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There's Always Drama When Alabama and Georgia Face Off

Big plays and storylines have dominated this series in the Nick Saban era; Saturday's SEC title game might be the same.

When Alabama and Georgia face off on a big stage the outcome always seems to come down to memorable plays or moments.

You don’t have to remind Crimson Tide fans of some of the greatest hits:

  • Second-and-26
  • Jalen Hurts off the bench.
  • AJ McCarron to Amari Cooper.

Those are some memorable moments, not just for Alabama, but for college football.

The Bulldogs and Crimson Tide take to the big stage again Saturday in Atlanta for the SEC title game. Kickoff is 3 p.m. CT on CBS. As usual, the stakes are high.

For Alabama (11-1) it’s simple -- win and get in the College Football Playoff. Georgia (12-0) is in a better position. While a loss Saturday is not ideal, most college experts agree the Bulldogs will still earn a spot in the CFP.

Earning that CFP spot for Alabama could come down to big plays, just like in previous matchups with Georgia. Alabama coach Nick Saban hinted toward it this week.

“I think what our players need to do is just focus on playing one play at a time, trying to win as many plays in a game as they can, don't worry about the scoreboard, don't worry about what the outcome means because we just need to focus on what we need to do to play well in this game,” Saban said.

“It's going to take a very good effort by a lot of people to be able to win those plays. So that's what we're focused on here now. We're focused on what do we have to do to try to get the outcome rather than worrying about what the outcome is. So that's basically how we're trying to approach it.”

For the first time since 2015 Alabama is an underdog (six points), but Georgia coach Kirby Smart knows that means nothing. He’s seen enough Alabama drama, as a member of the UA staff and with Georgia, to realize nothing is guaranteed against Alabama. Besides, the last time Alabama was an underdog was against Georgia, and the Crimson Tide won 38-10.

“If you're going to win games and win close games, you're going to play in the SEC, you're going to play really high competition, which forces you into close games,” Smart said. “You want to be able to win games in the fourth quarter. You build your program based on the belief that you can be a dominant team, and you always want to dominate in the fourth quarter.”

Here is a look back at the Alabama-Georgia series in the Saban era.

2007

Georgia 26, Alabama 23 (OT)

The Saban era started off with a bang as Alabama was 3-0 and ranked No. 16 when the 22nd-ranked Bulldogs came to Tuscaloosa.

Trailing 20-10 in the fourth quarter, Alabama fought back to score 10 straight points and force overtime. John Parker Wilson’s 6-yard run with a minute left in regulation gave the Crimson Tide momentum heading into the overtime period.

Leigh Tiffin booted a 42-yard field goal for a three-point lead. On Georgia’s first play, Matthew Stafford found Mickey Henderson in the end zone for the walk-off touchdown.

Alabama lost the following week to Florida State, and lost four in a row in November to cap a mediocre 7-6 first season for Saban.

2008

Alabama 41, Georgia 30

Billed as ‘The Blackout’ between the No. 3 Bulldogs and No. 8 Crimson Tide, this game was over in the first half. Alabama scored the first 31 points as Georgia fans, clad in all black, sat stunned inside Sanford Stadium.

In the game’s buildup that week, then Crimson Tide strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran was caught on camera during practice commenting on the Bulldogs’ decision to wear black.

“You know why they are wearing black on Saturday?” Cochran said to the players during team stretching. “They are going to a (expletive) funeral.”

In a way it was. Alabama buried the Bulldogs, rolling up 284 first-half yards to Georgia’s 81.

Georgia battled back in the second half, but the damage was done.

2012

SEC Championship Game

Alabama 32, Georgia 28

This was a defacto semifinal game. The winner between the second-ranked Crimson Tide and third-ranked Bulldogs would clinch a spot in the BCS title game with No. 1 Notre Dame.

Looking back, most argued the SEC title game between Alabama and Georgia was more of a national championship game given that Alabama crushed Notre Dame 42-14 a few weeks later in Miami.

The title game lived up to the hype with six lead changes and a down-to-the-wire finish.

