Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Beating Bama

The Alabama Crimson Tide have been the oft-disputed, yet primarily confirmed Kings of College Football for over a Decade.  Over the course of that run, the University of Georgia (which has also experienced a sustained level of success rarely seen in the program over that span) has continually slammed its head against the wall that is the Tide.  2012.  2017. 2018. 2020. 2021.  5 games which all ultimately had title (either Conference or National) implications, have all gone the way of Bama.  The narrative is locked in, Georgia just can't beat Bama.  The common knowledge will tell you that there's a very simple reason for that - Georgia's offense is just flat out never good enough to do it.  The only recipe to beat Alabama is to outscore them in a shootout.  It's obvious.  

Since falling to Alabama once again on December 4th, the UGA football team has come under incredible fan scrutiny, with continued calls for the benching of Stetson Bennet and replacing of him with JT Daniels.  To their credit, the loudest of these fans have been consistent with their criticism of Stetson all season - it's hardly a new development.  Through game after game, no matter the result (all wins), it was said that Stetson would fail when presented with a better challenge.  He would not be able to "keep up" with the better offenses in the country.  If put in the situation of needing to move the offense and score, he just wouldn't come through.  

And it seems that was the case.  When it all came down to needing to drive down and score consistently, this team was not able to do it, and people are very willing to place all of that blame on Stetson Bennett.  People are willing to do that, mostly, because they believe that the guy sitting on the bench is far and away better, and has the tools to sling balls all around the field against Bama while Stetson just plain can't.  And like we said - you have to beat Bama in a shootout.  You have to chase them down and outscore them.  

It's what you HAVE TO DO. 

I find that hard to believe.  So, the idiot that I am, I decided to look into the narrative a little bit.  

In the past 6 seasons (I decided to stick to the Kirby Smart era of UGA football because a: he wouldn't have been at Bama to have anything to do with their results and b: that's where the majority of the heartbreak has existed), Alabama has lost a total of 6 games.  So, let's see what kind of information we can glean from those 6 losses. 

In four of the six losses suffered by Alabama in the past 6 years, the winning formula has been "get a lead, hold it."  In one loss, it was a see-saw the whole way, and in exactly one out of the six losses, a team has been able to chase Alabama down after falling into a big hole.  

Ok, so that's been in the games they lost.  But we're talking six seasons worth of games here, so there must have been a number of close games in which Alabama was simply able to out-leg the other team.  In those 6 years, Alabama has won a total of 9 games within 7 points or less.  They haven't been dealing with a large number of shootouts.  

In those close games, Bama has 4 lead-and-holds,  4 basic comebacks,  and 1 incredible strugglebus performance wherein they were able to topple #AuburnSucks after mustering 3 points from their offense in 57+ minutes.

For the vast majority of the remainder of the 6 seasons we're talking about, Alabama has completely dominated the other team... much like the 2021 UGA Bulldogs did for 12 games.  They get a lead, suffocate the other team, and they keep their offense on track, efficient, and able to score.  It's the Saban blueprint.  

But, can the Saban Blueprint work in the playoff setting or do you need a high-flying offense that can simply rack up massive points, and allow your team to be the one team that outpaces Bama in a shootout?  

Well, in 2020, OSU averaged 43ppg prior to playing Bama, and got whipped 52-24.  With Justin Fields.  Most would say Justin Fields was a better QB last year than any QB on the UGA roster is right now. 

In their 2017 Semi-Final, Bama built a 10-3 halftime lead over Clemson, and then extended that lead ultimately winning 24-6.

In 2017, UGA controlled the National Title game for most of the way, but couldn't hold off a late charge, falling 26-23.

In 2018 Semi Final, OU with Kyler Murray couldn't chase down Bama after the Tide took a 21-point lead into the half, ultimately losing by 10.

In 2018, Clemson opened the National Title game with a 3-out but then grabbed a pick-6.  Gave up some big plays in Q1, but the defense settled in during the 2nd quarter, and then they completely controlled the game.

2018 is an interesting example for me.  Kyler Murray led a big-time scoring offense from the BIGXII... but he had a BIGXII defense on the other side of the ball.  Oklahoma got pantsed.  That same year, Clemson rolled up on Bama with a strong defense, and held Bama to their lowest scoring output in postseason play, and their 3rd lowest over the entire 6 years (14 in a L to AU 2017, and 10 in a W over LSU 2016).   The same Bama team showed up for both of those games.  Their defense gave up 34 points to OU, and 37 points to Clemson (Clem also scored on that pick-6).  

The difference, was DEFENSE.  

The narrative out in the world right now is that you have to have a quarterback that can "keep pace" with Bama's high scoring offense in the playoffs if you want to beat them.  The truth is, Bama has only lost two post-season games since 2016.  Both were in the National Title Game against Clemson.  One was a massive 4th Quarter comeback by DeShaun Watson and the Tigers.  The other, was a knockout performance by one of the nation's top defenses and a consistent offensive push.

I'll say this for the Dawgs - they have a better chance of the defense showing up and playing like they did for 12 games this year, than they do of JT Daniels coming off the bench and suddenly being DeShaun Watson.

It's a rare thing to hold Bama under 20.  It's a rare thing to win a national title.  If the Dawgs can do the first, I believe they will do the second.  That, my friends, would be Beating Bama.

Go Dawgs.

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