The way Georgia nose guard Jordan Davis sees it, nothing the undefeated Bulldogs have done this season matters.
The 12 previous wins, including the last 11 by at least 17 points? Doesn’t count for anything.
The defense’s dominating performance that rivals that of any unit in recent history, if not ever? Meaningless.
The best regular season in school history? That’s exactly what it is — history.
The current 16-game winning streak that’s the longest in the Football Bowl Subdivision? Throw it out the window.
“Look, we want to go 1-0, we want to make sure that we win this game,” Davis said. “This is the game we need to have and we’re going to prepare like champions.”
But this game isn’t just any other game. Not for Georgia (12-0), not for No. 3 Alabama (11-1). And certainly not for at least the half dozen teams whose standing with the College Football Playoff selection committee will be impacted by which team leaves Atlanta with the Southeastern Conference trophy on Saturday evening.
It’s simple for Georgia and Alabama — the winner will make the playoffs. But if Alabama loses to Georgia for the first time in seven meetings, the Crimson Tide could very well be left out of the four-team field, its run as national champion over.
Georgia is likely headed to the playoffs with a loss, as it is the lone Power 5 team that finished the regular season with an unblemished record.
The significance of a Georgia win over Alabama can’t be overstated. The Bulldogs have lost two SEC title games and a national championship game to the Crimson Tide since the start of Alabama’s streak over Georgia in 2008.
The teams last met in the 2020 regular season, with Alabama overcoming a 24-20 halftime deficit by scoring three touchdowns in the second half to rally for a 41-24 win.
But so much has changed since that night.
Alabama had eight players — quarterback Mac Jones, running back Najee Harris, Heisman Trophy-winning receiver DeVonta Smith, receiver Jaylen Waddle, offensive linemen Alex Leatherwood and Landon Dickerson, cornerback Patrick Surtain and defensive tackle Christian Barmore — taken in the first two rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft. Guard Deonte Brown and long snapper Thomas Fletcher got picked in the sixth round.
Georgia lost several key players, but only one first-round pick (cornerback Eric Stokes) and two second-round picks (cornerback Tyson Campbell and linebacker Azeez Ojulari).
Now, Georgia is a 6.5-point favorite against the Crimson Tide, who haven’t been this much of an underdog since Florida and Tim Tebow were 10-point favorites in the 2008 SEC title game, which Florida won 31-20.
Still, Alabama has averaged 42.7 points this year — two more than Georgia — behind Heisman Trophy candidate Bryce Young (3,901 yards, 40 TDs, 4 INTs), receivers Jameson Williams (1,261 yards, 13 TDs) and John Metchie (1,045 yards, 7 TDs) and running back Brian Robinson (1,016 yards, 14 TDs).
However, Robinson’s status for Saturday is uncertain after suffering a lower-body pulled muscle in the four-overtime win over Auburn last week. If Robinson can’t play, it will be up to Trey Sanders, who was held for 23 yards on 10 carries by Auburn, to power the ground game. Sanders has rushed for 221 yards and two scores on 50 carries this season.
“I just feel like it’s going to be a tremendous challenge to play against them,” Davis said. “They’re big. We’re big. We’re going to give it everything we’ve got, and I hope they give us their best shot. They have a great unit.”
While the Bulldogs haven’t faced an offense nearly as explosive as Alabama’s, the Crimson Tide haven’t faced a defense that’s even close to being on par with Georgia’s because there isn’t one.
Georgia has allowed 83 points this season, an average of 6.9 points per game. The Bulldogs could have given up twice as many points this season and still be ahead of second-place Clemson, which allowed 180 (15 ppg).
The Bulldogs are also first in total defense (230.8 ypg) and red zone defense (54.5 percent), second in passing yards allowed (151.9 pg) and total first downs allowed (160), in addition to being third in rushing defense (78.9 ypg).
But Young isn’t fazed.
“I have confidence in my guys,” he said. “We all understand what it’s going to take. We all know offensively how good they are on defense.
“It’s a new chapter. It’s a new book for us. So we have to make sure we’re ready this week and that’s all we’re concerned with.”
–Field Level Media