Kirby Smart, once assistant coach on Saban’s Alabama staff, to 0-4 against his former boss.

Afterwards, Smart told reporters that the embarrassing loss after an unbeaten season did not do much harm to the Bulldogs’ psyche.

“What it did was revive our energy,” Smart said. “It centers you again.”

That was evident in Georgia’s 34-11 defeat of No. 2 Michigan in the Orange Bowl, a physical game in which the Bulldogs’ defensive unit was almost perfect.

“We knew we were better than what we showed last game,” quarterback Stetson Bennett said during the Orange Bowls trophy ceremony after the game.

The Bulldogs will have a chance to avenge a poor performance on the line where they, uncharacteristically, were bullied in the SEC Championship. While Georgia had no trouble putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks all season, the team failed to record a firing against Alabama a few weeks ago.

But the Bulldogs’ athletic defense, as motivated as it will be at Lucas Oil Stadium, will face Alabama’s offensive line at its best.

When Crimson Tide struggled offensively in the regular season, it was often due to inconsistencies in the performance of its offensive line. Against Auburn, several crashes in the pass protection allowed the rushers to have easy chances of getting quarterback Bryce Young down (he was fired seven times).

In the conference title game, however, Young had the time and protection he needed to find receivers down the field and to play with his feet. And against the Bearcats in the Cotton Bowl, the Crimson Tides offensive line made room to drive back Brian Robinson Jr. to rush into a career as Alabama ran past Cincinnati to advance to the title fight.

The championship match – if not derailed – will be the 72nd meeting between the teams. Alabama has won the last seven, and it will be the SEC’s seventh season in a row that sends at least one team to the national championship game.

College football, although it was certainly disrupted in several ways by the pandemic, made it through most of this season with few interruptions before the bowl matches started. But as the highly contagious Omicron variant led to a nationwide increase in cases, the leagues mixed their schedules, several bowl matches were canceled, and the College Football Playoff changed its health protocols in hopes of retaining the key matches.

Late Friday night, with seconds left before their win over Michigan ended, the Bulldogs appeared to dump a cooler cold liquid on the winning coach’s head.

Instead of taking part in the playful festive gesture, one could watch Smart speak emphatically to his players and wave from their attempts at an early shower.

After one of their best seasons for years, a well-known enemy awaits. The job is not finished yet.

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