There’s no way Georgia is going to lose to Alabama. Period.
I write a column like this just about every week, but I’m pretty much always right. If you don’t believe me, check out the archives or listen to the Podcast in which I’m undefeated in predicting Georgia games this year (including the loss to Auburn).
But this post is a little bit different. Not because Alabama is Alabama (though Bama is Bama) and not because the Georgia Bulldogs are new to this position. This post is different because I’m not relying on hot takes, hatred or even math to get my point across. This post is about common sense.
Georgia is going to beat Alabama, and my reasoning comes down to plain, simple, abundantly-clear truths.
The Georgia Bulldogs will not lose to the Alabama Crimson Tide, because you don’t get beat up by your little brother and Bama is UGA’s little brother.
Let’s look at the facts.
Nick Saban can’t win the big one without Kirby Smart.
Think I’m kidding? Ask yourself why Alabama lost the National Championship Game last year. It certainly wasn’t because of the offense. It wasn’t because Steve Sarkisian was placed in a
booze-booze lose-lose situation on short notice. No, the unceremonious early dismissal of Lane Kiffin, one of the most brilliant minds and one of the most revered people in all of sports, was nothing more than a distraction by Nick Saban. Admittedly, it was a flawlessly executed distraction, but it was nothing more than a distraction nonetheless. You see, by convincing the mainstream media and fans alike to wonder, “What if Lane Kiffin wasn’t already on his way to FAU?” Saban was able to disguise the fact that Alabama couldn’t stop Clemson’s offense—not without Kirby Smart.
The reality is this: Nick Saban hasn’t stopped an opposing offense in a big game since Kirby Smart left. Seriously, when was the last time a Saban-coached team stopped anybody in a national championship game without Kirby Smart? I’ll give you the answer. It was back in 2003. And want to know a secret? Saban wasn’t coaching Alabama in 2003.
The reality is that Alabama has never won an undisputed National Championship without Kirby Smart—at least not during the BCS or Playoff eras. And that’s staggering because Alabama wins “national championships” even when they don’t win National Championships. Not following? Sit tight.
Alabama football is a fraudulent excuse for a national power.
Alabama claims 16 National Championships. The NCAA says Alabama has won 14. The Associated Press gives Alabama credit for 10. What gives?
Well, here’s an example. In 1973 Notre Dame won the AP, FWAA and NFF National Championships with a perfect 11-0 record. The Fighting Irish handed Alabama its lone loss that season in the Sugar Bowl. But sure…Alabama won that national championship…according to Alabama.
That’s not an isolated incident. It’s not even the most ridiculously fake national title Bama has “won.” In 1941, Alabama was 9-2 and finished ranked 20th in the AP Poll and 3rd in the Southeastern Conference. The undefeated Minnesota Gophers claimed the AP and Consensus title, but Alabama says they won it. Alabama lost to Vanderbilt that year.
There are half a dozen questionable Alabama “national championships,” because Alabama was the original inventor of Fake News. Alabama created the Participation Trophy Generation. Bear Bryant was the very first millennial, wandering around his parents’ basement begging for trophies and believing his own alternate realities.
Alabama paved the way for the ridiculousness we’re seeing at UCF.
But Alabama had to do all that in order to stay relevant. Why? Well, because Alabama kind of sucks.
Alabama kind of sucks.
A class action suit should be filed against the State of Alabama for false advertising and deceptive marketing. “Alabama the Beautiful” my ass. You ever been there? “Alabama is beautiful” is the greatest lie the devil ever told.
Truthfully, there are very few things the state does well other than advance negative southern stereotypes, but this post isn’t about personal attacks. It’s about how desperately people want out of Alabama’s football program.
Want to know why Georgia fired Mark Richt 25 months ago? Ultimately, because working for the University of Alabama is such a miserable experience.
- Kirby Smart hated doing all of Nick Saban’s work for him and getting no credit so he wanted out.
- He wanted out so badly that he considered taking a job working for the University of South Carolina. Seriously. He wanted to work at South Carolina more than he wanted to work at Alabama.
