SMITH COLUMN: One More Time for Georgia against Alabama

Published 9:30 am Thursday, January 6, 2022

We begin with sterling appreciation for Georgia’s coaching clinic disposal of the current Big Ten champions on New Year’s Eve, a heady conquering of a long-time power in college football but with the reminder that Michigan ain’t Alabama.

While it was good to enjoy the fruits of a well-deserved victory, the fact remains that Alabama has more overall balance, speed and talent, a Heisman trophy winning quarterback and is coached by a man who seems to enjoy as much extraordinary luck as he does genius.

Winning streaks are as much a part of the college football landscape as shoulder pads and helmets. Then there is the media attention that can beat a mild negative into headline sensation.

For a while, the Dallas Cowboys of Tom Landry had difficulty in winning a Super Bowl. It once appeared that John Elway was going to crowd out Fran Tarkenton (three) and Jim Kelly (four) for Super Bowl defeats.

Bobby Bowden had his troubles with Miami — you remember his “wide right” days?  Bear Bryant never beat Notre Dame, losing four games by a heart-stopping 13 points. The boys of the Fourth Estate were bandying about, before the Notre Dame/Sugar Bowl game in 1980, that Vince Dooley had a problem winning in New Orleans. (He had lost in the Sugar Bowl in 1968 and 1976).

Then Georgia had those forgettable days against Florida in Jacksonville, after Dooley dominated that series during his career, but few of those streaks compare with Michigan’s challenge with Ohio State, winning only three games in the last two decades.

Nothing could have been more debilitating that the curse of the Bambino which Boston Red Sox loyalists endured — an 86-year drought between World Series trophies.

If you take the time to research, few coaches in the Southeastern Conference have had much success against Nick Saban.

The Alabama insiders will tell you that Kirby Smart is more like Saban as a coach than any who have worked under the guy who moonlights as a Mercedes-Benz dealer.

While none is clairvoyant, this will change. When, we don’t know although there is faith that come next week the new champion will be the one wearing Red and Black.

There is something especial about this this Georgia team, and I have faith it will rise to the occasion.

“Just one more time,” became the unofficial battle cry of the 1980 Bulldogs. Erk Russell gave objective traction.

An undefeated season was on the line when the Bulldogs outfought Notre Dame in New Orleans, four decades ago. The Irish were a physical behemoth, and they were also agile and efficient. In addition, they were fixated on sending their coach, Dan Devine, into retirement a winner.

There was constant chatter that the Irish defense was determined to keep Herschel Walker from accumulating a hundred yards rushing. He didn’t.  He gained 150 while Notre Dame made more first downs and outrushed and out passed Georgia as a team. Even today, four decades later, Herschel’s performance does not get its due. His yardage total does not have the asterisk that deserves prominence. He gained all those yards by taking 34 snaps with a dislocated shoulder.

The goal of the Georgia team is to play as a team. It doesn’t matter if a back gains a hundred yards.

Be happy if the backs as a group gain a hundred yards or more.

Give Stetson Bennett time to manage the offense like the offensive line did against Michigan and things should be different. The last time Georgia won a national championship they wore “BIG TEAM, little me” tee shirts. This Bulldog team is more like the ’80 team than any I have observed since that glorious year. The famous BIG TEAM slogan of the ’80 team characterizes the attitude of this team, plus they are going to Indianapolis with a chip on their collective shoulders.