The CFP National Championship Game is set and it will feature the two best programs in the country, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs. That makes it an All-SEC title game for the second time in the existence of the College Football Playoff.
Kirby Smart has an opportunity to finally defeat his mentor on the biggest stage in college football. Up until now, Saban has owned all of his former assistant coaches in head-to-heads.
Saban is 25-1 against his former assistants dating back to 2010. His winning streak ended on Oct. 9, 2021 when Jimbo Fisher’s unranked Texas A&M Aggies upset Alabama 41-38 in College Station, Texas.
How Both Teams Got Here
Alabama easily handled the first Group of Five team to make the CFP, the Cincinnati Bearcats, 27-6 in the semifinals behind a powerful running game that went for over 300 yards on the ground.
Fifth-year senior tailback Brian Robinson Jr. ran for a career-high 204 yards. Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young tossed three touchdowns and the defense nearly pitched a shutout, holding the Bearcats to under 200 yards of total offense.
Game Win Poster: Cotton Bowl
— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) January 2, 2022
The Georgia Bulldogs made quick work of the overmatched Michigan Wolverines with a convincing 34-11 win. UGA bullied the Wolverines from the outset, led by a stout defense and the play of quarterback Stetson Bennett.
Georgia’s defense was dominating behind Butkus Award-winning linebacker Nakobe Dean, who was all over the gridiron on Friday night in South Florida. The Bulldogs bounced back from a disappointing showing in their 41-24 SEC title game loss to Alabama.
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) January 3, 2022
Now the stage is set as the two heavyweights who also dominate recruiting annually meet on the field for college football supremacy.
Nick Saban Looks To Continue Mastery Over Former Assistant Kirby Smart
Nick Saban and Kirby Smart won four national championships (2009, 2011, 2012 and 2015) together in Tuscaloosa from 2007-2015. Smart left to become head coach at Georgia, his alma mater, following their last title together in 2015.
Since Smart left for Athens, he’s 0-4 against his former boss, including a heartbreaking overtime loss in the 2018 CFP title game. A game Georgia lost 26-23 on a touchdown strike from Tua Tagovailoa to DeVonta Smith.
— BamaOnLine (@BamaOnLine247) July 11, 2018
’Bama bested the Bulldogs again 12 months later (35-28) in the 2018 SEC title game. This time it was Jalen Hurts coming off the bench to save the day.
During the 2020 regular season, in a game where Saban couldn’t coach due to COVID-19 protocols, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian led the Tide to another convincing win over UGA 41-24.
Alabama entered this year’s SEC title game against Georgia as rare underdogs and proceeded to whip Kirby Smart’s crew by the identical score as in their 2020 game.
🔥 421 pass yards (SEC Championship Game record)
🔥 40 rush yards
🔥 4 total TD pic.twitter.com/mZLSearuZ5
— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) December 5, 2021
SEC Football Rules The Day In Recruiting And On The Field
Since 2012, Alabama has landed the No. 1 recruiting class eight times, while Georgia has done it twice. Following the December early signing period Alabama is slated to finish second and UGA third, behind another SEC team, Texas A&M. The CFP was established in 2014 and this will mark the second time these two will do battle for the title. The SEC has had a representative in every title game after 2014.
Winning begins with recruiting and no other conference does it better than the SEC. The ability to lure top-rated talent translates to the field, where the conference has won 11 of the past 15 college football national championships (Alabama six times, Florida twice, LSU twice, Auburn once).
The SEC has also had a conference representative in 14 of those 15 title games. Monday marked the day that Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa 15 years ago to become the new head coach of the Crimson Tide. Every Alabama recruiting class has won a national championship during his tenure.
When Saban arrived, the fortunes of the Crimson Tide changed overnight. The SEC was already a powerhouse conference, boasting the defending champion Florida Gators, led by Urban Meyer, and the soon-to-be champion LSU Tigers, led by Les Miles. When the ’Bama football factory launched the conference grew in stature.
To put it bluntly, for the last 15 years Nick Saban has been kicking the proverbial butts of his former assistant coaches on a regular.
Smart is looking to taste that elusive title. He’s accomplished everything else, from winning in recruiting wars to winning SEC titles. Now he has a chance to beat the king, his mentor, on the biggest stage. It’s the only way Smart can grab the crown.
Alabama — 31
Georgia — 24
Saban wins his seventh title at ’Bama and eighth overall, further solidifying his untouchable legacy as the greatest CFB coach ever.
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