There are only so many times you can bring up the past. That’s the case for Georgia this week, as they prepare for Alabama and the SEC Championship on Saturday. We can go back to the previous years and try to figure out whether past games will have any bearing on future performances, but make no mistake, these Dawgs are looking to finish what they’ve started.
We all remember the 2018 national championship game when Georgia had backed up Alabama to a second and forever, only to see Tua Tagovailoa hit a bomb down the left sideline for a touchdown, and just like that, the Dawgs’ season was finished.
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Eleven months after that Tua pass down the sideline, we were back in the same spot, as Georgia was looking to capture the 2019 SEC title. It was that game where Jalen Hurts came off the bench and led his team down the field like a magician, ripping the championship away from Georgia. It was like something out of a movie. The confetti fell from the rafters, and Kirby Smart walked off the field knowing they’d let another game slip away.
When asked about the previous matchups with Alabama, Kirby Smart was quick to point out that every season is different and that they can’t focus on the past.
“Well, I hadn’t been a part of all those (previous games), 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,” Smart added. “That’s the goal.”
But the Dawgs are right back in the fold, having put those games in the rearview mirror, knowing they can’t let those outings affect this season. There were doubts about whether the Bulldogs could get back to this point. We see it in college football every year, with teams not being able to build off the previous year, most recently LSU.
But this matchup between Georgia and Alabama has the chance of changing the mindset about Georgia because one of two things will happen on Saturday. One: Georgia will continue the narrative that they can’t beat Alabama or take advantage of the opportunities presented to them. Two: Kirby Smart will finally lead the Dawgs to a victory over the Tide and finally silence the narrative that his team can’t win the big game. Either way, there will be some sort of narrative shift on Saturday.
If Kirby Smart is thinking about last season’s 41-24 loss in Tuscaloosa, you wouldn’t be able to tell from what he says.
“I think experience is extremely valuable, but I don’t know that it’s pertinent to having played them. What it’s pertinent to is playing in the SEC schedule and playing the gauntlet that you play. And him playing last year certainly helped him this year, and playing more this year helps him this year.
“It’s not relative to who you play,” Smart added. “It’s relative to playing.”
If Kirby can’t get it done on Saturday, he might not have to wait long for a rematch, as they could see each other in the Playoff. But that’s not the point. We look at this Georgia football team as world beaters this season. A team with such a dominant defense that it keeps the starters off the field in the 4th quarter, due to the overwhelming score.
But to beat Alabama, this team will need to shut down Bryce Young by putting as much pressure on him as possible. We saw how Young reacted to pressure against Texas A&M and Auburn, so the Bulldog defense won’t have to change their game plan much. The most overwhelming obstacle for Georgia will be keeping the Tide from connecting downfield, though they’ve prevented the long ball against other opponents all season. Bring the heat on Young and Alabama will have to offset it with the running game, which didn’t pass the 90 yard mark against Auburn last weekend.
The Georgia game plan won’t be the problem, it’s the mental hurdle that Georgia fans are hoping Kirby Smart can guide this team through.
But we now face the the biggest test of them all, as Georgia has run through its opponents all season. We’ve been waiting for this matchup because we wanted to see whether the Bulldogs are as good as their record suggests, and there are only a few teams in the country that can test that theory like Alabama. So, if Kirby Smart wants to finally get that Alabama monkey off his back, his team must bring the same intensity we’ve seen for the previous twelve games.
Show no mercy, finish your opponent. If we get the same ferocious Bulldogs that have laid waste to every opponent this season, then Kirby Smart will be smoking a victory cigar in the locker room on Saturday night. If not, we’ll continue asking the same questions about Georgia we’ve been dissecting for years.
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Can Georgia finally win the big game? We’re about to find out.