INDIANAPOLIS — A mere 37 days after they last played, Alabama faces Georgia again with a national football championship on the line. History shows how tough it is to win again in the rematch. Nick Saban knows that first-hand — from the losing side. During the 2011 season, Saban’s Crimson Tide were edged by LSU 9-6 during the regular season. When the powerhouses met again in the BCS championship game at New Orleans, Alabama smothered the unbeaten Tigers 21-0. Now, it’s the Tide on the other side. They are looking to beat Georgia for the second time in a little over a month.
All of Georgia's players and a handful of their coaches weren't alive the last time the Bulldogs won a national championship in 1980. They'll try to end that 41-year drought when they play No. 1 Alabama in Monday's College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T (8 p.m. ET, ESPN and ESPN App) in Indianapolis.
In the loss last month, the Crimson Tide piled up 536 yards, including 421 passing, against a Georgia defense that led the FBS in scoring defense this season. If the Bulldogs are going to have success in the rematch, they're going to have to put pressure on Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young. He completed 26 of 44 passes for 421 yards and three touchdowns in the first meeting and wasn't sacked. Tide receiver Jameson Williams had seven catches for 184 yards and two scores. This time, Alabama won't have receiver John Metchie III, who tore the ACL in his left knee in the first meeting.
"Ultimately, we want to create pressure," Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning said. "We want to be able to get after Bryce. As far as how to do it, I don't want to give away our secrets yet, but wait until the game to figure that out. We want to generate pressure. And certainly there's a lot of different ways you can do that. He's really good at avoiding the rush and they did unique things to protect him. We have to attack it a little bit differently."
Georgia's defense had four sacks against the Wolverines, giving them 45 this season, which is fourth most in the FBS. Smith had one sack and seven quarterback hurries against Michigan.
"We say all the time here the best rush is the best coverage, and we've got to get to the quarterback," Smith said. "There's nothing else about it. Last game, we did not do that and I know a lot of people felt hurt after that one. I hold myself and my room accountable and also the [defensive] line. It's our job as pass-rushers to get after the quarterback and we didn't do that. The difference between this game and that game is we just have to do it. We have to find a way."
If Georgia finds a way to do it, it might end a drought that has been hanging over its program for more than four decades.