Georgia Bulldogs, Alabama Crimson Tide play for all the marbles tonight in College Football Playoff championship

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, left, speaks with Alabama counterpart Nick Saban before the Southeastern Conference championship game on Dec. 4 in Atlanta. (AP file photo)

INDIANAPOLIS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart got an inside look at what it takes to build a college football juggernaut working for Nick Saban at Alabama for eight seasons.

Blueprint in hand, Smart took over at his alma mater in 2016, and the Bulldogs have been ascending ever since, going 57-10 in the last five seasons.

“I think the University of Georgia, Kirby’s program is probably one of the elite programs in the country,” Saban said Sunday.

But to truly be like ‘Bama you have to beat ‘Bama. Smart and the Bulldogs are 0-4 against the Tide.

No. 3 Georgia gets another shot to take down the king tonight. The Bulldogs face the top-ranked and defending national champion Tide in all-Southeastern Conference College Football Playoff title game played in the heart of Big Ten country.

Five weeks after Alabama once again asserted its dominance over Georgia in the SEC title game, the Bulldogs drag the weight of a seven-game losing streak against the Tide and a 41-year national title drought into a rematch at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“I mean, it’s definitely motivation,” Georgia tackle Jamaree Salyer said of the losing streak to Alabama. “It’s the truth. You can’t really run away from the truth.”

The last meeting was especially painful for Georgia. The Bulldogs entered the SEC championship favored and undefeated, the unanimous No. 1 team in the country.

Georgia had stomped everything in its path behind a defense that was smothering opponents at an historically stingy pace before Bryce Young and the Tide picked the Bulldogs apart 41-24 in Atlanta.

“He is elite at what he does,” Smart said. “We’ve talked about him as Houdini because he can make people miss.”

Young adeptly avoided Georgia’s pass rush while throwing for 421 yards in a performance that essentially won him the Heisman Trophy.

“He’s slippery,” Georgia All-America nose tackle Jordan Davis said.

How much of an outlier was the Alabama game for Georgia? The Bulldogs allowed 15 touchdowns this season. Five came against Alabama.

“I think no game’s going to be the same,” said Tide All-America linebacker Will Anderson, who had two sacks in Alabama’s 27-6 semifinal victory against No. 4 Cincinnati.


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