TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama football coach Nick Saban has pushed the chips all in on playing the Georgia football program in the SEC Championship Game.
The No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide (12-0, 8-0 SEC) has made a case for itself as one of the greatest teams in college football history.
Alabama is the first FBS team to open a season with 12 wins of 20 points or more, and it has done so with the SEC as competitive as ever, with six teams ranked in the Top 20 and Texas A&M looking in at No. 22.
Saban, while recognizing the regular-season feat, makes it clear that the ultimate legacy of this Crimson Tide team is still to be determined.
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“I think the SEC is a very good league, for the team to go undefeated is quite an accomplishment,” Saban said. “But it really doesn’t mean anything if we can’t take advantage of the opportunity that we have next week in the SEC Championship Game, and obviously Georgia is a very, very good team.”
Alabama plays the Bulldogs at 4 p.m. on Saturday in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, a return to the site of the Tide’s 26-23 overtime win over Georgia in the College Football Playoff Championship Game last January.
The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (11-1, 7-1) have worked to replace several key pieces that led them to a near victory over the Tide, most notably SEC Defensive Player o the Year Roquan Smith.
Georgia has been somewhat susceptible against the run against quality opponents, and that’s likely why oddsmakers installed Alabama as a 10 1/2-point favorite on Sunday.
Still, within hours, the betting line had swelled up to 13 1/2, bettors likely envisioning another Tua Tagovailoa air show.
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The sophomore from Hawaii is all but a Heisman Trophy lock.
Tagovailoa is coming off a school-record six-touchdown performance in a 52-21 win over Auburn last Saturday, and he leads the nation with a scorching 212.5 pas efficiency rating rooted in his 36-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
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“He’s got an elite arm talent, he’s really fast, he’s got really good wide receivers around him, he’s got powerful backs, and he’s got a talented tight end and a great offensive line, and he knows where to go with the ball,” said Georgia football coach Kirby Smart, a former Alabama defensive coordinator under Saban.
“He’s got great vision downfield, he’s got the ability to look off safeties, he can throw the touch pass, he can throw bullets, he’s really good at the RPO game.,’ Smart said. “And then on top of all that, he can run. So he’s a lot to take in.”
Saban, meanwhile, puts Georgia at the top of the list the Tide will play this season, implying the Bulldogs will be the biggest hurdle between Alabama and a place in history.
“They’ve got some really impressive wins, (and) they’re ranked very highly in a lot of categories,” Saban said, “and this will be the most challenging game that we have all year.”
Road to Atlanta