- Georgia wanted to rescue Kirby Smart, an alumnus, from the clutches of Alabama and a life in Columbia, South Carolina.
- Georgia graciously fired a longstanding, respected, winning coach (Mark Richt) in order to take in a would-be orphan (Kirby Smart).
The narrative that Georgia hired Kirby Smart in order to build Alabama-lite is the hottest take in the history of hot takes. It’s also flat-out wrong. Georgia didn’t fire Mark Richt (a coach who went 145-51 from 2001-2015) so that the program could be more like Alabama (which went 127-50 over the same time period given vacated wins and NCAA adjustments for cheating).
No, Georgia hired Kirby Smart because even the prodigal son must eventually come home to a fattened calf. You see, everyone wants out of Alabama.
Alabama is Georgia’s little brother.
In addition to Kirby Smart, a number of other assistants (guys like Mel Tucker and Glenn Schumann) came to Georgia from Alabama. They didn’t come to create another Alabama. They didn’t come to imitate Saban’s staff. That’s a stupid, false narrative. That’s like saying Jake Fromm came to Georgia because he wanted to create another Houston County High School or saying Justin Fields signed with the Bulldogs because he wanted to replicate Harrison High School in Athens.
That’s broken logic.
Kirby and the handful of hand-plucked assistants left Alabama for Georgia because they graduated. They were called up. They were ready for The Show. They were tired of the minor leagues. They were ready to compete at the top level possible.
That’s not a slight towards Alabama; it’s just a part of life. Similarly, it’s not an attack on Georgia when elite an prospect (like, say, Matthew Stafford) leaves the University to become the NFL’s top overall pick; it’s just the logical progression. Alabama fans won’t be able to relate to that example unless they were alive in 1948 when the last Bama player was selected first over all in the draft, but you get the idea.
At some point you leave your playful beginnings behind and get serious. That’s what Smart et. al. did when they came to Georgia.
And in fairness, they didn’t do this on their own. A slew of players, most notably Jake Fromm, also followed suit. Fromm was, after all, a longtime Alabama commit before he realized that he too might have a chance at playing for the University of Georgia. More recently, Georgia signed 12 4-star recruits (two more than Alabama) and six times as many 5-star recruits as the Crimson Tide during college football’s inaugural Early Signing Day.
Georgia is providing more opportunities than ever for football players, coaches and fans to transcend above and beyond Alabama football. Big brother is open for business, and suddenly little brother sulking in the corner.
Georgia is better at football than Alabama.
Ultimately, Georgia is the better football team in this game. This feels like something of a moot point given everything above, but the Bulldogs are better than the Crimson Tide.
Georgia has a better record (13-1) than Alabama (12-1), more accolades (ever heard of an SEC Championship, Bama?) and better head-to-head performances.
- Auburn: Alabama went 0-1 against Auburn this season with a 26-14 loss to the Tigers. Georgia went 1-1 against Auburn, most recently beating the Tigers 28-7 in the SEC Championship Game. Advantage: Georgia
- Mississippi State: Both Georgia and Alabama defeated Mississippi State. Georgia won 31-3 and Alabama won 31-24. Advantage: Georgia
- Tennessee: Both Georgia and Alabama defeated Tennessee as well. Georgia won by 41 points, Alabama won by 38. Advantage: Georgia.
- Vanderbilt: Both Georgia and Alabama defeated Vanderbilt. Alabama won by a score of 59-0 and Georgia won 45-14. Advantage: Alabama.
The Bulldogs have out-performed Alabama against three of four common opponents.
Even on an individual level, Georgia is the better team.
- Jake Fromm has thrown for more yards than Jalen Hurts while also completing a higher percentage of passes, gaining more yards per attempt and tossing 35% more touchdowns.
- Georgia has two different thousand-yard rushers (Nick Chubb and Sony Michel) and a third back with more than 600 rushing yards (D’Andre Swift). Alabama has no thousand-yard rushers and only two players (Hurts and Damien Harris) who have run for more than 600 yards.
