ATLANTA – Sports can be really dumb. Sometimes the best team doesn’t win. Other times, the final result overshadows what was an otherwise great performance. For most of the game on Saturday, Georgia looked like the better team. It certainly appeared to be one of the four best teams in the country, and that potentially means a spot in the College Football Playoff.
But that strong Georgia performance doesn’t feel that way after the Bulldogs once again lost to Alabama, 35-28. And that final result is why Georgia may not factor into the College Football Playoff.
The Bulldogs were the first team all year to truly challenge No. 1 Alabama, as Georgia led for a majority of the game. All 11 of Georgia’s wins have been by at least 14-points, and its losses came on the road against the No. 10 team in the country and on Saturday against the Crimson Tide.
But there’s also the fact that Georgia has now suffered two crushing defeats to Alabama in less than a calendar year. Who would want to sign up for another round with Alabama in four weeks, given that it has ripped Georgia’s heart out both times? The Bulldogs held a double-digit leads in each of those two games, only to lose both games after a quarterback change had been made. Meanwhile Oklahoma and Ohio State both won their respective conferences and finished the season with 12-1 records.
Georgia was the better team when Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was on the field. The sophomore, who many pegged as the Heisman Trophy favorite, completed just 10 of his 25 pass attempts and threw two interceptions. Before leaving the game with an injury, Georgia led 28-21. Jalen Hurts was the difference in the game, as he was able to extend plays without Georgia linebacker D’Andre Walker out there to pressure him.
The Georgia offense put up 28 points on the vaunted Alabama defense. Jake Fromm threw for 301 yards and 3 touchdowns, playing the best game of his career and clearly outperforming. Georgia certainly proved it is among the nation’s elite.
“We definitely are one of the best teams in the nation,” Georgia safety Richard LeCounte said after the game. ” You saw it out there today.”
Georgia wasn’t perfect on Saturday. Its special teams play — which most gave Georgia a clear advantage in heading into the game — stunk. The defense couldn’t get Hurts off the field when it had the Alabama offense in four different third and five-plus yard situations when Hurts was in the game.
On the game’s final play, Fromm’s Hail Mary attempt that got knocked away, players on the sideline weren’t sporting looks of optimism or hope. Instead the likes of LeCounte, and so many others had this look of disappointment and annoyance that this result was happening, again. It was a mixture of something every Georgia fan was feeling.
Before Fromm’s pass was in the air, most knew how the game was going to end. Georgia just doesn’t seem to catch those kind of breaks. This team and fan base weren’t looking for a moral victory on Saturday. The fact Georgia only trailed on one offensive possession — its last one — doesn’t make the result sting any less. Georgia seems closer than ever to beating Alabama. Perhaps that’s why some feel this is the worst of the Bulldogs’ losses to Alabama in the Nick Saban era.
As the players walked off the field, a lot of them had the same looks as many fans and students did after the national championship game back in January. This loss certainly wasn’t as aggravating as what happened in 2015, when the Crimson Tide smashed the Bulldogs at home. There’s also the narrow loss in the 2012 SEC Championship Game and the blowout in 2008 to factor in as well since Georgia’s last win over Alabama back in 2007 At a certain point all these losses to Alabama start to feel the same for everyone involved with the Georgia program. They’re all terrible losses in their own, different ways.
Georgia proved it’s one of the best teams in the country on Saturday. For a majority of the game, it was better than Alabama. Maybe that means it should be in the College Football Playoff, maybe it doesn’t. But the Bulldogs also proved that for whatever reason, it still can’t get the best of Alabama. It’s a lousy feeling, as it seems like the shoe is always just waiting to drop on the Bulldogs when they face the Crimson Tide.
One day, Georgia will beat Alabama. All streaks end at some point, and the Bulldogs have continued to make difference between the two programs even smaller. We could rail on about how four teams isn’t enough for the playoff, or about how Georgia has looked better than Oklahoma and Ohio State for most of the season.
But until the Bulldogs can surpass Alabama on the field, and take down the Crimson Tide, the playoff talk just seems extremely hollow.
“We played a great game. We played our heart out. We just can’t hang our head about it,” Georgia wide receiver Mecole Hardman said.
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