ATHENS — Hey Georgia fans, who are you rooting for tonight?
I’m covered, thank you. As an objective journalist, I don’t have to have a rooting interest to enjoy a football game. And I must say, I’m looking forward to tonight’s College Football Playoff National Championship between Alabama and Clemson purely from a curiosity and intrigue standpoint.
Don’t get me wrong. I’d much rather be there covering your Bulldogs. At a couple of points this past season, I really thought I would be.
As it is, I’m truly flummoxed when it comes to which team I think might win tonight’s game. I think it’s a good matchup and, therefore, should be an entertaining contest for what surely will be a massive television audience. But when I get to thinking about it from a “what benefits Georgia” standpoint, or at least which result would be most tolerable for the Bulldogs to stomach, it’s hard to reach a conclusion.
The Crimson being in the SEC and being a head-to-head foe on seemingly every 5-star recruit around that Georgia takes an acute interest in makes them the easy to root against, for sure. Alabama, long now the scourge of the SEC, is now the proverbial thorn in the foot of the Bulldog Nation. They’re the ones standing in between UGA and everything the school wants.
And talk about a spoiled fan base! Alabama fans make it easy to to root against their team because of all the gloating and ridiculing of others. Meanwhile, Georgia can’t even brag about one of its greatest accomplishments of the last two seasons, which is that it has led the mighty Tide for 119 of the 120 minutes they’ve played. That’s because, of course, Bama ended up winning both games. And the level of good fortune that had to occur in both cases, whether it be through referees’ calls or the extremely fortuitous bounces the football took in its favor has been ridiculous.
Long Auburn’s personal tormentor, Bama now sits atop Georgia’s extremely tall totem pole of detested rivals.
But one can’t discount Clemson in this discussion. Yes, it plays in that minor league also known as the ACC, facing one, possibly two truly competitive games a season. But sitting just 80 miles from Athens, surrounded by cow pastures and a lake, the Tigers have managed to out-accomplish Georgia considerably here of late. That would be further enhanced with a second national title in the last three years.
And located just a short drive up I-85 from Atlanta, the Bulldogs bump into Clemson quite often on the recruiting trail as well. They both had their eyes on a certain tall, fair-haired quarterback from Cartersville, and it was Dabo Swinney and company who won him over instead of Kirby Smart and the state university of high academic distinction.
Bama is Bama, a program that’s in another stratosphere when it comes to the excess and hypocrisy of college athletics. Clemson is more akin to Georgia, a program that’s simply embracing the modern concept of how well spending excessively on facilities and coaches and support staff translates to nicely to winning championships and competing at the highest level. It’s eastward toward Clemson that the Bulldogs look and shout, “hey, if they can do it, we sure as heck can!”
With that in mind, you don’t want to see the Tigers getting much farther down the road ahead of you. Then again, they’re over there, right? Not right here in your own league. Then, again, it is your league. Aren’t you always supposed to root for those who compete in your own league?
One, thing is certain, both of these teams stand as examples that Georgia is capable of doing what they’re doing. Heck, the Bulldogs were out there doing it just a year ago, and were agonizingly close to doing it again this year.
Meanwhile, it feels almost like Georgia is at a bit of crossroads in its quest under Kirby Smart. It feels like a window that a year ago was wide open might’ve closed just a tad with the embarrassment that was the Sugar Bowl performance and the mass exodus that just took place. We already know that Bama doesn’t lose much off the squad that will be on the field tonight in San Jose. Clemson loses more but, then again, not that long, tall quarterback from Cartersville.
Maybe the good news is that there can’t be a tie. It’d really be tough on Georgia if both these teams were carrying championship trophies back to display at their respective football palaces.
No, the best way for the Bulldogs to handle the current state of affairs is to get one of those trophies of their own. There’s a new palace currently on the drawing board, and you can bet it has a pedestal located in just the place to display one.