UGA isn’t just playing a team – it’s facing the Alabama aura

Emperor Saban and his band of conquerors charge onward to the next fray. (AP photo)

Emperor Saban and his band of crimson conquerors charge onward to the next fray. (AP photo)

Heard often: Georgia’s path to the SEC championship game was facilitated by a schedule that didn’t include Western powers Alabama (No. 2 in the BCS standings), LSU (No. 7) and Texas A&M (No. 9).

Heard less often: Alabama’s path to the SEC championship game was facilitated by a schedule that didn’t include Eastern powers Georgia (No. 3), Florida (No. 4) and South Carolina (No. 10).

Heard often: Georgia’s biggest victory of the season was largely a function of six Florida turnovers.

Heard less often: Alabama’s biggest victory of the season was largely a function of four failed kicking ploys from the fertile mind of LSU’s Les Miles.

There’s a military acronym — RHIP. It stands for, “Rank has its privileges.” Ranking matters in college football, where two-thirds of the BCS standings consist of human polls, and privilege has tangible benefits. The benefit of being Alabama is that you never have to explain yourself. You’re Bama. ‘Nuff said.

On Nov. 5, 2011, second-ranked Alabama lost at home to No. 1 LSU. The Crimson Tide dropped one spot in the BCS standings. Two weeks later, Bama was back at No. 2, a position that enabled it to win the BCS title without taking its division or conference.

On Nov. 10, 2012, top-ranked Alabama lost at home to No. 15 Texas A&M. The Tide slid to No. 4, trailing three unbeaten teams. A week later, Bama was back at No. 2. Contrast this with Oregon, which was ranked No. 2 but lost at home to No. 13 Stanford. The Ducks dropped No. 5, behind three once-beaten teams. Mortals pay for losing. Alabama never falls far or stays down long. Alone among collegiate programs, it comes equipped with an aura.

But you know what? The halo fits. When you get as good as Alabama has gotten, you’ve earned the benefit of every doubt — not that there’s much cause for doubting. This is the premier program in the only conference that matters, and it keeps re-staking the claim.

Two years ago, its nemesis had the nerve to land Cam Newton and beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa after trailing 24-0 and won a national championship of its own, but where is Auburn today? Looking for a new coach. Where is Bama? Two games from a third BCS title in four seasons.

Even by Alabama’s lofty standards, its place in contemporary football is remarkable. It reigns over the sport in a way not seen since … Oklahoma under Bud Wilkinson? Notre Dame under Ara Parseghian? Bama itself under the Bear?

Alabama has been ranked No. 1 in each of the past five seasons, and in 2009 and 2011 it was No. 1 at the end. Bama moves inexorably from strength to strength. It has the ablest recruits, the wildest fans, the best coach.

About Nick Saban, all we need to know is this: He lost four first-round draftees to the NFL in April 2011 and won a national championship 8 1/2 months later. It was his third BCS title, and still  he labors as if hellhounds were on his trail. Apologies to Urban Meyer, but Saban is the emperor of college football. Know how the NBA borrowed Jerry West’s silhouette for its logo? The BCS could do the same with Saban.

OK, who wins?

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No, Alabama doesn’t win every championship, or even every game. It lost to A&M 2 1/2 weeks ago. It lost twice in a row to LSU, where once Saban worked. It lost to Utah in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2, 2009. Heck, it lost to Louisiana-Monroe in 2007. But that was near the end of Saban’s first season as coach, which ended with the Tide at 7-6. Alabama has since gone 59-7, which in this league in this era is outrageous.

Still, there are gradations within the greatness. If you look hard, you’ll note that the Tide’s defense is yielding 40 more yards a game this season than it did in 2011. (Now as then, Alabama leads the nation in total defense.) In eight quarters plus an overtime, the LSU of last season managed 331 yards and nine points against the Tide D; in four quarters last month, LSU as quarterbacked by the Georgia exile Zach Mettenberger managed 435 yards and 17 points.

If you’re Georgia, which has reached consecutive SEC title games without exactly swaying the electorate, those numbers offer hope for what looms as the Bulldogs’ most significant game since Herschel Walker split for the USFL. Any program in search of ultimate validation must get past Saban and his minions. The past five national titles have been taken either by Alabama or by a team that beat a Saban-coached Alabama.

Win Saturday and nobody will ever again ask these Bulldogs, “Yeah, but who did you beat?” Win Saturday and Georgia will have bettered Bama, and Bama is the best. ‘Nuff said.

Further reading: This week’s Heat Check — Destiny’s Dogs? No-bowl Jackets? Whoa, Nelly.

By Mark Bradley

443 comments Add your comment

David

November 26th, 2012
1:32 pm

first. GO DAWGS

Weyman C. Wannamaker Jr. (A Great American)

November 26th, 2012
1:32 pm

David

November 26th, 2012
1:32 pm

gdawg

November 26th, 2012
1:34 pm

A tall order but we can do it! GO DAWGS!

ole dawg

November 26th, 2012
1:34 pm

Commit to the damn “G”!!!!! GO DAWGS!!! Spank that Tide a**!!!!!!

st simons re-encarnate

November 26th, 2012
1:35 pm

dawgfan

November 26th, 2012
1:36 pm

bama may or may not win but just cause its bama they have already gave them
both titles

Red Stick

November 26th, 2012
1:37 pm

Saban is the best coach in college football and Alabama is the top program in the nation right now.

