Underdog Alabama takes a bite out of Georgia

Alabama Football
Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban and Quarterback Bryce Young celebrate winning the 2021 SEC Championship Photo via Alabama Football — The University of Alabama Football Team Official Facebook page

Special to The Bama Buzz — legendary sportswriter Kevin Scarbinsky‘s take on the Alabama Crimson Tide’s win over the top-ranked and undefeated Georgia Bulldogs at the 2021 SEC Championship game.

By Kevin Scarbinsky

Nick Saban said “yummy.” Right there in front of Miss Terry and everybody. As he said it, he tried to keep a straight face but couldn’t contain himself, breaking into an ever-widening grin that can only be described as giddy.

Of all the things no one saw coming this week from the head coach and the football program who have everything, that mirthful moment flavored with just a dash of deviltry said it all.

A week after the Scare in Jordan-Hare, Alabama played everyone. The smart mouths in the media, the wise guys in Vegas, every Bama-fatigued cynic and skeptic eager to toss dirt on the dynasty, as well as Kirby Smart and his undefeated, top-ranked, full-of-bravado Georgia Bulldogs, who just knew they were finally going to have their day.

Alabama played them all for fools en route to an emphatic 41-24 victory to secure a second straight SEC Championship, the program’s eighth under Saban, and a return trip to the College Football Playoff, likely as the No. 1 seed.  

Alabama Underdogs

Alabama Football
Alabama winning the 2021 SEC Championship in Atlanta on December 4, 2021. Photo via Emily Kent for Bham Now

Underdogs? Alabama? For the first time in 92 games? With the best offensive player in college football in Bryce Young, the best defensive player in the land in Will Anderson and the MVP of the transfer portal in Jameson Williams? Those guys? 6 ½-point underdogs?

Don’t make Saban laugh. Better yet, do. Since turning 70 on Halloween, he seems to genuinely enjoy winning more than ever, and woe unto you who question the margin or the degree of difficulty. Proving people wrong in the process is the cherry on top. It doesn’t happen often, but Alabama is now 5-1 in its last six games as an underdog dating to 2008.

“You guys gave us a lot of really positive rat poison,” Saban said in the postgame press conference, turning one of his favorite phrases on its head. “The rat poison that you usually give us is usually fatal, but the rat poison that you put out there this week was yummy.”

Everyone laughed along. Everyone but Georgia. The team puffed up as Alabama’s successor watched in shock as its perfect season disappeared faster than Williams streaking by an allegedly all-time great defense for the 55-yard dagger from Young on the first series of the third quarter. That knockout deep shot widened the score to 31-17 and concluded a 16-minute clinic by Young and company. Against a defense that hadn’t allowed any opponent to score more than 17 points in an entire game, the Crimson Tide rolled up those 31 points over five consecutive possessions.

It was a different route to the same dead-end for the ‘Dogs. For the fourth time in as many meetings between Saban and his Mini-Me Smart, Georgia had grabbed an early lead that proved to be nothing more than a mirage. This time, the Tide didn’t wait till late to respond and re-establish its dominance, blazing past the Bulldogs with frightening speed.

Retooling Alabama Football

Alabama Football
Defensive back Malachi Moore celebrates winning the 2021 SEC Championship Photo via Alabama Football — The University of Alabama Football Team Official Facebook page

While Smart’s been remaking the Georgia program into Alabama circa 2009, Saban’s been retooling Alabama into a pass-happy, point-producing lollapalooza, the spiritual antithesis of its old joyless murderball self.

There’s Bryce the Baby-Faced Assassin shattering SEC Championship Game records with 421 passing yards and 461 total yards, adding an exclamation mark to his Heisman campaign. There’s the Karate Kid crane kick TD celebration on a loop. There’s Saban himself, the sneaky septuagenarian, grinning like the Grinch after getting a wonderful, awful idea.

In the 30-year history of the SEC Championship Game, the underdog has won only five times. On three of those occasions, a team coached by Saban engineered the “upset.” If you didn’t know better, you might suspect that lulling Georgia into overconfidence with a rocky regular season capped by the four-overtime escape at Auburn was all part of a long con executed to perfection.

In any case, 60 minutes of something approaching perfection put the college football world back on its axis. Saban is still Smart’s daddy, Atlanta remains Alabama’s home away from home, and another Crimson Tide national championship is only two games away. One of those games very well could be a rematch with the thoroughly humbled Bulldogs.

Chew on that, Georgia. Try not to choke on it.

Pat Byington
Pat Byington
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