Heading into No. 1 Georgia's matchup with No. 3 Alabama in the 2021 SEC Championship Game, Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart wants people to know that history has nothing to do with this coming Saturday's game.
Dating back to 2008, the Crimson Tide holds a six-game winning streak over the Bulldogs. Of those six games, Smart was the head coach of the Bulldogs in three of those games.
“We talk about the opponent every week we play somebody but we focus on ourselves,” Smart said via teleconference on Sunday. “We focus on execution. We don’t focus on history. I think every team is independent of the previous, so it is what it is and our guys got to go out and play well. What happened in those games will be of no relevance to this game. I think anybody with good coaching sense would tell you that.
"They’re independent, and both teams are different in a lot of ways. The focus will be on what we can do, what we can control, how we play and how we execute and I think that’s the most important thing.”
In January of 2018, Alabama faced Georgia in the College Football Playoff National Championship. While the Crimson Tide trailed for most of the game, a second-half comeback led to overtime, in which the now-legendary '2nd and 26' moment occurred, giving Alabama its 17th national title.
The following season, the Crimson Tide came back against the Bulldogs once again, this time in the 2018 SEC Championship Game. In the 2020 season, both teams squared off in the regular season, and Georgia once again held the lead at halftime. However, Alabama shut out the Bulldogs' offense in the second half, leading to a 41-24 win for the Crimson Tide.
As of the Sunday before the SEC title game, Georgia is a six-point favorite to beat Alabama. There might be a lot of history between the two teams in recent memory, but the only thing that matters is how each team performs against its opponent in Atlanta this Saturday.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban was inclined to agree with Smart, saying that the teams' previous meetings have no effect on what will happen at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“I think what’s happened in the past in games really doesn’t have a lot of impact on what happens in the future,” Saban said. “I think that you gotta line up and play well in this game, so what happened last year doesn’t matter, what happened the year before that doesn’t matter. You gotta play well in this game, so that’s the challenge that we all have.”
There is a lot on the line for both teams in their upcoming matchup on the gridiron. For Georgia, it looks to avoid tarnishing its perfect 12-0 record and head into the College Football Playoff as the preliminary favorite. For Alabama, it is looking to secure its spot in that same playoff. A win would mean that the Crimson Tide will have a spot as one the top four teams in the nation, while a loss would likely eliminate Alabama and mean a consolation prize in a bowl berth.
Regardless of what happens this weekend, Smart reiterated that the past no longer matters.
“Obviously this year is this year and every year is independent of the previous," Smart said. "I don’t think there’s any overlap between the two. I know people want to try to make it some kind of overlap, but every year is different of the previous and our job is to go play the best possible game we can. That’s what we’ve been trying to build towards this year.
"We haven’t played our best yet and we think our best is still out there and that’s the goal.”