Practically speaking, what most UGA fans want from Monday night’s College Football Playoff national championship game is for it to be over as quickly as possible so Kirby Smart can shed his title as Alabama defensive coordinator and get to work as full-time UGA head coach. Apart from that, there’s something else UGA fans should probably root for:
They should root for Alabama to win.
This, of course, is not a pleasant notion for many. Rooting for Nick Saban to have more success is kind of like rooting for the IRS to expand its powers. Frankly, most college football fans would rather see a state patrol car flashing blue lights in their rear view mirror than see Saban hoist another trophy. But rooting for Alabama is truly the right thing for UGA fans to do.
A few of the reasons for this are obvious.
Monday night’s game is essentially a massive television commercial for Smart and his reported UGA defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, the current Alabama secondary coach. The eyes of most fans, and more importantly, plenty of recruits will be glued to the Crimson Tide’s game against Clemson. The notoriety earned by Smart if Alabama wins would be immeasurable as he takes the UGA job.
Plus there’s the issue of SEC pride. While it’s not entirely clear how much league pride still matters in an era when the SEC has expanded beyond its traditional Southeastern borders to include schools whose student bodies think barbecue can be beef, there’s still something to be said for “Our conference is better than your conference!”
However, the most important reason UGA fans should root for Alabama actually has nothing to do with either of those issues. Instead it’s all about one simple fact: UGA fans hate Clemson, or at least they once did.
Back in the ’80s UGA played Clemson every year, and its rivalry with the Tigers was an epic war defined by close games and claimed national titles on both sides. It was a yearly struggle that was at times short on points scored, but always high on drama. Most of all, the games were incredibly competitive and thoroughly entertaining.
Somehow, college football’s transition into the modern age has caused many fans to forget just how great that rivalry used to be.
So let these words serve as a reminder: No well-meaning UGA fan would ever root for Clemson.
And before any young reader mocks this idea as irrelevant because it references events that took place in a decade that is now more than 30 years old, please take note that the ’80s are having quite a moment right now. Icons of that age like Rocky Balboa and the cast of “Star Wars” are currently lighting up movie screens, and the debut of a remake of “Ghostbusters” is just a few months away. Plus Guns N’ Roses just announced that it is reuniting to tour stadiums this summer.
UGA fans should join in the nostalgia too and cheer against Clemson just like they did when Kevin Butler was kicking field goals, even if that means having to — just this once — pull for Saban and Alabama. It would feel just like the good old days, and quite possibly serve as a reminder of the feeling Smart is being brought to UGA to restore.