Alabama Football: Kirby and Bulldogs going backwards vs. Saban and Tide

Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports
Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports /

Saturday night was the best opportunity for the Georgia Bulldogs to take down Nick Saban’s Alabama football team.

In a bizarre season for college football, the Alabama football program had its worst week, while preparing to play Georgia. Nick Saban had to coach from home for three days. Until late morning on Saturday, it was not known if he could participate in the game.

The Georgia Bulldogs brought the nation’s best defense to Tuscaloosa. The Alabama football defense was reeling from a Lane Kiffin, offensive bombardment just days before.

Oddsmakers still sided with the Tide. In Athens, GA there had been a week-long sense this was Georgia’s time. Georgia players were sure the Bulldogs were the better team. Georgia fans were loudly, almost belligerently confident.

What started out looking promising for Georgia, turned into an Alabama football 17-point victory. It was not as bad as the blowout the Dawgs experienced in Athens in 2015, when Mark Richt’s team lost 38-10. Saturday night’s game in Bryant-Denny Stadium was only a semi-blowout, with the Crimson Tide win eclipsing the game’s predicted spread.

The outcome did follow a pattern of Kirby Smart’s Georgia teams against the Alabama Crimson Tide. The pattern shows a downward trend.

Kirby’s three games coaching against Nick Saban follow a pattern of outcomes. The Crimson Tide National Championship win over the Bulldogs was by three points. The following December, the Bulldogs lost in the SEC Championship game by seven points. The data-point Saturday night was the 17-point gap between the two teams. Three games are a small comparison but a clear trend emerges; Georgia losses by, 3, 7, and 17 points.

If Georgia fans look more closely at the box scores, there is another, far more dispiriting trend. The Bulldogs led the National Championship game at halftime by a score of 13-0. In the second half (and overtime), the Dawgs were outscored by the Crimson Tide 26 – 10. In the SEC Championship game, the Bulldogs led 21-14 at halftime. They were outscored by the Crimson Tide 21-7 in the second half.

Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, Georgia had a small first-half lead of 24-20. They did not score again while surrendering 21 second-half points to the Crimson Tide. The trend in second-half scoring follows the game outcomes trend. During Kirby Smart’s, Georgia tenure, the Bulldogs are trending downward against the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Something goes wrong for the Bulldogs in the second halves. An inescapable hypothesis is Kirby’s teams do not learn much during games. The Alabama football staff makes halftime adjustments that change the momentum of the games. Georgia appears incapable of making counter adjustments. The talent level in the programs is basically equal. The difference is the coaching.

Under Nick Saban, the Alabama Crimson Tide has what Georgia will never have under Kirby Smart. If the teams meet again in December, the same disparity will exist, meaning the outcome is unlikely to change.

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Some college football fans will deride Saban for being at the game. More than a few will scream about Nick, mask pulled down, screaming at a referee. Admittedly it was a troubling image, but the man had five negative COVID tests in the 72 hours leading up to the game. The Alabama football program reportedly had more than 300 COVID tests since Monday, with no indication of a virus outbreak.