A blocked punt for a Georgia score and a 21-10 lead in the third quarter could have been the knockout blow, but Alabama scored back-to-back touchdowns to take the lead seconds into the final quarter.

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After Georgia answered to retake the lead, AJ McCarron hooked up with Amari Cooper for a 45-yard touchdown pass with just over three minutes remaining.

Georgia got a final shot at the winning score in the final seconds when Aaron Murray got the Bulldogs to the Crimson Tide 8-yard line. Murray floated a pass to the front corner of the end zone, but the ball was tipped by Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley. Chris Conley caught it and went to the ground at the 5 while the clock ran out.

2015

Alabama 38, Georgia 10

Fans of Saban’s famous rants will surely remember the one he reeled off following this victory. Two weeks prior to whipping No. 8 Georgia, then No. 2 Alabama lost to Ole Miss, causing pundits, and even fans, to believe it was the beginning of the end of the Crimson Tide’s reign.

Two days after the Crimson Tide crushed Georgia, Saban delivered his “dead, buried and gone...gone” speech that reminded the rest of the college football world Alabama wasn’t going anywhere.

The Georgia win was a springboard for the rest of the season; Alabama didn’t lose again and earned its way into the national title game with Clemson, winning the game 45-41.

All you need to remember from the actual game with Georgia was Derrick Henry ran for 148 yards and a touchdown and the defense was lights out.

2017

CFP Championship Game

Alabama 26, Georgia 23 (OT)

Just like 2007, this was a walk-off win - except with 10 times the drama.

This storyline was just too good: a freshman quarterback steps in to lead a monumental comeback and delivers one of the most epic game-winning touchdown passes in college football history.

Tua Tagovailoa became a household name after connecting with DeVonta Smith on second-and-26 for that overtime score. Had he not, he might have been the most infamous name in Crimson Tide lore. He didn’t exactly endear himself to Crimson Tide fans after taking a sack on first down.

“I just needed more room to make the throw,” Tagovailoa joked afterward.

Saban was not amused by that comment at the time. It was Saban, after all, who made the decision to bench starter Jalen Hurts and go with Tagovailoa in the second half.

It was a gutsy call, but the right one.

2018

SEC Championship Game

Alabama 35, Georgia 28

While “Second-and-26" was a fantastic storyline, “Hurts to the Rescue” was a phenomenal sequel.

You can’t make this stuff up.

After being benched in the national title game and the subsequent season, Jalen Hurts came off the bench in the second half of the SEC title game to lead the Crimson Tide to a comeback win for the ages.

Tua Tagovailoa left the game in the fourth quarter with Alabama trailing by a touchdown. Hurts stepped on the field and calmly led the offense to a game-tying score.

Hurts then put Alabama ahead with a 15-yard touchdown run with just over a minute left.

Here was guy who won the SEC Offensive Player of the Year award as a freshman and had just one loss on his resume through 28 starts. Hurts accepted his role as backup with humility, and delivered for his team when his number was called.

Hurts’ performance even got Saban emotional.

“We’ve always had a lot of faith in Jalen, and I told him when we put him in that it’s your time, and he certainly took advantage of it,” Saban said, his voice cracking during the TV interview immediately following the game. “I’m so proud of this guy for what he’s done this year I can’t even tell you.”

2020

Alabama 41, Georgia 24

A week after escaping with a win against Ole Miss, a mob of doubters popped up to question whether Alabama was a serious title contender.

Georgia was a perfect test to find out.

Early on it looked like they were right. Georgia took control and appeared poised to walk out of Bryant-Denny Stadium with the win, as the national title favorite.

Then boom, it was game on. The combination of DeVonta Smith, Mac Jones and Najee Harris gave a glimpse of what to expect the rest of the season.

Smith finished with 167 yards on 11 catches with two touchdowns, Jones passed for 417 yards and four scores and Harris topped the night off with 152 yards and a touchdown. And don’t forget Jaylen Waddle’s 161 receiving yards and touchdown catch.

It all added up to domination, which was the theme for the rest of the season. Alabama never trailed again in 2020 and finished unbeaten with the program’s 18th national championship.