Alabama has been the clear top dog in the SEC since early on in Nick Saban's tenure. It will take a lot to unseat the Crimson Tide, given the crazy success the program has had under the legendary coach, but his former assistant Kirby Smart and Georgia have been trying hard.
The Bulldogs aren't too far off. They were probably just a few plays away from potentially unseating Alabama atop the conference throne in each of the last two seasons. Alabama had comeback wins against the Dawgs in the 2018 National Championship Game, and last year's SEC Championship Game.
Finishing the game is a huge part of ascending to championship status, though. Alabama is clearly ahead of Georgia in that one key area, and even if that's the biggest difference, it is a sizable one.
ESPN analyst Matt Barrie thinks that is the one discernable difference between the two programs at this point. He says there is no tangible gap in talent otherwise between the SEC East and West champions.
He spoke to the C Spire 1st & 10 Club in Mobile, Ala. about the upcoming season this week. From AL.com:
“They’re there,” Barrie said. “There’s no close — they’re there. If you look at two years ago, they should have won the national championship, and then the Tua thing happened. They were every bit as good in the SEC championship (in 2018) and probably should have won that one, and then Jalen Hurts happened. They just need to finish games. Talent-wise, it’s there. Jake Fromm’s an NFL quarterback. D’Andre Swift is going to be a Heisman candidate. They have the skill to compete, now it’s just about finishing.”
If we see that match-up once again in the postseason this year, Fromm and Swift may have an area to exploit on the often-stout Alabama defense.
The Crimson Tide are going to be pretty green at linebacker, and Barrie thinks that is the closest thing to an Achilles Heel that Bama has in 2019.
“Probably the linebackers. If you look at their linebackers, they tend to send a lot of guys to the NFL, and Saban always reloads. Is there ever going to be a year where reloading hits a bit of a snag? It’s not going to be offensively, maybe offensive line early on trying to protect Tua. In the big games last year, he got hit a lot. Early on, watch them, because it could be something that manifests itself later in the year against teams like Clemson or Georgia.”
Time will tell, but after back-to-back classics, it is hard not to root for a rematch.