Coupled with the joy of the trip to Pasadena and those national title dreams, the faith, promise and hope that this will be the first of several dances with destiny.
The worst part about the playoff, there is precious little time to enjoy what is naturally a win for the ages. In Alabama’s case, it was a third straight season with Clemson as the postseason opposition. Two years ago, Bama beat the Tigers, last year Clemson won a classic, then last Monday it was sheer dominance as the Crimson Tide rolled to a 24-6 Sugar Bowl victory.
This has become old hat for Alabama in the Nick Saban era, as this will be Alabama’s sixth national championship game appearance in the last nine seasons.
For Georgia, driven back to the elite by the young Bulldog born and bred Kirby Smart, who helped build the Bama dynasty as Saban’s defensive coordinator, the refocus is naturally tougher. All the Bulldogs did was win maybe the greatest Rose Bowl ever over mighty Oklahoma 54-48 in double overtime – Georgia’s epic victory the program’s grandest since Notre Dame was vanquished in the 1981 Sugar Bowl to capture the national championship.
The Bulldogs last national championship.
There have been close calls and near misses, the New Year’s Day 1983 loss in the Sugar Bowl to Penn State spoiled a perfect season and the 2012 SEC Championship Game heartbreaker to none other than Bama that cost the Bulldogs a crack at Notre Dame for the big prize are two the bookend the Bulldogs close calls. In 2002, Georgia went 13-1, but two undefeated teams, Miami and Ohio State, met for the national title. The Bulldogs went 11-2 and finished No. 2 in 2007, but missed out on the SEC Championship Game and a berth in the National Championship Game. Two-loss LSU captured both crowns.
Well, here Georgia is, on the brink, against none other than Alabama, playing for the national championship for the sixth time in nine seasons.
It has been a long time coming for the Bulldogs, and this game, this gridiron battle for the national championship against the Titan of the game.
But there is a red storm rising in Athens. As precious as this opportunity is, as huge as this game is, what Georgia has done this season, what Georgia did between Thanksgiving and Christmas has given further enhanced the excitement and expectations for the Bulldog faithful.
With a perfect home record and SEC East title in hand, the Bulldogs won the state crown with a 38-7 trouncing of Tech on the flats. The following week in Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, site too of course for the National Championship Game Monday night, Georgia avenged its lone loss of the season with a 28-7 pull away triumph over Auburn, delivering the Bulldogs the program’s first SEC crown since 2005, the 13th in program history, tied with Tennessee for the second most behind Bama.
One day later, Georgia, 12-1, SEC champion, was rightfully awarded one of those four precious spots in the fourth College Football Playoff. It would be Oklahoma in Pasadena.
With Georgia riding a high unseen since the glory days of the early 1980s, Smart and the Dogs capitalized, and in the first early signing period of the 21st century, secured what is currently rated across the board as the top class in the country. Six consensus “Five-Star” recruits signed with Georgia, including three who had previously been committed Tennessee, Penn State, and Ohio State. According to Scout.com, Georgia pulled in eight of the nation’s top 39 players. Rivals.com rated six Georgia signees amongst the top 18 in the country.
Recruiting and reloading, that’s been the key to Bama’s success. In seven of the previous ten years, Saban’s Crimson Tide wound up with the nation’s top class. Smart was a big part of that.
Now Georgia, the shining program, the sleeping giant has awoken, in one of the most talent-rich states for prep prospects in the country, is following the same path under Smart’s watch.
Coupled with the joy of the trip to Pasadena and those national title dreams, another sparkling class, which is already about 80 percent complete, is the faith, promise and hope that this will be the first of several dances with destiny.
Then came the epic performance in “The Granddaddy of Them All.”
Georgia’s victory over Oklahoma on the Bulldogs second trip to Pasadena goes down as maybe the greatest Rose Bowl ever and arguably the grandest game of the 21st century. The Bulldogs other Rose Bowl came 75 years to the day earlier, as the Dogs, SEC champions with only a loss to Auburn, beat UCLA and were the consensus national champions of 1942.
It has been a glorious holiday season – now extended a week.
Smart, who turned 42 just before Christmas, will try and become the first former Saban assistant to defeat him.
It would be the dream ending to a dream season, one of Georgia’s greatest ever. And the continuation to the beginning of a run to perhaps rival the one being enjoyed by the Bulldogs Monday night opponent.
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