It’s hard to gauge how good Georgia is based on their schedule. It will be interesting to see how the Dogs match up with them.

Geaux Tigers
Go SEC

columbiadawg

November 26th, 2012
1:37 pm

Falls City Bulldawg

November 26th, 2012
1:37 pm

Until we beat Alabama or LSU, UGA will not be considered “proven.” Go Dawgs.

Weyman C. Wannamaker Jr. (A Great American)

November 26th, 2012
1:38 pm

FHIK (First Has Its Kudos)

Should be a heckuva game if both teams play to their potential and errors are kept to a minimum.

columbiadawg

November 26th, 2012
1:39 pm

Good Article. I never realized how similar the 2012 Crimson Tide and Bulldogs were. Still, Saban is Saban and it will be a tough task to win Saturday night. GO Dawgs

Monte

November 26th, 2012
1:41 pm

Go shock the world uga and say alabama not the best team in the south

DONNAN OF A NEW ERA

November 26th, 2012
1:41 pm

Can anyone please tell me why UGA claims 5 national championships yet the history of college football championships only show UGA win 1?

http://www.collegefootballpoll.com/champions_national.html

Http

November 26th, 2012
1:46 pm

UGA will win.

GeoffDawg

November 26th, 2012
1:47 pm

I will say this about Saban, his teams are good all the time and don’t tend to get caught up in the highs and lows like most programs. Fortunately for Georgia, I think they’re hitting a high note at the right time. Hopefully, it’s enough. I know Rambo’s comments didn’t do them any favors.

Mark Bradley

November 26th, 2012
1:47 pm

David takes the coveted kudos in a close race.

CHDawg

November 26th, 2012
1:48 pm

Good column, Mark. Alabama does have a great team and a great program, and this game could be one for the ages if we can find a way to upset them! Go Dawgs.

DONNAN OF A NEW ERA

November 26th, 2012
1:48 pm

“I think they’re hitting a high note at the right time.”

Yeah, they beat a horrible Auburn team and mediocre GT team. Talk about “hitting on all cylinders.”

GeoffDawg

November 26th, 2012
1:48 pm

Because people follow different polls Donnan. That was the point of the BCS in the first place.

DONNAN OF A NEW ERA

November 26th, 2012
1:49 pm

Mark Bradley

Could you please clear the air about how many titles UGA actually has? I see that some people say they “claim 5″ yet the college football championship almanac only shows UGA with one.

Thanks

Bryan G.

November 26th, 2012
1:51 pm

It has to be Bama. Has to be. For UGA to get the national love it desires, it has to play and beat Bama. For Richt to show that his laid-back way is as good or equal to the “process”, he has to beat Saban. Alabama took our mojo on a late September night in 2008 with the whole country watching. This Saturday is a chance to get UGA back to where it was before that game kicked off.

DONNAN OF A NEW ERA

November 26th, 2012
1:51 pm

“That was the point of the BCS in the first place.”

Then again, UGA only beat one ranked team all year. Not exactly “elite” status in the world of college football.

GeoffDawg

November 26th, 2012
1:52 pm

They didn’t just beat them Donnan, they dominated and destroyed them. That’s also right after soundly beating Ole Miss and winning against the 2nd ranked Gators. It’s night and day compared to the first half of the season.

In your mind, what more could they have done to show momentum?

GeoffDawg

November 26th, 2012
1:54 pm

“Then again, UGA only beat one ranked team all year. Not exactly “elite” status in the world of college football.”

I think you’re missing the point of the article Donnan.

reality check time

November 26th, 2012
1:54 pm

Puppies ones again are out of reality, these overrated dogs have not beaten anyone but UF who has the worst offense in the SEC and only lost by 4, puppies last 3 opponents have a total of 12 wins combine.
Georgia fans are so desperate for something they have overlooked they got beat by 28 points by average SC team, and talking about national championship ha, ha, ha, once again UF saved low standard Mark R. job, I know he is glad Spurrier, Myers are gone who owned him.

Once again UGA easy schedule will send them to get creamed, Bama by 20””’

Bob669

November 26th, 2012
1:56 pm

There is no reason that UGA can not beat Bama. I truly believe that UGA is the more talented team. But, can they play their game and not Bama’s.
27-17 Dawgs

Bumblers

November 26th, 2012
1:56 pm

Donnan (Tech Nerd):

Do you have anything valid to add?

Thanks

GeoffDawg

November 26th, 2012
1:58 pm

Looks like this got lost in the filter so re-writing:

Yeah, they beat a horrible Auburn team and mediocre GT team. Talk about “hitting on all cylinders.”

They didn’t just beat them Donnan, they thoroughly dominated and destroyed them. That’s also on the heels of soundly beating a good Ole Miss team and winning against the 2nd ranked Gators. It’s night and day compared to the first half of the season.

To your way of thinking, what more could they done for you to demonstrate momentum?

