ATLANTA–I faulted, unequivocally, last week in picking Georgia to lose the Rose Bowl, failing to recognize the Bulldogs would breeze to a lopsided, double OT victory over Oklahoma. I totally miscalculated the unmistakable dominance of one team over the other. Bulldog Nation took notice on Twitter, with handle @ChopnWoodUGA begging: “@DufRankman: Please tell me you have Bama in the National Championship.” Sorry, Chopn, you lose: I’m picking Georgia to win it all and break the spell of Alabama’s choke hold on the SEC. Like it or not, I’m all in on UGA and ready to chant: “Let’s win it for Herschel Walker and Coach Dooley!”
1: It’s just time plus the law of averages: The following SEC schools have won national titles since Georgia won its last in 1980: Alabama (5), LSU (2), Auburn, Tennessee, Florida (3). Georgia’s “want to” and will is equal to those other “it just means more” SEC franchises, but sometimes history makes you wait. The Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs waited far longer between titles before finally turning tables. This is Georgia’s time.
2: Home city advantage. Alabama Coach Nick Saban has complained all week about the short recovery time between the semifinals and Monday night’s title game in Atlanta. Georgia has the advantage in that Athens is only 71 miles away, allowing Coach Kirby Smart to treat this as a home game. The Bulldogs, with permission granted by the College Football Playoff, practiced at their own facilities. “We thought it would be best to be in our normal setting, which is to be in our meeting rooms, in our training room, in our recovery rooms and on our practice field,” Smart said. This is HUGE. Saban’s request to have the entire city of Tuscaloosa uprooted and relocated to the greater Atlanta area was denied.
3: Jake Fromm IS going to be the first true freshman quarterback to lead his team to the title since Oklahoma’s Jamelle Holieway did it in 1985. Look at the karma parallels. Holieway only became the starter because Troy Aikman broke his leg early in the season against Miami. Fromm won the job this year after Jacob Eason was injured in the opener. My years-held axiom that you can’t win with a true frosh QB is going to get busted. It almost happened last year when Alabama’s Jalen Hurts nearly accomplished the feat. Freshmen like Fromm and Hurts are much more capable, in the modern era of passing camps, of leading their teams to big things. “Quarterbacks that are getting developed are getting developed at a much faster rate,” Smart said.
4: Alabama is vulnerable. Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Crimson Tide looked dominant last week against Clemson, but here’s the truth: this has been Saban’s most injury-riddled team. “No, we’re not healthy, “Saban said. “We’ve got an injury list that’s really, really long…I can’t even tell you the number of guys that we have out, but it’s a pretty significant number.” For Monday’s game, scratch two important Alabama starters: Lester Cotton (right guard) and JACK defender Anfernee Jennings. All-world safety Minkah Fitzpatrick will play despite injuring a kidney in last week’s Sugar Bowl in over Clemson.
5: Kirby Smart knows how to beat Nick Saban. Forget that stat about Saban being 11-0 against his former assistant coaches. Stats are for losers and sportswriters and loser sportswriters. Those assistants had a “cup of coffee” with Nick compared to the NINE years Smart spent by Saban’s side in Tuscaloosa. Smart knows every nuance of how Alabama works, down to the play counts, snap audibles and pregame routine. “We’re trying to go watch a movie tonight (Sunday),” Saban said, “and they’re trying to go watch the movie at the same place.”
Final Score: Georgia 24, Alabama 21