History is not on Georgia’s side heading into the national championship game. That will also mean nothing when it is gametime. Georgia’s historic defense is looking forward to the challenge of facing Heisman Winner Bryce Young again, while trying to bring a championship back to Athens for the first time since 1980.
The narratives and storylines about Kirby Smart’s 0-4 record against Alabama will be big talking points, but it ultimately has no effect on what will happen on Monday night. Smart was even asked on Sunday if he thinks about the wieght of Georgia’s previous struggles against the Crimson Tide.
“No, I do not,” said Smart. “What I feel is how do we stop Bryce Young and how do we control their front and how do we run the ball, how do we throw the ball with efficiency, how do we convert third downs and stop them in the red area. That’s the furthest from my concern because I don’t at all control that.”
The Bulldogs were humbled in the first matchup with the Crimson Tide. Young was able to throw right over Georgia’s secondary, which had not happened all season to that point.
Humbling experiences and reality checks can benefit a team though, especially with the way Georgia bounced back with a complete performance in the Orange Bowl against Michigan. However, a ‘mental block’ is not how Georgia players would describe their upcoming opponent.
“I don’t think it’s a mental block,” said outside linebacker Nolan Smith. “I think the first time we played them we gave up a couple big plays. You change three plays in the game the game could be different. One of those plays was on myself. I should be more aware to jump on the ball instead of pick it up and run. You can’t have small mistakes in those big games because it’s a game of inches.”
Alabama will also be without star receiver John Metchie in this matchup. Metchie tore his ACL in the SEC Championship game. The Tide will still be with star receiver Jameson Williams, who tore up the Bulldogs secondary in the first matchup.
But not having Metchie allows Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning to cue in on Williams and slot receiver Slade Bolden in this matchup.
The stakes are too high to be worried about who the opponent actually is, not schematically, but mentally. Almost nothing can be worse than thinking you are about to be national champions, only to be fooled on the next play for a touchdown on second and 26.
The Bulldogs have been through the worst already, and this time they have the deeper and healthier team heading into the game. There is a reason Vegas has them as the favorites, even with what happened in the first matchup. Granted, Alabama might have the best player in Bryce Young, but he also had his best career game in the first go around.
All it takes it one more signature performance and the Bulldogs have a chance to break the so-called ‘curse.’
“The whole team is bought into the plan, to, like, just everything, extra film, extra conditioning, just doing the little things extra that we need to get us to the next level,” said defensive lineman Jordan Davis.
“I’ve had three shots at Alabama and I haven’t beaten them yet… As a team, winning the national championship, that’s what we’re grinding for, what we’re working for all season. Of course it’s going to be an amazing feeling. We haven’t won a national championship since 1980.”
Davis said it best, a national championship is what the team has been working for since the start of spring ball. If it happens to happen against Alabama, then so be it – Georgia knocks out two birds with one stone. The first one happens to be way more important.