It’s Official: With Kirby Smart, Georgia Will Never Beat Alabama’s Nick Saban

Georgia is a college football fraud.

Yes, the Bulldogs are a good team. Yes, although their schedule isn’t as mighty as SEC chauvinists claim it is (Alabama-Birmingham, Vanderbilt, Charleston Southern), you could make the case they are at least potent.

Even so, Alabama used a 41-24 victory Saturday during the SEC Championship Game to crush Georgia and that talk from the regular season about the Bulldogs ranking among the historically elite, with an otherworldly defense, a highly efficient quarterback and a fairly decent chance never to lose again this decade.

Alabama exposed No. 1 Georgia (well, at least for the moment) as nothing but Crimson Tide wannabes. Then somebody asked Kirby Smart what he told his Bulldogs in the losers’ locker room at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“I love them, and I appreciate them,” Smart said of his post-game words, adding that he warned them, “The outside noise begins now.”

It does, and my hand is raised to lead the screaming among those who know Georgia is nothing more than a tease for the national championship. Despite all of those fancy recruiting classes leading to all of that preseason hype for decades, the Bulldogs haven’t won it all since 1980.

Oh, and counting.

Nevertheless, when members of the College Football Playoff (CFP) committee huddle Sunday, they’ll include Georgia and Alabama in their Final Four.

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The truth is, any combination involving a rematch between these two SEC teams won’t be pretty for Georgia. See Saturday’s results, and get this: The last time Alabama faced Georgia was on October 17, 2020 in Tuscaloosa, where the Crimson Tide whipped the Bulldogs by exactly the same score of 41-24. Two years before that, Georgia collapsed against Alabama twice in 12 months during essentially more home games for the Bulldogs at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, located 71 miles from their campus in Athens, and Georgia blew double-digit leads both times in the second half.

First, there was the CFP title game in January 2018, when Georgia went from a 13-0 advantage at halftime to a 26-23 loss in overtime. Then came the SEC Championship Game that December. Even though the Bulldogs were ahead 28-14 midway through the third quarter, they lost 35-28.

The common denominator: Smart choked all of those times against Alabama coach Nick Saban, his old boss. As I’ve said forever (including for Forbes.com last month), until Smart proves he can beat Saban, he never will.

Does this sound familiar? Georgia roared to a double-digit lead Saturday against Alabama after a 10-0 start just inside of the second quarter, but Kirby’s Bulldogs collapsed for a fourth time in four tries with Saban across the way.

Regarding the latest edition of Kirby versus Nick, there were so many things we learned (again).

  • Talent versus TALENT.

Even though Kirby has spent his six seasons at Georgia recruiting like crazy, he still hasn’t reached Saban’s level. For instance: Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett is pretty good, but Alabama’s Bryce Young is pretty great.

“He knew where to go with the ball. He keeps his eyes downfield with the rush, where a lot of quarterbacks wouldn’t do that,” Smart said of Young, a sophomore who completed 26 of 44 passes for 421 yards and three touchdowns, and he also rushed three times for 40 yards and another score.

Courtesy of Young and swift Alabama receivers John Metchie III and Jameson Williams, the Tide torched a Georgia defense that had allowed opponents an average of less than a touchdown per game. You know, even though it included the likes of Alabama-Birmingham, Vanderbilt and Charleston Southern

  • Smart did what?

Whenever Saban is across the way, with his seven national championship rings (figuratively, if nothing else), Smart loses his mind or something.

Take that 2017 CFP title game, when Smart played conservatively enough after Georgia grabbed that 13-point lead to spur Alabama’s comeback. There also was his fake punt at midfield in the 2018 SEC championship game, with the score tied at 28-28 inside of the final four minutes.

It didn’t work.

This time, with Georgia trailing by two touchdowns against Alabama near the end of the third quarter and needing a pulse (or a field goal), Smart opted to have Bennett go for it on fourth-and-six from Alabama’s 19.

That didn’t work, either.

Here’s the biggest thing we learned . . .

Smart will never beat Saban.

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