Despite playing in the same conference and the Bama fight song imploring the Tide to teach those Bulldogs to behave, Alabama and Georgia have only met 16 times in the last half-century, with Bama leading 38-25-4 overall. You can thank the various eras of scheduling for that quirk.
For decades, SEC scheduling was irregular. Teams could choose not only whom they played, but how many conference games they would have. For example, in 1966, Alabama and Georgia finished unbeaten in SEC play, but the Tide were 6-0 and the Dawgs were 5-0. Ole Miss tied with Georgia in the win column, but finished a full game behind because the Rebels played seven conference games and the Dawgs played only five.
Georgia and Alabama rarely played, meeting only eight times between 1966 and the league splitting into divisions in 1992.
After the SEC split into divisions, all teams played eight-game schedules, but with Georgia and Alabama in different divisions and still not protected rivals, their meetings have remained infrequent. And now with the SEC at 14 teams and still only playing an eight-game conference schedule, they will play once every six years. (Fun fact: Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012 and they have not yet played Georgia. Dawg fans will have to wait until 2024 to see their team play at Kyle Field. Have we mentioned that divisions are dumb?)
Nick Saban’s school and protege Kirby Smart’s program might have a limited history, but their games have produced enough memorable moments that we could patch them together into what would be the perfect national championship game. So get past your reservations about an all-SEC title game and imagine the following.
1. A controversial trick play
Enjoy Vince Dooley describe a play that came from his childhood in Mobile, followed by his players describing how it never worked in practice. Also, notice that Pat Hodgson is fully down when he made the lateral that led to the winning touchdown that condemned Alabama to its only regular season loss in a three-year stretch. If a play like that happened today, it would be reversed by replay, so we’re going to need to add a “do this within the rules” addendum.
2. A really dumb personal foul
In 1985, Georgia and Alabama opened on Labor Day. The Tide were nursing a 13-9 lead with a minute to go when a slow punt delivery allowed the Dawgs to block a punt they recovered in the end zone. Overcome with exuberance, the Dawgs presaged their successors’ celebration in a Cocktail Party 22 years later by piling in the end zone. The penalty (plus the fact that Kevin Butler had moved on from Athens to the Chicago Bears) allowed Bama favorable field position. Five plays later, future Bama head coach Mike Shula found Al Bell wide open in the end zone — the Tide players managed to confine their celebrations outside of the field of play — and Bama escaped with a 20-16 win.
In a national title game, emotions will be high. Surely, it’s not too much to ask that a player does something entertainingly silly.
3. Totally random discussion in the broadcast booth
If we can get Chris Fowler to have a modern version of Mike Patrick’s out-of-nowhere Britney Spears discussion, that would be ideal. If Pat Fitzgerald spends the fourth quarter in the Coaches Film Room speculating on the status of Beyonce’s marriage, then even better.
4. Anything from the 2012 game
Georgia and Alabama met in a de facto national title game in Atlanta (the winner would get to destroy a deceptively undefeated Notre Dame in the BCS Championship). Take anything from that classic and mix it into our perfect game:
- Alabama special teams disasters. The part of the program that was not dipped into the River Styx before the start of the Saban dynasty was field goal kicking. Georgia blocked a field goal and returned it for a touchdown. If Georgia would have held the 21-10 lead that resulted, the Tide would have missed the national title in consecutive years because of field goal fiascos.
- Stables of running backs going wild. The combined line for TJ Yeldon and Eddie Lacy in this game: 45 carries for 334 yards and three touchdowns. Alabama and Georgia have the strongest recent history of deep running back corps. (The two leading rushers from the NFL’s Wild Card games on Saturday: Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Bama’s Derrick Henry.) Even with two good run defenses in 2017, this one could happen.
- Late chaos. 2012 was how a big college football game should end. AJ McCarron makes an inch-perfect throw to Amari Cooper to give Bama the lead. Aaron Murray leads a final drive that comes within eight yards of the win, only for CJ Mosley to deflect a pass that led to a catch in-bounds that allowed the final seconds to run off. Great players matching one another, back and forth. More, please.
5. Normal uniforms, please
Georgia wore black uniforms against Alabama in 2008, got upset by 11 at home, and didn’t try that against any opponent for another eight years. Expect no surprises this time.
6. A game-winning field goal
In 1994, Alabama was in the middle of losing five games in four years. Georgia was coached by Ray Goff, so they were not experiencing similar levels of success. Still, the defining feature of the ‘94 Tide was a tendency to win in late, dramatic fashion with the future Mr. Sara Evans leading a late drive. So it was on this night, with Bama kicking with a little more than a minute remaining and surviving an Eric Zeier drive.
Eight years later, the roles reversed. Georgia was making winning late an art. One such win came on a steamy day in Tuscaloosa. After former Auburn coach Pat Dye questioned whether Georgia was “man enough” to win in the SEC, the Dawgs built a 12-point lead, blew it in seconds, and got it back on a last-minute field goal from Billy Bennett.
We have been blessed with title games decided in the final minute four times in the last seven years. It would be great if Bama and Georgia honored their tradition.
7. Litigation reaching all the way to the Supreme Court
We haven’t had a good defamation lawsuit in college football in a while, one that leads to the demise of a famous publication and a precedent-setting Supreme Court case, so a little post-game controversy would be entertaining. That might be where you come in, UCF.