It was a big game the last time Alabama and Georgia faced off against each another back in 2008.
Both teams entered the Sept. 27 game at Sanford Stadium with identical 4-0 records. Alabama was ranked No. 8, while Georgia was No. 3. In hindsight, it was the rare September matchup with big implications for more reasons than just their top 10 rankings.
Georgia was a team ranked among college football’s best for several years to that point. Alabama, on the other hand, was a team fighting to return to prominence after years of disappointment.
The hype surrounding this game felt almost unprecedented for a regular season, but the Bulldogs – both players and fans alike – were ready. Putting aside their familiar red jerseys, the Georgia players wore black as did nearly the entire Georgia fan base in attendance for only the third time in school history. It was going to be a good one in Athens, Ga. – but only for one team.
The Crimson Tide raced out to a 31-0 halftime lead and never looked back en route to a 41-30 win.
The final score makes it appear that the Bulldogs made it a game again in the second half, but don’t be fooled. Georgia took a beating that game.
Despite the outcome in the now infamous “Blackout” game, it would have been foolish to say that the two programs were headed in opposite directions from where they stood in recent years over just one game.
Over the course of the next four years, however, it became apparent that the “Blackout” game was the start of a new era for both programs.
Following the loss to Alabama through the 2011 season, Georgia compiled a less than spectacular 30-18 record – including a 2-2 record in bowl games – a far cry from what they had grown accustomed to in recent years.
In the same timeframe, Alabama was 43-6 with two BCS National Championship wins and a 3-1 bowl record.
There was a time when Georgia head coach Mark Richt’s future at the school was in doubt, while on the contrary it is almost unheard of to find someone doubting Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
Now fast forward to the present, and once again Alabama and Georgia will meet – this time in Saturday’s SEC Championship game with a trip to Miami for the BCS National Championship on the line.
The No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide and the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs both enter the matchup with identical 11-1 records, but now it is Alabama trying to retain their dominance and Georgia attempting to regain national relevance.
An Alabama win on Saturday tells the obvious – Alabama is still the premier program in college football today and still the team to beat when it matters most.
But as with Georgia in 2008, could an Alabama loss mark the end of an era? If recent SEC history is any indicator, the answer could be yes.
At the end of the 2008 season, Alabama fell 31-20 to eventual BCS national champion, Florida. The title that year made it two BCS title wins in three years for the Gators.
In 2009, Alabama and Florida met once again in the SEC Championship game with Florida just one win away from competing in their third BCS title game berth in four years. This time, however, the Crimson Tide prevailed in a dominating 32-13 win, which was then followed by a national championship victory.
The Gators were no longer the class of college football after that loss, finishing with 8-5 and 7-6 records the following two years.
Now it is Alabama who is one win away from possibly making it three out of four, having won in 2009, 2011, and now possibly 2012.
Saturday’s showdown is looking eerily similar to the same scenario in 2009. The Crimson Tide are still the favorites to defeat the Bulldogs in the SEC Championship game, but the same could be said about the Gators in 2009 before falling to the Tide.
A loss to Georgia doesn’t mean that Alabama will fall into abyss, but a loss means that they were defeated in a championship game after recent years of winning them.
That would be the end of an era.