To my mind, one of the questions that won’t be answered until they set foot on the field tomorrow is what Georgia’s mindset will be.
On the one side, you’ve got the story the media has been obsessed about — the way the national title game ended — and how this year’s team has internalized whatever lessons there are to be learned from both the loss and how it continues to be pushed in their faces. This is a perfect summation of that:
“Last year has nothing to do with this next game coming up,” Bulldogs tailback Elijah Holyfield said.
The end of the previous meeting between the teams was so sudden and dramatic — the Bulldogs had a 23-20 lead when Ledbetter and linebacker Davin Bellamy sacked Tagovailoa on the play prior to second-and-26 — it took a while for the losers’ pain to truly sink in.
“That’s something you’ll never get over,” cornerback Deandre Baker said.
I hope that’s not the case, Deandre.
Isaac Nauta had more to say about that.
“It’s always tough to look back on, watching the film from last year brought up some bad memories,” said Nauta, referencing the Bulldogs’ 26-23 overtime loss to the Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff Championship Game last January in Atlanta.
“We used that game as a learning tool to see what we could have done better, and I think that’s a lot of stuff we focused on in practice this week to fix and make sure we capitalize on those drives and make sure that we execute and get that extra first down and extend more drives.
“We’ve been working on it, we don’t forget.”
It’s an interesting motivational thread Kirby has to pass through the needle’s eye this week. Alabama is the defending national champ and this year’s team is better overall than the team Georgia fell to last January. You’ve got to prepare your team and that means looking at tape of that game, along with Alabama’s 2018 steamroll act.
On the other side, your team is the defending conference champ, something that shouldn’t be sneered at. That Georgia is playing in back to back conference title games, something that’s
never happened before happened after being away for several years, is another indication that this program has arrived. It’s been playing as well as pretty much any team in the country of late. And Kirby Smart is someone I trust to do his best to get his team mentally prepared to face ‘Bama, relying in part on a damned solid resume to this point.
So, where are everyone’s heads at rolling into Saturday? Beats me. I mean, I like to hear ain’t skeered talk like this…
Just ask junior running back Elijah Holyfield. He appeared genuinely dumbfounded this week when a reporter asked him if Georgia was anyway intimidated by the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide, which has beaten opponents by an average margin of 35 points a game this season. So thrown off by the question was Holyfield that he repeated it back to his inquisitor.
“You’re asking are we intimidated by them?” Holyfield asked, his raised eyebrows indicating incredulity.
Holyfield’s eyebrows furrowed, and he shook his head hard as he offered his one-word reply. “Nah.”
… but, to be honest, I don’t remember the Dawgs feeling any differently when they went to Baton Rouge. Of course, that LSU team was stomped by the Tide, so any way you look at it, this is a major step up in class for Georgia.
So, there’s pride, disappointment, respect, awareness, concern and no doubt a host of other emotions all swirling about in a sort of mental stew. There’s also the reality that this will show out on a stage that this team now has familiarity with. What the final product looks like, though, I have no idea. I doubt anyone on Georgia’s sideline really knows for sure, either. We’ll all find out together in another day and a half.