Alright. Alright. Alright. The game that all of us SEC fans have been waiting for since last season ended is finally here. Undefeated, and 8th ranked Georgia is set to square off against a one loss Alabama squad coming in at 13 in the most recent polls. Georgia has been impressive thus far this season, led by Nick Chubb, Greyson Lambert, and a dominant defense. On the other hand, Alabama is still Alabama, and is top to bottom one of, if not, the most talented team in college football. No, this is not a night (or a blackout) game. College Gameday won’t be in the house (Thank God). Heck, this isn’t even a top 10 matchup (Thanks Ole Mi$$). But, don’t be fooled my friends. This game will be the heaviest of heavy weight fights, and will define both teams/programs for years to come.
To really understand the significance of this game you first need to understand the history here between these two programs over the last decade or so. It all really comes down to two games that irreversibly changed the direction of and defined each program for years to come.
I’ll begin with the infamous ‘Blackout Game’ in 2008. Georgia entered that season as the number 1 ranked team in the country. They had Matthew Stafford, Knowshon, a young freshman by the name of AJ green, Geno Atkins, Dannell Ellerbe, Reshad Jones, etc. (With the amount of talent UGA had that season, I don’t think Mark Richt Should ever be forgiven for losing 4 games…..but that’s another story) After steadily improving year after year under Mark Richt, 2008 was supposed to be the year that Georgia reached the summit and won that lovely crystal ball. Alabama on the other hand, came into that season ranked 24th and was a program that was seemingly lost after going 7-6 the season before and just 33-30 over the previous 5 seasons. I won’t go into detail (and quite frankly have blacked that game out of my memory for the most part), but we all know what happened that night in Athens. Alabama beat the hell out of Georgia on national television and made a statement. From that point on Bama never looked back, and that game is now viewed by many as the catalyst that propelled Alabama and Nick Saban into the powerhouse that we know them as today. For Georgia on the other hand, that game defined the program that they have become for the past 7 seasons. Before that game Mark Richt was known for always winning the big ones, but since that dark night in late September the perception around Richt and his program has changed drastically. Georgia has become the team that always has all the talent, hype, and pieces to the puzzle, but for some reason always falls short. The 2008 Blackout game changed everything for both of these programs.
Then there was the 2012 SEC Championship game. The 3rd ranked Georgia Bulldogs faced off against the 2nd ranked Alabama Crimson Tide for a chance at not only the SEC championship, but a spot in the national title game as well. In the 4 seasons since that 2008 blackout game Alabama had dominated the SEC, winning 2 national championships and establishing themselves as a national power. Georgia, on the other hand, had continued the cycle of not living up to lofty preseason rankings and hype by continuously falling short when it mattered most. That game was Georgia’s perfect chance to not only redeem the 2008 blackout loss, but to also finally break the trend, shut up the critics, and win when it mattered most. 5 yards(5 freaking yards) kept Georgia from reaching their goal, and allowed the status quo for both programs to remain the same.
Well, 3 years later here we are. Bama and Georgia are set to face off Saturday in Sanford with EVERYTHING on the line for each program once again. What does Alabama stand to gain/lose? What does Georgia stand to gain/lose?
Bama is still atop Mt. Everest, and is unquestionably the most dominant, feared, and respected program in college football over the past 7 seasons. But, it appears as if the ‘ship’ is starting to develop some leaks. Bama has suffered back-to-back crushing losses in the Sugar bowl, they already have one loss this season, and for the first time in 5 years it appears as if they might not have the top recruiting class in the country. Yes, going to the Sugar bowl in back-to-back seasons is still very impressive, but this is Alabama we are talking about. They won 3 national championships in 4 seasons. If Bama wins, the dynasty will still be intact and the programs reputation maintained. But, if they lose to Georgia they can kiss their playoff hopes goodbye and Nick Saban’s dynasty at Alabama will begin to start falling apart.
Let’s be honest people, Georgia has been a running joke for the rest of the SEC over the past couple of seasons when it comes to falling short in big games and not living up to expectations (Although Butch Jones and Tennessee are making a strong case this year). The term "Georgiaing" has even been created to describe unexplainable losses in big games. But, this season there appears to be a whole new and different energy surrounding the program. Most people refer to it as "The Pruitt Effect." Ever since UGA hired Jeremy Pruitt away from FSU things have changed. Beginning with that hire, UGA has worked hard to model itself as closely as possible to Alabama over the past couple of years. Their staff is loaded with former Bama assistants, and even Nick Saban himself stated earlier this week that UGA’s football team looks a lot like some Bama teams of the past. It appears as if it’s worked too. For the first time in 72 games Alabama is the underdog. Led by Nick Chubb and a dominant defense, Georgia is viewed as the more talented team and favorite. After so many "what coulda, shoulda, and woulda been" seasons from UGA’s football team, this is the game that can change everything. If Georgia loses it would be devastating. A loss would prove that nothing has changed and that it’s just the same ole Georgia. Losing this game would solidify Mark Richt’s legacy as a good, but not great coach. But, If Georgia wins, this hype and energy will be validated, and the outside perception changed. A win would propel the program to the next level, and Championships, Heisman trophies (Nick Chubb), and eternal glory would await. Hopefully Mark Richt doesn’t pull a Mark Richt.
Will Bama’s dynasty continue or will Georgia come away with the big W? Saturday night we’ll have the answer.