- The Bulldogs have three receivers with more than 300 receiving yards (Javon Wims, Terry Godwin and Mecole Hardman) while the Crimson Tide has one (Calvin Ridley).
- Georgia’s leading tackler (Roquan Smith) has more tackles than Bama’s leader in tackles (Ronnie Harrison).
- Georgia’s D’Andre Walker has more tackles for loss (13.5) than Alabama’s leader in the category (Rashaan Evans).
- Dominick Sanders has more interceptions for Georgia than any player has for Alabama.
- Three Bulldogs (Lorenzo Carter, J.R. Reed and Roquan Smith) have individually recovered more fumble recoveries than any single Alabama player.
- Cameron Nizialek is a better punter than Alabama’s JK Scott in terms of yards per punt, fair catch percentage, percentage inside the 20 and percentage of punts greater than 50 yards. He’s also not been blocked this year (unlike Scott).
- Rodrigo Blankenship wins the kicking battle for Georgia too. He’s got a higher field goal percentage, longer season-long make and has made more kicks from 40+ yards than Alabama’s Andy Pappanastos.
- As measured by average return distance, Mecole Hardman is a better kick and punt returner than anyone Alabama has.
Ultimately, however, this game isn’t about wins and losses—at least not for Alabama and Georgia. For Alabama this a truly unique opportunity to prove once and for all that the program is tall enough to enjoy this ride.
For Georgia, this game offers a rare opportunity to beat the living hell out of its little brother.
Mom and dad are out of the house and he’s been driving you nuts all week, Kirby. Go ahead. Finish him. Pile drive that little guy right through the coffee table. You know you want to. You know you can. You know you should. Don’t let little brother disrespect you again.
That’s all I got/
Look, Chad and I have recorded a lot of really stupid podcasts. If you think I’m kidding, go back and listen to our 10 minute podcast about Vanderbilt’s punters from 2013. Or the one about the Big Ten last summer.
But this one is epic. I’d like to think we did a nice job, but all credit goes to the Georgia Bulldogs. We just had excellent content to discuss. So give it a listen as we recap the Rose Bowl, preview the National Championship and talk trash about the Big Ten and UCF.
Or, just stream it below.
That’s all I got/
I want to begin all of this with a disclosure: The only games that matter are games that could impact a national championship. Period. That is my current belief as a Georgia fan. That’s why Georgia’s loss to Auburn (its first and only regular season loss and only loss to-date) doesn’t bother me anymore, but the Dawgs win over the Tigers in the SEC Championship means a great deal. I’m not picking and choosing for picking and choosing’s sake. I am picking and choosing because beating Auburn in Atlanta got Georgia into the playoff. Losing to Auburn on the Plains didn’t eliminate Georgia. Playoff-impacting games matter. That’s why Ohio State’s loss to Iowa mattered. Remove that loss and I’d be advocating for the Buckeyes to be in the playoff. That’s why Clemson’s throttling of Miami and Oklahoma’s big win over Ohio State mattered, if those were losses then Clemson and Oklahoma would be undeserving of their short-lived playoff bids. And ultimately, that’s why bowl games that aren’t part of the playoff really don’t matter. The lone exception may be the localized significance those games bring to over-achieving programs (UCF) or upstart programs who manage to actually keep their coach. I say all of this to say, I don’t read too much into bowl games. I’d love to roast Auburn (because I hate Auburn) for losing to Central Florida, but I know that game meant nothing to the Tigers. Auburn isn’t paying Gus Malzahn $49 million to care about Peach Bowls. This entire exercise is for those who think bowls do matter. I don’t. But if you do, consider this stuff.
So yeah, the Big Ten dominated a bunch of bowl games. But they probably should have. Just as the deck was stacked against the SEC in bowls, it was stacked pretty favorably for the Big Ten. The B1G benefited from favorable conference matchups (against a much weaker Pac-12 on four occasions) and favorable seeding (i.e. The Big Ten’s fourth-best team playing the SEC’s eighth-best).
