It has been a fun year again with the crystal ball, as the imaginary game-picker went 84-15 during the SEC’s regular season and will return for key bowl matchups. However, the old gal hasn’t been rebuilt to today’s standards and she keeps spitting out the same result in today’s league title game: a tie. As we all know, they did away with those several years ago in favor of a questionable system that features alternate possessions on the opponents’ 25-yard line until there is a winner. Faulty? Maybe, but it beats kissing your sister doesn’t it?
Therefore, I’m left on my own to prognosticate what will happen on the floor of the Georgia Dome this afternoon, and frankly your guess is as good as mine. Why? Because I think when Georgia and Alabama look in the mirror, they see a familiar site – themselves.
Think about it. Two balanced offenses that can play smash-mouth football and pound you into submission, yet are talented at the quarterback and wide receiver positions enough they can strike like lightning.
I don’t believe the latter of the two will happen often today. I expect a low-scoring, tight game that depends on two or three plays. They could come on defense, where NFL agent Pat Dye Jr., says Georgia has four or five first-round draft picks. May happen on offense, where Alabama’s much-celebrated offensive line gives Eddie Lacy and T.J. Weldon running room. It could come down to the quarterbacks, both of which are among the best in the nation. AJ McCarron has won some big games for Alabama, as has Aaron Murray for Georgia. A career day by either one, his team will win, just as a key interception could cost his cast of cohorts the contest.
When you look at the sideline, Nick Saban may have more national titles than Mark Richt – 3-0 to be exact – but both are among the tops in the business. Saban’s specialty is defense, and he has a boy-wonder protégé to help him in Kirby Smart. Richt, a former quarterback, is an offensive genius, and he too has an impressive understudy, play-caller Mike Bobo.
Here’s the difference as I see it: Georgia’s got to show the world they can come through on the biggest stage. And make little mistake, the winner of this will be the national champion, the little skirmish with Notre Dame in Miami a mere afterthought. Richt’s won big. Of the eight 11-win seasons Georgia has had in its storied history, Richt was the head coach four of them. But perhaps it's his conservative personality, maybe it’s been Lady Luck frowning on the Bulldogs, but they seem to come out tight in games of this magnitude. See the South Carolina and Florida games this year. The Gamecocks would’ve beaten anybody the day they routed Georgia, but the Dawgs did little to help their cause. They played down to Florida’s level and Murray threw three first-half interceptions.
Not that Alabama is as good nor invincible as many, including me, thought they were early. The Tide cannot get to the passer without employing one of Smart’s patented blitz packages, and LSU and Texas A&M burned them on that fact. One game was an ever-fortunate victory, the other a near blowout defeat.
So, I’m going with the team that’s been in this situation and has come out on the long end of the score more times than not. That’s Alabama. Yes, the Tide’s time is coming in one of these Goliath-like battles, and it may be today. Georgia’s just gotta show us they are the one to turn the trick.
Alabama 20, Georgia 17.
Phil Paramore’s column appears Tuesday and Saturday in The Dothan Eagle. He can be heard weekdays from noon until 2 on AM 560 WOOF, 100.1 FM or www.woofradio.com. He can be reached at the same website.