Alabama Crimson Tide: A different Georgia Bulldogs team will visit Tuscaloosa

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

The Georgia Bulldogs offer an early opportunity for the Alabama Crimson Tide to jump into the 2020 National Championship contention.

The last time the Georgia Bulldogs took on the Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa was a different era. The Bulldogs were coming off a 9-4 season, Mark Richt’s seventh in Athens. Richt joined the Bulldogs after ten lackluster Ray Goff and Jim Donnan seasons. Alabama football had a new head man – one Nick Saban.

Alabama football fans knew something about lackluster. The Crimson Tide were coming off a losing, 6-7 season. In the Mike Shula years, 2003-2006, Alabama football lost 23 games.

Nick Saban changed everything.

Georgia opened the 2007 season ranked No. 13. A second-game loss to South Carolina dropped them to No. 22 as they headed to Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide entered the season unranked. On the basis of three wins and Nick Saban’s reputation, the Tide were ranked No. 16.

Georgia had the more talented roster, far superior to what Saban had to field. Still, the inferior roster almost won. The Crimson Tide crowd at Bryant-Denny had a collective cautious optimism. The week before, Nick Saban’s team had taken down No. 16 Arkansas.

Looking back to 2007, the last-second win over Arkansas and the Georgia overtime loss were the beginning of a new Alabama Crimson Tide Dynasty. The Georgia Bulldogs left Bryant-Denny victorious but Tide fans learned something more valuable than a win. We learned Nick Saban would rebuild the Crimson Tide quickly.

Georgia fans had no reason to suspect going winless over their next five Alabama football games. They could not envision Mark Richt would be run out of Athens after eight more seasons – largely for three of the five losses to the Tide. In 2007, Georgia fans were not yearning for Kirby Smart to become the Bulldogs’ savior.

Nick Saban changed all that too.

To the Bulldogs’ fans, it matters not that Kirby Smart is 0-2 versus his old boss. Kirby has been close. He has out-recruited Saban in two of the last three classes. In their minds, the tipping point is nigh. The Crimson Tide will fade. Georgia will be ascendant.

Which brings us to this coming September in Tuscaloosa. The ESPN FPI gives the Crimson Tide a 72.5 percent probability of winning. That is a pretty impressive projection given Georgia is ranked No. 5 in the ESPN FPI.

Much is riding on the September game. The winner will be a heavy favorite to make the next CFB Playoff field. For the Crimson Tide, a loss would not end 2020 championship aspirations. The same should be true for Georgia but it isn’t. The Bulldogs also have a tipping point. It is when ‘Kirby is not the savior’ can no longer be ignored. That point might be reached if Nick Saban out-coaches Kirby for the third time.

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Who will win between the Tide and the Dawgs? We don’t know enough to make a prediction yet. Neither does ESPN. Ask who can least afford to lose – that would be Kirby.