With that context in mind, what did we actually learn about the Big Ten through bowl season?
- The Big Ten is definitely better than the Pac-12. Consider these intra-conference rankings and outcomes:
- B1G #8 Purdue defeated Pac-12 #6 Arizona by a score of 38-35.
- B1G #5 Michigan State defeated Pac-12 #4 Washington State by a score of 42-17.
- B1G #3 Penn State defeated Pac-12 #3 Washington by a score of 35-28.
- B1G #1 Ohio State defeated Pac-12 #1 USC by a score of 24-7.
- The Big Ten is probably better than the ACC. These outcomes are significant, but not as vast or decisive as the B1G/Pac-12 matchups.
- B1G #7 Iowa defeated ACC #7 Boston College by a score of 27-20.
- B1G #2 Wisconsin defeated ACC #2 Miami by a score of 34-24.
- The Big Ten is not better than the SEC. I give Northwestern (B1G #4) no credit for beating Kentucky (SEC #8) by one point after Kentucky’s best player was kicked out of the game. I obviously don’t give Michigan (B1G #6) any credit for blowing a large lead and losing to South Carolina (SEC #6) by a score of 26-19.
Is any of this surprising? No. Not really.
I’m a big fan of S&P+ ratings (see the full rankings here). Basically, these ratings are something of a proxy for predicting how a team would perform against an “average” opponent. For example, Alabama (the top team in the nation with a margin 0f 20.8) is a lot better than an average FBS team. Here’s how those ratings looked for the Big Ten’s Bowl Matchups.
|Bowl||B1G Team||S&P+ Margin||Opposing Team||S&P+ Margin||Big Ten Margin Benefit|
|Holiday||Michigan State||9.1||Washington State||5.4||3.7|
In layman’s terms, Iowa should beat Boston College, because Iowa is 3.8 points better than an average team and B.C. is only 1.0 points better than an average team. So the Big Ten (based on these rating) should have won every single one of these games. Alas, the Big Ten did not. That pesky South Carolina team, a team 5.8 points worse than Michigan by these margins, beat the Wolverines.
A point could actually be made that the Big Ten under-performed relative to expectation — if you believe in these numbers and you believe that bowl games matter.
So how would Big Ten vs. SEC matchups work on this scale? And which conference is better? Here’s a look:
|Rank||B1G Team||S&P+ Margin||SEC Team||S&P+ Margin||Advantage|
The Southeastern Conference would win nine total matchups based on S&P+ Ratings. Yes, this includes top-heavy advantages as the ratings do have Bama over Ohio State (the scores are cut-off for rounding) and Georgia over Penn State. What’s interesting, however, is that the narrative of the “top-heavy SEC” falls apart pretty quickly when the SEC wins each of the bottom-five matchups and seven of the bottom nine.
Where this is most telling is the cumulative impact of a stronger conference. Below is a graph showing the differential between the Big Ten’s S&P+ Ratings and the SEC’s S&P+ Ratings over time as additional teams are added. So, the first point on the lines is just the total margin of each conference’s top team. The second point is the margin of the first and second teams. The third represents each conference’s top three teams. The final point represents all fourteen teams from each conference.
The line that dies off faster is the top-heavy conference. That’s the Big Ten.
But look, it’s a tough narrative to sell if you’re the Big Ten. You don’t have a team in the National Championship (let alone two) or even in the playoff. So, you have to say the SEC is top-heavy, which it is (winning the top two matchups here). It just sucks that the SEC isn’t as bottom-heavy as the Big Ten either. The Big Ten has three teams (Rutgers, Maryland and Illinois) that are worse than any SEC team.
But congrats on winning lots of bowl games. I remember bowl games.
That’s all I got/
In writing about Oklahoma and Baker Mayfield, I kept coming back to comparisons of the Sooners and the Missouri Tigers. So here are some interesting perspectives with regards to how both teams played against Georgia.
