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Bulldogs, Tide to Meet in All-SEC National Championship Game

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Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, left, and Alabama head coach Nick Saban arrive for a press conference ahead of the NCAA college football national championship in Atlanta, Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018. Georgia and Alabama will be playing for the championship on Monday, Jan. 8. Photo: AP Photo/David Goldman

The Alabama Crimson Tide and Georgia Bulldogs will meet for the 68th time on Monday night in Atlanta, but there’s never been more on the line between the pair of Southeastern Conference (SEC) powerhouses.

Georgia (13-1, 7-1 SEC) and Alabama (12-1, 7-1) will square off at 7 p.m. CT at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the College Football Playoff National Championship game, to be televised nationwide by ESPN. The teams last met in the regular season in 2015, when Alabama defeated the Bulldogs 38-10 in Athens, Ga. The teams also met in the SEC Championship Game in 2012, a 32-28 win for Alabama. The last Georgia win in the series came in overtime in 2007, Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s first season in Tuscaloosa.

Saban has coached the Tide to a 126-20 record and four national championships (2009, 2011, 2012, and 2015). Georgia head coach Kirby Smart – a former longtime Saban assistant at Alabama – has led the Bulldogs to a 21-6 record in two seasons in Athens. The Bulldogs, winners of the SEC Championship Game, last won a national championship in football in 1980.

“I think we’re playing against an outstanding team,” Saban said. “I think Kirby and his staff have done a fabulous job at Georgia in terms of the high level that their players compete at, the quality of players that they have, how well they play together as a team, and certainly they deserve a lot of congratulations for what they’ve been able to accomplish this year, and I think it’s two great teams, will be a great, competitive game, and our players are certainly looking forward to the challenges and the opportunity of playing in the Championship Game.”

The SEC is guaranteed to win the national championship for the ninth time since 2006, and an SEC team has advanced to the national title game in 11 of the last 12 seasons.

“I think it’s really great for our fan base to be right here in Atlanta, Ga., a special place for us, also the home of SEC football and championships, and we’ve got two SEC teams in it,” Smart said. “I’m certainly honored and privileged to be competing against a great university that’s kind of been the landmark of college football over the last 10 to 12 seasons, and I know my experiences there working with the late Mal Moore, Bill Battle, and Coach Saban himself have helped me tremendously in my career, but we’re honored and privileged to compete against what’s a great program, and they’ve done a tremendous job, and I think it’s kind of lost in the shuffle of how well they have been able to compete at a high level for a long time and almost take it for granted at times.”

No. 4 Alabama reached the championship game after defeating No. 1 seed Clemson 24-6 in the Sugar Bowl last week. No. 3 Georgia defeated No. 2 Oklahoma 54-48 in the Rose Bowl semifinal game to reach the championship.

By Eric Mann

Eric Mann is the communications assistant at the United States Sports Academy.

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