What’s the best way to follow up a really, really nice Wild Card Weekend? With a Crystal chaser. Because someone is going home with the crystal tonight, College Football’s national championship is on the line with Alabama and Georgia going to battle, an All-SEC affair.

And before I get to the game, let me say this one more time: I know we have two SEC teams in the championship game. I know the game is being played in the heart of SEC country. But SEC honk, before you start flapping your gums about your conference, before the first “SEC! SEC!” chant takes hold, know this: Just because Bama and Georgia are good doesn’t mean your entire conference is good. Cheering for a conference is the biggest bag move a college football fan can pull. Especially when the SEC went 2-5 in other bowl games. So stop doing it.

Now onto tonight’s game…

Look, at this point everybody knows Nick Saban’s record against his former assistants. Jimbo Fisher, Mark Dantonio, Derek Dooley, Will Muschamp, the Shark Humper, put them all together and what do they all have in common? None of them have ever beat him. Saban’s 11-0 against his former assistants. But I’ll also say this: None of them have ever had Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in the same backfield. None of them have ever had that Dawg defense. And none of those guys knows Saban better than Kirby Smart.

Smart is the closest thing to Nick Saban 2.0 as you will ever find. He even got the red ass on the podium at the Rose Bowl, trying his best to get out of the confetti because it was cutting into, “Kirby Time.” Bama linebacker Rashaan Evans said, “They’re the same person… It’s scary.”

Smart was with Saban at LSU, and in Miami, and spent nine years with him in Tuscaloosa. He won the Broyles Award under Saban as the nation’s best assistant coach in 2009. He won another Assistant Coach of the Year award in 2012. Saban made him the highest paid defensive coordinator in college football. Nobody knows Nick Saban better than Kirby Smart.

But he’s still not Nick Saban.

And that’s where it starts and ends for me. Look, I’ll be straight: I was less than enthused that Alabama even got an invite to the dance this year. But I also said at the time, wouldn’t it be the most Saban thing ever, to get an invite that he may not have deserved and then go and rip the title anyway? And I think he will. And I think it’s going to be vintage Saban: Physical, pounding, and a game where a big play on defense or special teams is going to make the difference.

That month off transformed Bama. It filled them with premium fuel — a month of listening to people doubting them, and saying they didn’t deserve to be there. Then they went out and put that absolute hospital job on Clemson, and they’re going to follow it up with a W tonight. Again, this isn’t me knocking Georgia. I’m so impressed with what Kirby Smart is building. But this is only the first coat of paint. As good as Jake Fromm has been — and this kid is special….one of the best freshmen I’ve ever seen — he’s still a freshman.

Now Jalen Hurts is going to have to make a few plays with his arm, something he’s struggled to do in big moments. But the biggest weakness I can find on Bama is a starting quarterback who is 25-and-2 in two seasons, was last year’s SEC offensive player of the year, was the MVP of the Sugar Bowl, and was 2 minutes and 7 seconds away from pulling off a come-from-behind, game-winning drive in last year’s national title game before Deshaun Watson put his cape on and ripped the crystal away.

Georgia’s day is coming. But tonight’s all about Bama. The Tide win a brawl to take home the title.

 

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