If you were asking folks at the beginning of the season who the best two teams in college football were, more than likely the answer you would have gotten was Alabama and Georgia.
Clemson might have been in that discussion but that promptly ended week 1. On Monday we are going to find out a few things. Can Saban motivate his team to do it again? Did Kirby Smart learn something from the first meeting that can help him win? Is the master still better than the apprentice?
I am fortunate that on every Tuesday I get to spend my morning and lunch with a local football coach that probably knows more about football than many coaching today. I asked him how he got his team ready to play against another team for the second time in playoff games. He said, “I was most effective when I was just mad at everything and everybody the week before the game. Nobody could do anything right, not the coaches, players, secretaries or the managers. We won when I did that.”
For Nick Saban, it is getting rid of the Rat Poison, as he likes to say. Kirby Smart can use the fact that Alabama dealt them a hefty loss in their first meeting. But what does history say?
In modern history there are three instances when teams met in the regular season and then followed up in a second meeting for the National Championship. The first was the 1994 season where Bobby Bowden and his FSU team played against Steve Spurrier and his fun and gun Florida Gators. It was the last game of the regular season and the game ended in a 31-to-31 kiss-your-sister affair as overtime did not exist in college football in 1994. The Sugar Bowl served as the venue for the rematch and FSU won the game 23-17.
Two years later the same script played out again as FSU beat Florida 24-21 in the regular season. The Sugar Bowl again hosted the re-match with FSU being ranked number 1 in the Nation and Florida ranked number 3. This time the Gators turned the tables and rolled up a 52-20 shellacking of FSU and were declared the National Champions.
During the BCS era in 2011 Alabama and LSU played in a rematch game in the BCS championship. During the regular season the two met in what many termed one of the greatest games played. Defense ruled the day as LSU won the game 9-6 in overtime. The rematch would feature LSU being number 1 and due to some late season upsets, Alabama moved to number 2, after not even winning their division or conference. This time around, Alabama found some offense and won the game 21-0. The victory gave Alabama and Nick Saban the National Championship.
Georgia and Kirby have had one opportunity to play a rematch, 2018 with Auburn. During the regular season Auburn defeated Georgia 40-17, but in the return game in the SEC Championship, Georgia returned the favor beating Auburn 29-7 and advancing to the College Playoff.
So, what the numbers say is that Georgia and Kirby Smart have the advantage, and the prognosticators agree, giving them a 2 ½ point pick going into the game. But like all things we just must tune in Monday night and watch the story unfold. You still have to play the game “HOSS.”
Richard Proctor, born in Newnan, recently moved back from Denver, Colorado, and is an avid college football fan as well as a published author.