So, what would you care to discuss today? What’s that you say? There’s a football game this Saturday? Well, sakes alive, I’m looking at RedCrake’s handy printable college football TV schedule, and darned if it doesn’t appear that you’re right! Evidently, the Georgia Bulldogs will be taking on the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game this weekend. Imagine that!
I reckon I could provide you with a handful of details. I suppose I could offer you a sackful of specifics. Under the circumstances, though, I hope you won’t mind that I’ve decided to bring you . . . Too Much Information:
As any ‘Bama fan or national pundit will be happy to tell you, Georgia and Alabama have met only once before, in the 2008 “blackout” game. Wait, what? Hold on a minute; I just looked that up to make sure, and it turns out that these two teams have met on the gridiron 65 times since 1895---exactly the same number of times the Bulldogs have faced the South Carolina Gamecocks---and the series was an annual affray from 1944 to 1965, when the yearly border war was suspended in the wake of the Saturday Evening Post scandal. Who knew?
Though Alabama holds the all-time series lead (albeit not by as wide a margin as you might think), Georgia has posted a 6-6 ledger against the Tide since Ray Goff’s senior season in the Classic City. Moreover, while Alabama historically has dominated the ‘Dawgs both in Athens (12-7) and in Tuscaloosa (7-2), the Tide hold only the slimmest of series leads in games played at neutral sites (17-16-4). The Bulldogs have a winning record (3-2) against the Crimson Tide in Atlanta, where Georgia has beaten Alabama three straight times, most recently in the Red and Black’s 1942 national championship campaign.
The ‘Bama D has given up 91 first downs through the air and 13 first downs by penalty. The Bulldog D has given up 91 first downs through the air and 14 first downs by penalty.
Saturday’s showdown represents the Bulldogs’ fifth trip to the SEC Championship Game under Mark Richt. The Red and Black won their first and third title tilts in 2002 and 2005 while losing their second and fourth treks to the Dome in 2003 and 2011. Apparently, Georgia’s experience in the SEC Championship Game is diametrically opposed to fans’ experience with “Star Trek” movies starring the original series cast; in the Bulldogs’ case, it’s the odd ones that are good and the even ones that stink. Say, I forgot to ask the Georgia Tech fans before they were sent packing last Saturday; is five an odd number or an even number? It’s an odd number? Good, good. Alabama, incidentally, has never won consecutive appearances in the conference title clash, following up a 1992 win with a 1993 loss and a 1999 victory with a 2008 setback. The Tide prevailed in their last SEC Championship Game appearance in 2009.
In the likely event you believe the field position battle will prove significant, I have some good news for you: Alabama ranks tenth in the SEC in opponents’ punting average and twelfth in the SEC in opponents’ kickoff return average.
A close game is expected on Saturday, and this favors the Bulldogs: Georgia is 10-8-4 all-time against Alabama in contests settled by seven points or fewer.
The Tide lead the nation in scoring defense (9.3 points per game permitted), stand atop the NCAA in total defense (233.7 total yards per game surrendered), rank second in the land against the run (77.0 rushing yards per game allowed), and are third in Division I-A against the pass (156.7 passing yards per game conceded).
Thanks to wins over the Alabama Crimson Tide in 1965, the Clemson Tigers in 1982, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in 1991, the Florida Gators in 1997 and 2007, the LSU Tigers in 2004 and 2008, and the Auburn Tigers in 2011, as well as losses to the Tennessee Volunteers in 1999 and to the Florida Gators in 2009, the Georgia Bulldogs are 8-2 against defending national champions in the last 48 years, with both losses coming in years ending in “9.”
In 2011, Alabama won the national championship. 2012 is not a year that ends in “9.”
There has been no shortage of analysis about this game elsewhere, and we have looked at the parallel histories of the programs and the coaches; examined the matchup humorously, seriously, and poetically; and discussed the subject on the radio, on television, and on the podcast, but where, in the final analysis, do we stand?
Honestly? I think we’re where we were three months and one week ago. I’ve been saying all week that it wouldn’t surprise me to see the ‘Dawgs pull off one of those out-of-the-blue shockers they seem to manufacture once every successful season, stunning (among others) Georgia Tech in 2002, Tennessee in 2003, and Louisiana State in 2004 and in the 2005 SEC Championship Game. That something wicked this way may come has been hinted at not just by five straight weeks of holding the opposition to a season-low point total, but by such indicia of Evil Richt’s presence as player chest-thumping and confident comments at postgame press conferences. I’m feeling it, folks; I think the same Mark Richt that handed Nick Saban’s defending national champions a 45-16 beatdown in 2004 is going to be standing on the sideline in the Georgia Dome this weekend.
Incidentally, one of Mark Richt’s children was born on December 1, 1994; this Saturday, on the day his father will be coaching the Red and Black in the SEC Championship Game, David Richt will become a legal adult in time to see Mark Richt’s players prove they are man enough to win what some say is just another game for invincible Alabama. I could be wrong, but I think we’ve got ‘em right where we want ‘em.
My Prediction: Georgia Bulldogs 34, Alabama Crimson Tide 17.