Oklahoma’s offense was actually incredibly similar in terms of efficiency to that of Mizzou. Georgia held the ball for almost 40 minutes against Missouri (vs. 27 against Oklahoma), so the Tigers didn’t get as many shots as the Sooners, but consider this:
|Georgia Opponent||Total Plays||Total Points||Yards Per Play||Points Per Play|
We could normalize the data above to account of overtime, but the more well-rounded normalization should occur for time of possession. After all, given that both teams were largely similar in yards per play and points per play (with Mizzou scoring more efficiently and OU gaining more efficiently), the biggest X-factors seems to be time of possession.
Oklahoma held the ball for 1,978 seconds (32 minutes, 58 seconds vs. Georgia). Mizzou only held the ball for 1,224 seconds (20 minutes and 24 seconds). We can’t really blame this gap on Missouri’s offense, because, again, it performed about as efficiently as Oklahoma on a per-play basis. So, what would have happened if Mizzou could have held the ball as long as Oklahoma?
- 28 points scored becomes 45.25 points.
- 312 yards becomes 504.
How’s that comparison?
|Georgia Opponent||Yards in 32:58||Points in 32:58 Offensive Points|
Obviously, it’s hard to compare anything involving time of possession if overtime is included, because that’s unclocked time. And it’s hard to say that one offense could sustain a high level of efficiency over the long-haul if it were given 60% more time of possession. But the point is this: The Oklahoma vs. Missouri offensive comparisons aren’t insane.
That’s all I got/
I want to lead this off with three comments:
- Baker Mayfield deservedly won the Heisman Trophy by a wide margin.
- Baker Mayfield played a good game against Georgia.
- Baker Mayfield has been as fun to watch as anyone in college football for the past three years.
With that out of the way, Baker Mayfield didn’t look like a Heisman winner against Georgia in the Rose Bowl. He wasn’t even the best quarterback Georgia faced this year.
Mayfield won the Heisman because he was the quarterback of a Playoff-bound, major conference championship team, and he put up video-game statistics. It’s hard to argue with his statistical line through the year’s first 13 games. Here’s what an average Baker Mayfield game looked like before Monday:
- 20 of 28 passing (71% complete)
- 334 passing yards (11.76 yards per attempt)
- 3.2 TD passes to zero interceptions (Mayfield threw one about every three games on average)
- 6.5 carries for 28 yards on the ground (plus a rushing TD every 2.5 games or so).
That’s crazy stuff. Completing more than 70% of his passes, accounting for almost 360 yards of offense and four scores per game while posting a passer rating of 203.75. That’s Heisman stuff. Can’t dispute that.
But what did he do against Georgia?
- Completion Percentage: 65.7% (below season average and fifth-worst of the year).
- Passing Yards: 287 (below season average and fifth-worst of the year).
- Yards Per Attempt: 8.2 (below season average and worst performance of the year).
- Passing TDs: 2 (below season average and tied for his worst performance of the year).
- INTs: 1 (above season average and one of just five games with a pick).
- Other Yards of Offense: 3 (below his season average and his fifth-worst performance of the year).
In total, Mayfield accounted for 290 yards of offense, three touchdowns and one turnover. Only two teams held him to fewer yards. One was TCU in a second matchup with Oklahoma. The other was Kansas, when the outcome was never in question.
Most tellingly, Mayfield was held to 6.04 yards per offensive attempt (meaning: total offense divided by pass attempts, rush attempts and receptions). During the 13 games of his Heisman campaign he averaged 10.24 yards per offensive attempt. Prior to the Rose Bowl, he was never held below 7.5 yards per offensive attempt.
Honestly, Mayfield’s performance was not as strong as Drew Lock’s showing against Georgia. The Missouri signal-caller accounted for 268 total yards of offense on just 27 attempts for an average of 9.93 yards per play. Both Lock and Mayfield threw a single interception, but Lock accounted for more total touchdowns (four vs. Mayfield’s three).
He’s a hell of a competitor, but Georgia’s defense made Baker look like a prep chef. And he made himself look like a a clown with his “It’s Over” antics.
That’s all I got/