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Georgia has lost five straight games against Alabama.

How Georgia football can close the gap on Alabama in 2020 and beyond

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How Georgia football can close the gap on Alabama that still exists

Even amid the current situation we’re all still living through, oddsmakers are still envisioning a college football season taking place. And that 2020 season features a huge week 3 contest between Georgia and Alabama.

It’s very likely to be one of the games of the 2020 season, given the history between Kirby Smart and Nick Saban, as well as the fact that these two teams live in the neighborhood that is elite college programs.

But as much ground as Georgia has made up under Smart — Mark Richt’s last game against Alabama was a 38-10 smackdown that was an even bigger domination than the score indicated — oddsmakers still see them as a step behind the Crimson Tide. Sportsbetting.ag posted some lines for the best games of the college football season and naturally, the Georgia-Alabama contest was on there. And they listed Alabama as a 7-point favorite over the Bulldogs.

Related: Georgia football underdogs at Alabama this season

It’s worth remembering that this game will be played in Tuscaloosa, Ala., so that is likely baked into the line. But that still means that even with having to replace Tua Tagovailoa, Jerry Jeudy and a host of other talented players, Georgia is still seen as a few points worse than Alabama.

So how do the Bulldogs make this up ground between them in the Crimson Tide? There are a couple of ways they can do it, and it goes beyond just beating Alabama one time.

1. Continue to practice social distancing:  Had to get this out of the way. As trying as it is at the moment, it’s the only way we’re going to get through it. There’s a popular joke going around on the internet that if you told southerners that staying inside for seven days would save the college football season, they’d do it. Well, there is always a bit of truth in jokes.

2. Make drastic longterm improvements on the offensive side of the ball: Smart has had no problem building great defenses. He’s been able to replace stars like Roquan Smith and Deandre Baker and still produce elite level defenses. The Bulldogs had the No. 1 scoring defense in the country last year and figure to have another great defense in 2020.

But Smart has not yet seen that same level of success on the offensive side of the ball. While the 2017 and 2018 units have had their peaks, the units have never been on par with the likes of Clemson, Alabama and even Ohio State in recent years. To take Alabama’s spot on the throne of the SEC, the Bulldogs have to get better on the offensive side the ball. Not just in 2020, but in every season going forward under Smart.

Smart likely recognizes this as well, given some of the changes he made to his coaching staff after the problematic 2019 season. He brought in Todd Monken to replace James Coley, even when he didn’t have to do it. Monken’s offenses have traditionally looked more like what Clemson’s have than what Georgia fans watched during November of the 2019 season.

Related: National media forms consensus on new Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken

If Georgia has a lot of success with Monken this season, it will likely have to replace him. And that’s a good thing. Saban has had to cycle through offensive coordinators in recent years. But the offense has never been a problem during these past couple seasons. Smart needs to get to that same point.

3. Continue to recruit better than Alabama: In two of the last three seasons, Georgia has signed a better class than Alabama. The year it didn’t, the Bulldogs signed the No. 2 class in the country.

Alabama had a stranglehold in terms of recruiting elite talent for most of the 2010’s. If Georgia is able to wrestle away a few more elite prospects every class, like Arian Smith, Jalen Carter and Kendall Milton from the Crimson Tide, the Bulldogs are going to have better team talent than the Crimson Tide. At that point, it will be up to the coaching staff to put them in the right positions and spots.

But sometimes having guys like Tua Tagovailoa being able to make a throw or Nolan Smith making a tackle just trumps coaching. Georgia lands enough of those guys — and in some cases keeps them from Alabama — the coaching factor gets mitigated.

Related: The many different ways to size up this No. 1 class for 2020

4. Have Scott Cochran be a positive force for the Georgia program: Georgia hired away one of Saban’s longest-tenured lieutenants in Cochran and promoted him to an on-field coaching role.

Cochran was a key part of developing Alabama players. Just about every former Crimson Tide player will tell you that. But it’s also clear that Saban didn’t see the benefit in having Cochran as one of his 10 on-field assistants. Smart does.

Now it will be up to Smart to find and get value out of something that Saban didn’t believe was there. Losing Cochran hurts Alabama in the short term. But long term, for this move to really hurt the Crimson Tide, Georgia needs to make Cochran a real positive to its program.

5. Actually beat Alabama on the football field. Multiple times: For all that has been stated above, this is the most important thing.

The Bulldogs haven’t beaten Alabama since 2007. That was Saba and Smart and Cochran’s first year at Alabama. Since then, the Crimson Tide has won five straight games against Georgia, with each defeat somehow more being more painful than the next.

Beating Alabama on Sept. 19 in Tuscaloosa would do wonders for the Georgia program. But it still doesn’t put Smart and his team over the top. A broken watch is still right twice a day. Beating them in an SEC championship game won’t do it either.

To paraphrase coach Yoast from Remember the Titans, Georgia has to leave no doubt against Alabama. On Sept. 19, on Dec. 5 and every time Georgia plays Alabama with Saban as the head coach, Georgia has to leave no doubt to eradicate the idea that Saban and Alabama are some bogeymen.

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