Steve

November 26th, 2012
1:59 pm

Geoff, just ignore that Donnan kid. He just likes to comment on others comments and post things like UGA has not mattered since 1980, hilarious. He is an angry Florida redneck with no life.

reality check time

November 26th, 2012
2:00 pm

Can not wait to see what excuse Mark R. and Georgia fans use after this game, last year it was we played for a whole half with LSU, this what happens when you never play LSU, Ala no one in the Sec takes UGA serious.

DONNAN OF A NEW ERA

November 26th, 2012
2:02 pm

“They didn’t just beat them Donnan, they thoroughly dominated and destroyed them.”

As did every other SEC team.

Yo Vince

November 26th, 2012
2:03 pm

Bama will need to play good on both sides of the ball to win. Georgia will have to be perfect in all aspects of the game. It’s just another game for the Tide. it’s the be all end all for the Dwags… Bama 20 Dwags 13

Ted M

November 26th, 2012
2:03 pm

Its all up to Murray. He is due for a great game in a big…way over due in fact.

Dr. Watson

November 26th, 2012
2:04 pm

You also need to know this about Nick Saban. He finished fourth in the West WITH those four First Round Draft Picks in 2010.

Jdawg

November 26th, 2012
2:06 pm

Can’t wait!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

[...] Mark Bradley column: UGA isn’t just facing a team — it’s facing the Alabama aura [...]

NCDawgFan

November 26th, 2012
2:08 pm

Only two championship banners fly over Sanford Stadium, 1980 and 1942. In 1942 Georgia beat UCLA in the Rose Bowl 9-0, to end their season 11-1 and recognized as national champions in six different polls. That same season Ohio State was 9-1, did not play in a bowl game but was recognized in several of the myriad of other polls. Back in those days there were almost a dozen organizations that selected a champion at the end of season. Even as imperfect as the BCS has been since 1998, it sure beats a dozen different polls.

ADMan

November 26th, 2012
2:10 pm

reality check….what a dumbass you are….the only one taking you seriously is “no one”. You’ve got to be a Tech fan….I’ll bet Bama fans are taking this game seriously.What excuse have you got for Techs blowout loss Saturday?….What a tool you are!

Timbo

November 26th, 2012
2:12 pm

ADMan,

I and every Bama fan I know is taking this game seriously.

PTC DAWG

November 26th, 2012
2:12 pm

Just wait until the SEC is exposed this weekend…

Oh wait……

Go DAWGS

Bob in SF

November 26th, 2012
2:13 pm

Murray can’t play like he did most of the Florida game. If he plays well they can win; if he throws three picks it will be incredibly hard to overcome.

7576DAWG

November 26th, 2012
2:15 pm

reality check time
None of what you just said is fact, it’s just your on personal bias.
When South Carolina played Georgia they were at full strength, both Clowney and Lattimore were at their best. Lattimore is gone now and Clowney is at 50 to 75% because of an ankle problem. With very little depth South Carolina is still a great team but no where near as good as they were when Georgia played them.
You putting down the win at Florida disagrees with every poll out there They have beaten 5 top 15 programs and are ranked 4TH. Georgia got 17 points on a great defense.

GeoffDawg

November 26th, 2012
2:18 pm

Georgia Tech didn’t play another SEC team Donnan.

Bama Fan in Dawgland

November 26th, 2012
2:19 pm

Good luck my Dawg friends. Should be a great game as both teams have similar talent (despite what Rumbo says) and match up pretty well.

All I'm Saying Is....

November 26th, 2012
2:21 pm

Excellent column, Bradley, and chock-full-of statistics to buttress your claims. Keep writing stuff like this and I like your chances for the sports writers Hall of Fame.

BCS is a definite improvement over what we had before when the Big10 and PAC10 champs were locked into the Rose Bowl, for example. Although I thought it (college football) was more fun for fans before the BCS since typically a few teams could talk smack about their #1 claims as opposed to the one or two in the BCS era.

No one prepares a team better than Saban so Bama will be ready. I also think their loss to A&M actually took a lot of pressure off them, especially their QB, enabling all of them to play loose and with much more freedom.

Georgia had virtually this same scenario a year ago and had a legitimate chance to knock-off LSU but did not. I think the UGA defense is stronger this year and they have a much better running attack. This year, however, I think it all comes down to Aaron Murray. Unfortunately, I’m not convinced the kid can play well in a big game. For video evidence, see the South Carolina and Florida games.

So while my heart is with the Bulldogs, my head says to pick Bama by 6.

ssldkfj@lskdjf.com

November 26th, 2012
2:22 pm

We created this monster by losing to them in 2008. Now it’s time to turn the tide.

Dawg Fud

November 26th, 2012
2:24 pm

“To be the man, you gotta beat the man!”

-Ric Flair

WyoDawg

November 26th, 2012
2:26 pm

If UGA focuses on executing their assignments at the best of their abilities and not the aura they will win the game. Right now Georgia is the better team.

[...] tells Alabama's Nick Saban `be careful what you ask for' in …Orlando SentinelUGA isn't just playing a team — it's facing the Alabama auraAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)The regular season in the SEC has come and gone, but our hot/not [...]