Georgia has some time to get over its 35-28 loss to No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship, but get over it, they must. That’s because No. 15 Texas awaits in the 2019 Allstate Sugar Bowl on January 1 (8:45 p.m. ET).
In the past, teams that have fallen short of the College Football Playoff (and the BCS National Championship game before that) have tended to come out flat in their bowl game. Alabama did it in 2010 against Utah. Auburn did it a year ago against UCF. Both teams came out on the short end and lost, leaving many questioning how good they were to begin with.
Kirby Smart was explicitly asked about this scenario when he appeared on ESPN Sunday where he seemed confident that his team would come out ready to play against the Longhorns. The reasoning behind that belief is simple — Texas has a marquee program and a very good football team.
“I think the first thing, you start looking at the opponent,” Smart said when posed with the question by ESPN’s Rece Davis. “You say, when you’ve got a really quality opponent in the form of Texas, who we’ve got a lot of respect for. Tom Herman and his staff, they do a tremendous job. We’re looking forward to that opportunity. I think the caliber of opponent you’re playing controls a lot of that because I know how our players will see Texas. They’ve got one of the best programs in all of College Football and in a great atmosphere. We’re going to kind of meet half way and get to play in one of the all-time classic bowls, one of the bowls I think Georgia has been to nine times now.”
The Bulldogs were holding out hope last night and into today that they might find some favor with the College Football Playoff committee and be ranked in the top four. The Bulldogs were the only team this season to stay within 21 points of the Crimson Tide, but the fact remains that they let Nick Saban’s team off the hook on multiple occasions.
Georgia had two separate 14-point leads in the game and failed to go up by three scores despite multiple opportunities. The loss featured failure to convert in short-yardage situations, a missed 31-yard field goal, three separate instances where the punt coverage team had a chance to pin Alabama inside its own five-yard line, and a questionable fake punt call at midfield with just over three minutes in the game. That fake failed and Alabama scored the go-ahead touchdown five plays later.
There’s not much that can be said or done at this time to make the Bulldogs feel better about what happened on Saturday, but once final exams are over and bowl practices begin, it’ll be time to get back to work and put it all behind them. Even if they aren’t playing for a championship, the senior class has a chance to clinch its spot in program history.
“Obviously disappointed in the outcome last night,” Smart said. “Give credit to Alabama. They’ve got a championship football team. We really believe this senior this senior class is one of the most special we’ve ever had. With a chance to beat Texas, they could be the second-winningest senior class to ever come through Georgia.”