Georgia and Alabama will meet a few weeks later than initially expected, but with plenty more on the line.
The old SEC foes face off for the national championship in Atlanta on Jan. 8.
Georgia survived a crazy Rose Bowl, getting a timely blocked kick to beat Oklahoma 54-48 in two overtimes. Alabama dominated familiar rival Clemson 24-6 in the Sugar Bowl.
Georgia and Alabama don’t meet often due to SEC’s 6-1-1 scheduling. The rotation makes UGA oppose two SEC West schools per season, but one is always Auburn because of the conference’s protected rivalry stipulation. Alabama’s fixed cross-divisional opponent is Tennessee.
The SEC’s insistence in maintaining permanent cross-divisional rivals is in large part to preserve the history between Georgia-Auburn and Alabama-Tennessee.
Rivalries are largely why college football fans exude such passion, but the downside in this instance is programs such as UGA and Alabama don’t play each other as often as the supporters and networks may like.
Georgia won’t travel to Tuskaloosa until 2020 despite the schools’ last regular-season meeting coming in 2015. They met in consecutive seasons in 2007 and 2008, but the additions of Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC altered future schedules.
The league considered removing fixed rivalries while making rule changes in 2014, but ultimately decided against it, instead mandating each school must face at least one non-SEC power five program every season.
As a result, Georgia has faced Alabama just three scheduled times in the Nick Saban era, plus once in the conference title game.
The Bulldogs haven’t defeated the Crimson Tide since 2007, a 26-23 overtime win. For perspective: Saban was in his first season, quarterback John Parker Wilson led Alabama and Matthew Stafford won it for the Bulldogs.
The past three meetings haven’t been so kind to Georgia. The Crimson Tide got revenge for its loss a year later, 41-30. The Bulldogs entered that season No. 1, but those dreams died when Alabama rushed out to a 31-0 lead. The game wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
They wouldn’t clash again until 2012, a meeting that still lives in infamy to Georgia fans.
Aaron Murray and crew’s final drive fell just short as time expired, leaving Alabama victorious at 32-28. The win sent the Tide to the championship, where it stomped Notre Dame with ease.
Alabama came to Athens in 2015 and left a mark. Inconveniently for Georgia, the Crimson Tide had lost a messy game against Ole Miss two weeks earlier to drop to No. 13 in the country.
They took their frustrations out between the hedges, building a 24-3 halftime lead in route to a 38-10 win. It was an eerily similar beginning to the 2008 meeting in Athens.
Georgia has something this time around it didn’t before: Kirby Smart. Smart coordinated those Alabama defenses that tore the team apart. He’s now coaching the Bulldogs with a chance to become the first Saban disciple to school the master.
And he can do it in Atlanta, where these teams always felt destined to meet.