ATLANTA — Stetson Bennett didn’t spend too much time savoring the 45-0 victory over Georgia Tech. Bennett shined on Saturday, throwing 4 touchdown passes on 20 attempts against the outmatched Yellow Jackets.
But he knows he won’t see an overwhelmed opponent next week. Instead, Georgia will see an all-too-familiar bogeyman in the Alabama Crimson Tide.
“You know, now the real fun starts,” Bennett said.
The two teams couldn’t be coming off more different results entering the SEC championship game. The Bulldogs are riding high, giving up a nation’s best 6.9 points per game while the offense looks to have found another gear as it finally gets healthy at wide receiver. Georgia hasn’t played a game decided by less than 17 points since the first game of the season against Clemson.
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Alabama meanwhile has played three consecutive one-score games against Power 5 foes. Nick Saban’s team beat LSU 20-14, Arkansas 42-35 and needed some late heroics to beat Auburn in quadruple overtime on Saturday, 24-22.
Given the past history though between these two programs, don’t expect any of that to matter. Alabama has so often been the one ending Georgia’s season in heartbreak, doing so twice in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the 2018 calendar year.
Georgia should be favored going into this one, something it hasn’t been against Alabama since 2015. The Crimson Tide won that game 38-10 in Sanford Stadium.
“We hold each other accountable, they’re up for the task, they’ve answered the bell, and they’ve done the right things,” Smart said. “But we also haven’t played a team the caliber of Alabama. So, that’s the important thing. We’ve got to be able to execute for four quarters and do it at a high level.”
Since Smart took over in 2016, Georgia has played Alabama three times. In those three games, Georiga has a total of 0 fourth-quarter points. That has to change for Georgia, even if most of the wins this season for Georgia haven’t needed the first-team offense on the field.
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The Bulldogs know they have to finish to beat Alabama. Auburn couldn’t do that on Saturday, as Alabama drove 97-yards on its final possession of regulation to tie the game in the final minute. Georgia will have to be locked in for a full 60 minutes if it is to have a different finish than past games against Alabama.
“What we have done during this regular season is all good, but it don’t matter because it’s always about how we finish the season,” Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean said after the game. “If we don’t finish the right way, none of this really matters. You know what I’m saying? So, for me, it’s always about how we finish and I’m thinking about the next one right now.”
With Ohio State’s loss, Georgia and Alabama should be a battle between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country. The last time that happened was in 2009 when Alabama and Florida met. Smart was Saban’s defensive coordinator that day, as the Crimson Tide smashed the Gators on the way to its first national championship under Saban.
While Georgia might be as close to a lock to making the College Football Playoff, Alabama is most likely in need of a win to make the College Football Playoff.
It should make an already big SEC championship game even bigger for the Bulldogs.
“The sec championship is one of the greatest environments in all of college sports. Like all of college sports,” Smart said. “It’s one of the greatest events. You go back to one of the Bama-Georgia games, you got one of the most viewed games in the whole season, even over the national championship.”
Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean previews SEC championship game against Alabama
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