How Georgia football went from Team B to the A-team entering bout with Alabama | Toppmeyer
Team A beat Auburn by two points. Team B beat Auburn by 24 points.
Team A beat Arkansas by seven points. Team B beat Arkansas by 37 points.
Now, Team A is preparing to face Team B.
Which team will likely win? The choice seems obvious: Team B.
Team A is Alabama, of course, while Team B is Georgia.
That doesn’t mean No. 2 Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC) can’t beat No. 1 Georgia (12-0, 8-0) when the teams meet in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday (3 p.m. CT, CBS) in Atlanta. Anything is possible when you combine the sport’s greatest coach of all time, Nick Saban, with a Heisman Trophy frontrunner at the game’s most important position, quarterback Bryce Young.
But the most overdone storyline you’ll be served this week is that Alabama is somehow better positioned for this game because it won several close games this season, while Georgia has cruised to victory.
Alabama’s 2020 squad didn’t become one of the greatest teams of all time by winning a bunch of squeakers. That Crimson Tide left no doubt, with 12 of 13 victories during its undefeated season coming by at least 15 points.
Georgia beat Clemson 10-3 in the season opener, then rattled off 11 consecutive wins by at least 17 points.
Alabama’s average score differential in eight SEC games is plus-12.9 points. Georgia’s: 31.9 points.
“We’re never really focused on the past or anything that happens in past weeks, because we know that's not going to carry over or mean anything for the next week,” Young said.
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Young is smart to not focus on score comparisons – that won’t do any good – but I’m unconvinced it doesn’t mean anything.
Georgia keeps winning by lopsided margins because it possesses the best top-to-bottom roster in college football. And having the best Jimmys and Joes (or Jordans and Nakobes, in this case) is an established path to victory.
“This is a complete team, and it’ll be a tremendous challenge,” Saban said of Georgia.
When I submitted my ballot for the USA TODAY Network’s All-SEC team this week, six of my 11 defensive slots were filled by Georgia players, and I debated adding a seventh on my ballot.
Georgia won’t be the only team with stars Saturday. The Bulldogs boast All-America candidates like defensive tackle Jordan Davis and linebacker Nakobe Dean, while Alabama counters with Young and outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr., who somehow flies below the Heisman Trophy radar despite one of the most disruptive seasons ever by a defensive player.
Alabama has more soft spots, though, including an uncharacteristically vulnerable offensive line that will try to hold up against a fierce pass rush and unyielding run defense.
Additionally, Trey Sanders might be Alabama’s only available scholarship running back after Brian Robinson Jr. (pulled muscle) joined the list of Crimson Tide running backs dealing with injury.
If Alabama can’t establish the run, the Bulldogs are free to pin their ears back and barrel toward Young. That could result in this becoming a repeat of the 2009 Sugar Bowl – when Utah limited the Tide to 31 rushing yards and sacked John Parker Wilson eight times in a 31-17 victory.
Saban, of course, is the ultimate X-factor. He’s 3-0 against Smart, including a comeback 26-23 overtime victory in the 2018 national championship, a game Alabama had little business winning.
But Tiger Woods didn’t become the greatest golfer of his era by falling behind in major tournaments and rallying on Sundays. He established the clubhouse lead and refused to be caught from behind.
Similarly, Saban didn’t win six national championships at Alabama by outwitting superior teams with a bunch of no-quit underdogs. Saban and Alabama are the supreme favorite. They build dominant teams that are supposed to win, then often do.
Georgia built that dominant team in 2021, then proved it with repeated lopsided victories. That doesn’t put the Bulldogs at a disadvantage. That’s how Team B became the A-team.
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.