ATHENS — There are a lot of reasons Alabama could beat Georgia in the SEC Championship. Just ask your favorite Las Vegas bookie, who continued to offer up the Crimson Tide as a 13.5-point favorite in Saturday’s rematch of last year’s national championship game. But if the Bulldogs do lose, it won’t be because they were intimidated or lacked confidence.
Just ask junior running back Elijah Holyfield. He appeared genuinely dumbfounded this week when a reporter asked him if Georgia was anyway intimidated by the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide, which has beaten opponents by an average margin of 35 points a game this season. So thrown off by the question was Holyfield that he repeated it back to his inquisitor.
“You’re asking are we intimidated by them?” Holyfield asked, his raised eyebrows indicating incredulity.
Holyfield’s eyebrows furrowed, and he shook his head hard as he offered his one-word reply. “Nah.”
None of which is to say the Bulldogs enter Saturday’s 4 p.m. tilt in anyway confident. One doesn’t have to have the coaches’ all-22 video cuts of Alabama this season to know the level of domination it has demonstrated this season. No team in history has won by the margins the Crimson Tide has every week in the 12-game era.
Of all that, the Bulldogs are well aware.
“Anytime you click on ESPN, they’re going to be on there with their highlights,” Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm said. “So I’ve definitely watched them a bunch, and I definitely have a good feel for them… Everybody in this business is striving for greatness and they’re an example of a team that does a great job at not only winning football games but winning championships. You ask any coach, you want to win as many games and as many championships as you can, so I think everybody is striving for that.
Cecil Hurt, a longtime columnist for the Tuscaloosa and TideSports.com, has covered Alabama since Bear Bryant was the coach. He told DawgNation this week that the 2018 Crimson Tide will go down for him as the school’s greatest team ever “if they close the deal.”
Closing the deal means winning them all. Some of Alabama’s greatest teams of all time didn’t do that.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart is another individual who has a deep and thorough knowledge of the Crimson Tide. He, too, doesn’t dismiss this being the best ‘Bama collection of all time.
“They’re explosive. I don’t see the weaknesses,” Smart said. “I mean, really you can’t say they’ve been tested”
But Smart also said he enjoys preparing for “wall games” such as this one more than anything. He spent the better part of a decade scheming for dozens of such games while working for Nick Saban at Alabama for nine years. And playing in such relevant and nationally significant games was Smart’s stated goal when he accepted the head coaching job at his alma mater in 2015.
So while they’re is a healthy respect — even awe — at what Alabama has been doing this season, the Bulldogs seem genuinely motivated by the challenge of trying to solve the Tide equation.
Being a significant underdog doesn’t figure into it.
“We don’t need to be an underdog to be motivated,” Fromm said. “That’s not what’s going to motivate us. We’re playing for the guys in the locker room, playing for the coaches, playing for this university. So we’re going out to play a great football game. I can’t wait. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
At least in interviews this week the Bulldogs sound inspired more than intimidated about facing Alabama.
“I haven’t changed the way I think,” Holyfield said, asked again about the daunting challenge. “I’m going to approach this game just like I do every other game I approach and go out and do our best. I just want to keep the chains moving.”
That’s a start.