The Georgia Bulldogs were not supposed to be in this situation. They were told last year was a one-year wonder. A team that lost the best running back duo of in school history, along with 30 other seniors, should stand no chance to repeat their previous season, right? These 2018 Bulldogs do not care about the naysayers. A new wave of players has paved the way for this team to finish 11-1, with another chance at the SEC championship. This season has reflected 2017, but a much tougher test awaits in Atlanta this year, Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide.
Georgia’s journey to Atlanta has not been as magical as last season. There is no big star on either side of the ball that can change the game all alone. Last year, there was the dynamic duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel on the offensive side. Either one of these NFL draft picks could take over the game in an instant. On the opposite side, Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy, and Roquan Smith all had season changing plays at their position. This group of seniors, aside from Smith, were the leaders of the team and showed it on and off the field. There was never any question about who would step up whenever needed. This season has been a different story with a lack of senior leadership.
This year’s Bulldog team has been more of an offense and defense by committee. No player really stands above the others. The only possible exception would be the new rushing attack combo of Elijah Holyfield and D’andre Swift. Jake Fromm has balanced the ball around to his receivers very well. Georgia has six receivers with over 200 yards receiving, compared to only four last year. The other side of the ball has been dominated by freshmen and sophomores. Hard hitting safety Richard Lecounte is the team’s leading tackler as a sophomore, and more freshmen have gotten play time as the season has progressed. Two true freshmen, Tyson Campbell and Jordan Davis, now start. Campbell struggled in the first half of the year. He was eventually replaced during the Auburn game by another freshman, Eric Stokes Jr. In the last half of the season, Brenton Cox and Adam Anderson are two more true freshmen that have seen the field a large amount. Georgia is a young team with everything to gain and nothing to lose. A win against Alabama would be enormous for their freshmen.
As noted, Georgia is filled with freshmen and sophomores. These guys grew up watching Alabama dominate college football. They saw the 2012 SEC championship game. They all either saw last year’s national championship or were in the game. A majority of them are Georgia grown, so the pain of losing to Alabama is personal. A win this weekend would give the young guys on the team confidence in the future. There has not been a team that has constantly been able to beat the Crimson Tide, but a win could push this Georgia team in the right direction. Intimidation is always a factor when lining up against Alabama. A win would change that. If these freshmen can be a part of a team to beat the mighty Tide, future recruiting classes can gain that confidence too. Kirby Smart has the chance to gain some ground on his old mentor. He can accomplish what no one else that came from Nick Saban could do. Beat him.
Alabama’s Nick Saban has a big coaching tree. Former assistants of his are in important head coaching and assistant jobs all around the country, in both college football and the NFL. But their success has not reached one area in particular: beating the master. Saban has faced former assistants of his 12 times in games where both were head coaches. Those coaches have gone 0-12 against him and only rarely given him any type of scare. Former sidekick Kirby Smart has given Saban the biggest scare, losing 26-23 in overtime. Everyone in America is rooting for the legendary coach to finally lose. Kirby has the next and probably best chance to win. The first domino has to fall in order for a new team to assert dominance. A Kirby win would be that first domino. If recruits get the chance to see a former Saban assistant beat the man himself, a shift in power could take place. Saban is nearing his 70s, and Kirby is just 42. The age gap could play a factor in recruits minds. The start of a new dynasty always begins with the fall of the old one.
A win against Alabama would be enormous for the players and for Kirby. Most of all, the win would mean so much to fans. Georgia fans have been a laughing stock for a long time, going back to the Richt days. Their team has underachieved and come in second place for so long. Last season’s loss to Alabama hurt, but they tasted national prominence for the first time in years. No one loves their team like Dawg fans do. Their support has been unwavering for many years. Fans know all too well what is waiting for them in Mercedes Benz Dome, but that does not take away their confidence or pride in their Bulldogs.
When Georgia and Alabama tee it up on Saturday, one thing will be on Georgia’s mind: revenge. Alabama will eventually fall. Kirby Smart and his Bulldogs just want to be the team to end the dynasty. Players, coaches, and especially fans would do anything for a win this week. It is time for the hunter to become the hunted.