ATLANTA – The national championship could be decided with a dream matchup between two of college football’s most storied programs: Notre Dame vs. Alabama.
Of course, Georgia might have something to say about that.
The third-ranked Bulldogs are eager to wake up some echoes of their own.
Coach Mark Richt’s team will take on No. 2 Alabama in a Southeastern Conference title game that essentially serves as a national semifinal. The winner of today’s contest at the Georgia Dome will surely land a spot against top-ranked Notre Dame in the BCS title game.
While Alabama (11-1) is a seven-point favorite to remain on course for its third crown in four years, Georgia (11-1) wants to carve out its own legacy, something beyond the great teams of the early 1980s led by Herschel Walker.
We respect and honor those guys that played ahead of us, but we really need to give the fans something else to talk about, linebacker Christian Robinson said. If that’s all we have to talk about, we must not be doing anything special.
Georgia won its only Associated Press national title in 1980, Walker’s freshman year. The Bulldogs were in position to win another two years later, but Penn State knocked them off in the Sugar Bowl.
All those who’ve come along since Walker will be cheering on this team, including Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey. He played at Georgia in the late ’90s and planned to give a pep talk by phone.
We can’t let this one slide, Bailey said. This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities because I’m tired of people talking about Herschel Walker. That was 30-something years ago. There’s been a lot of things happen between now and then, but no championships. That’s why they still talk about him.
Indeed, even though Georgia finished No. 2 in 2007, this is the best shot at finishing No. 1 since the Walker era.
We’re hungry, Robinson said. We’ve got something to prove.
So does Alabama.
A year ago, the Crimson Tide didn’t even make it to Atlanta for the SEC championship game and got a do-over against LSU for the BCS title. Even with a resounding 21-0 win, there are still those who think the Tide didn’t deserve a second chance.
If Alabama beats Georgia and Notre Dame, no one can say the Tide didn’t earn it, despite an upset loss to Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M.
There is a lot more pressure, but that is what we like, running back Eddie Lacy said. You come to Alabama to be in situations like this and play in games like this.
The SEC finalists are remarkably similar on paper.
Georgia’s Aaron Murray is the nation’s top-rated passer, just ahead of Alabama’s AJ McCarron.
The Crimson Tide has a dynamic running back tandem with Lacy (1,001 yards, 14 touchdowns) and freshman T.J. Yeldon (847 yards, 10 TDs). So does Georgia with a pair of freshmen, Todd Gurley (1,138 yards, 14 touchdowns) and Keith Marshall (720 yards, eight TDs).
Alabama leads the nation in points allowed (9.2 per game) and total defense (233.7 yards). Georgia has been just as stout since senior safety Shawn Williams called out his teammates before the Florida game, accusing them of playing soft. Over the last five weeks, the Bulldogs have surrendered just 43 points.
This matchup is right on, Georgia receiver Tavarres King said. These are two great teams, two physical teams, that get after it every Saturday. It should be a fun game.
SEC championshipGeorgia vs. Alabama
When: 4 p.m. today