Game history

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Title tilt

Who Alabama vs. Georgia

When: Monday, January 10, 8 p.m.

Television: ESPN

The bottom line: Georgia is a 3-point favorite

The Associated Press

Just 37 days after their last game, Alabama faces Georgia again with a national championship on the line.

History shows how difficult it is to win again in the rematch.

Nick Saban knows this firsthand – on the losing side.

In the 2011 season, Saban’s Crimson Tide was trailed by LSU 9-6 in overtime during the regular season.

When the powers met about two months later in the BCS Championship game in New Orleans, Alabama stifled the undefeated Tigers 21-0.

Now it’s the tide (13-1) on the other side, looking to beat Georgia (13-1) for the second time in just over a month following a 41-24 victory in the Southeastern Conference championship game on Dec. 4. .

They meet again in Indianapolis on Monday night in the College Football Playoff title game, their last meeting separated only by a pair of easy semi-final wins.

Saban tried to ignore any comparison with 2011, for obvious reasons. This time, he is the one who will have to beat an SEC rival for the second time to finish No. 1.

“Those two games were extremely close, close games under both circumstances, and I would expect the same in this game,” Saban said. “I don’t know if there’s anything I can really take from this experience (2011) that will have any effect or impact on this one.”

Georgia hopes to replicate a similar scenario from the 2017 season.

The Bulldogs were eliminated by Auburn 40-17 during the regular season, but got another crack against the Tigers three weeks later in the SEC Championship Game.

Again, it was no contest, only the rematch gave Georgia a 28-7 win that sent the Bulldogs to the college football playoffs.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart acknowledged that some key things have changed from what was filmed ahead of this season’s SEC Championship Game.

The Bulldogs can now study what they did wrong in their only loss of the season, as well as an impressive rebound win over Michigan in the Orange Bowl semifinal on New Year’s Eve.

“You should be careful” said Smart. “What trends have changed, what matchups we’re looking for, who’s in, who’s out. There are a lot of things that come into play.”

There are several reasons why a second meeting in the same season can be so different from the first.

For one, the losing team usually has a lot of obvious things they can work on in practice to try and reverse the outcome. This is not the case for the winning team, which has a natural tendency to stick with what has worked so well.

More important, perhaps, is the mental side.

A losing team usually finds it much easier to motivate themselves before the rematch.

Rest assured, the Bulldogs — a unanimous No. 1 for much of the season — have a huge chip on their shoulders after the way they were pummeled by the Crimson Tide last month.

“You can only judge a man by what he does next and how badly he gets kicked and gets back up,” said Georgia linebacker Nolan Smith. “We’ve been hit pretty hard.”

Rematches are rare in college football, but it’s common in the NFL where division foes meet twice a year.

Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken has plenty of experience in this area since turning pro.

He doesn’t expect major chances from either team, but knows there will be opportunities to break through a new wrinkle here, an adjustment there.

“If you’re constantly changing what you do and who you are, I don’t think you’ll be very good at anything,” said Monken. “Obviously there are calls we’ve had…or other opportunities we haven’t been called on. So we’re looking forward to the opportunity and the chance. And they’re going to do our best, I can promise you that.

It will be the first rematch in the CFP’s eight-year history, but the pre-playoff matchups provide hopeful signs for the Bulldogs.

In the 1996 season, for example, Florida lost its regular season finale to Florida State 24-21 – a game that left Gators coach Steve Spurrier seething with what he perceived to be cheap shots. Seminoles who were not penalized.

Florida earned another shot at rival Sunshine State by defeating Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.

In the Sugar Bowl, the fiery Gators blasted Florida State 52-20 to win what would be Spurrier’s only national championship.

“You see why I didn’t want to play them again, right?” Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said afterward. “Too good.”

Saban hopes he doesn’t say the same about Georgia late Monday night.

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