Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Border War: Alabama vs Georgia sets up a classic for the ages.


It's Us versus Them.

Alabama did the improbable by reaching the 2017-18 College Football Playoff despite not winning the SEC West or playing in the SEC Championship Game. Georgia did the improbable by beating a traditional SEC rival in the Championship Game after having lost badly to that same team only a week prior.

Both teams did what they were supposed to do in their respective semi-final games. Both were slightly favored going into Monday and both teams won. Alabama dominated a good-but-not-great Clemson team and Georgia beat the media favorite in an overtime shootout.

But there are so many storylines here that in order to cover them all you have to be like Elton John and do a medley at the end.

Georgia hired Kirby Smart away from Alabama following the Tide's 2015 National Championship. In his two seasons leading the Bulldogs, he's posted a 21-6 record and has Georgia poised to play for its first national title since 1980. This is only his second year.

Alabama's Nick Saban is on the cusp of his fifth national title at Alabama and his sixth overall. He hired Kirby during his brief tenure with the Miami Dolphins of the NFL. When Saban shocked everyone not Bleeding Crimson to become Alabama's top dude, Smart came with him and helped Saban craft college football's most feared defense.

That defense was the key in each of Alabama's titles in the 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2015 seasons.

But these are just two generals in a border war that stretches beyond the memories of the living and some of the standout games in the series history have been shutouts. In fact, there have been 22 shutouts in the series' 67 games overall, which means that on average one team keeps the other off the scoreboard about once every three times they play.

Alabama recruits heavily in Georgia. Georgia recruits heavily in Alabama.

Alabama vs Georgia has been played in Birmingham, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Columbus, Athens and Atlanta.

They have never played each other with a national title on the line.

Here are a handful of other interesting factlets about Saban and Smart and Alabama vs Georgia:

  • Nick Saban is 4-1 against Georgia while at Alabama with the lone loss coming in 2007 in overtime.
  • Alabama leads the series 38-25-4
  • The teams met for the first time in SEC division play in 1995. Alabama won 31-0.
  • Since then, Georgia won three straight followed by Alabama winning three straight.
  • Georgia is the first 3 seed in the playoffs to win and advance to the title game.
  • Kirby Smart is reaching the title game in only his second year.
  • Nick Saban is 11-0 when facing teams coached by former assistants.
  • Both teams play a 3-4 Over Under defensive scheme, aimed at stopping the run and forcing passes outside.
  • Both teams play a Pro Set offensive scheme, aimed at running the football with play action passing. 
  • Georgia is playing for a title in its home state. The last time that happened was in January 2012 when LSU faced and lost to Alabama 21-0.

I think this going to be a classic SEC Slobber Knocker. Both of these opponents beat teams who run trickeration offensive schemes that are too cute by half. The Tide and the Dawgs are not deceptive football teams. They're physical, they're disciplined and they're cold-blooded.

Whoever wins, both teams will get off the turf trying to see the scoreboard through the helmet ear hole.