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Georgia outside linebacker Nolan Smith (4) during Georgia’s game against Alabama in the 2021 SEC Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga., on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

Pain and tears: Georgia football carries past scars into 2022 National Championship Game against Alabama

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Georgia football team isn’t running from past history against Alabama

Nolan Smith didn’t see the point in beating around the bush. The vocal leader of Georgia’s defense had no problem sharing his emotional state after Georgia’s lone loss during the 2021 season.

“I cried. I’m 20 now. I’ve been playing football since I was 4 – 16 years, haven’t won anything,” Smith said. Haven’t won a championship. I won a couple of bowl games but anything big, any championship I never won yet.

For Jordan Davis, Georgia’s 6-foot-6, 350-pound mountain in the center of its defense, he didn’t quite reach tears when describing Georgia’s most recent shortcoming against Alabama. The Bulldogs haven’t beaten Alabama since 2007. They’ve lost four times against the Crimson Tide and Nick Saban since Kirby Smart became the head coach.

The loss in the SEC championship game ended what had been a perfect season for Georgia. It also paved the way for a rematch, which we’ll see on Monday night.

“Not winning that game and the SEC Championship hurt a little bit. But we knew we had a new opportunity,” Davis said. “And with new opportunities, you have a chance to be different. So I took that chance, took the opportunity to be different, and definitely, it will pay off for me tenfold because I feel better, my body feels better.”

All week Georgia players answered questions about those past defeats to Alabama. And how the Bulldogs, for all the success they’ve achieved under Smart, haven’t won a title since 1980.

Smart said on Sunday that the last fact could not be further from his mind, as he’s focused on putting this Georgia team in a position where it can finally get over the hump.

Georgia players seem to agree as well. The lack of a national championship is in fact providing further motivation.

“That’s one thing that keeps me going.” Smith said. “That’s just something in the back of my head that I know that keeps me driving and I just want to win. I could care less how it gets done, how pretty it looks; I just want to win and play ball.”

Monday’s night rematch will need to see a better effort from Georgia’s defense. The Bulldogs gave up 34 points in the loss, with Alabama ripping off 31 points on five consecutive drives. Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, who has been called both the Gingerbread Man by Georgia players and Houdini by Smart, threw for 421 yards and accounted for 4 touchdowns in the 41-24 win.

The group rebounded with an impressive effort against Michigan, as it forced three turnovers and picked up 4.0 sacks. It will need to do a better job pressuring Young than it did the first time around, as Georgia finished with zero sacks in the game.

Related: Georgia continues chase of Alabama ‘Gingerbread Man’ Bryce Young in CFP Championship Game

“This is the national championship,” Nakobe Dean said. “Feel like everybody should be prepared to play at their best level, at their highest clip. And like I said before, the only thing that we’re focused on is winning. No matter how we get it done, we’ve just got to get it done.”

Offensively, Stetson Bennett knows he can’t turn the ball as he did twice in the SEC championship game and three times when the two teams met in 2020.

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