A Memory Maker

Alabama at Georgia
SEC Game of the Week
September 27th at 7:45 PM ESPN

by Bob Epling
(article originally appeared 9.22.08 in Game Day Weekly)

Think of Alabama and Georgia and what comes to mind?

Here are three things: politics, civil rights, and college football.

Since we are nearing a presidential election, remember George Wallace and Jimmy Carter?

Wallace, the feisty little Alabama bantam rooster came to prominence as a race-baiter blocking the school house door to racial integration, ran insurgent races for the presidency in 1968, 1972, and 1976, and by the time he won his fourth term as governor in 1982 garnered unprecedented support from the state’s black voters.

Carter, the pious peanut farmer from Plains, also started his career as a segregationist, modified his views to become governor in 1971, and built on Wallace’s populist themes to become president in 1976.

Since these former confederate states are deep in the heart of Dixie, remember Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.?

Parks sparked the modern Civil Rights movement in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus. The young pastor who led the bus boycott on her behalf was King, launching his famous social and political career.

Then there is a little sport called college football.

Strangely, these southern neighbors that share a long border and a longer history of great football teams have provided us relatively few memories against each other on the gridiron.

That should change this weekend.

From Florence to Florala and Decatur to Dothan, Alabama backers believe the Crimson Tide is rolling to championship form ahead of even the most ambitious schedule set by head coach Nick Saban.

From Clayton to Columbus and Blue Ridge to Bainbridge, Bulldog backers are crossing their fingers to see if Mark Richt’s canines can chomp through perhaps the nation’s toughest schedule.

Both teams have answered all challenges so far.

Georgia was actually the site of Alabama’s coming out party. The Crimson Tide traveled to Atlanta and knocked the stripes off the Clemson Tigers to open the season. Since then, Bama has not been seriously challenged in wins over Tulane, Western Kentucky, and Arkansas.

The Bulldogs went west to make their biggest statement of the season.

Opening the season as the preseason #1 ranked team, Georgia cruised to easy victories over Georgia Southern and Central Michigan, before struggling to beat South Carolina 14-7 on the road. Last weekend, the Bulldogs hardly broke a sweat in sweltering Tempe by handling Arizona State 27-10.

Here are three keys to the game.

1. Georgia O-Line vs. Alabama D-Line: Georgia has more offensive weapons than Alabama but must be able to block the Tide to launch those weapons. The Dogs have struggled up front, frequently shuffling their line due to injuries and inconsistency, while the Tide front has dominated every opponent. Advantage Alabama.

2. Offensive Backfield: Quarterbacks Matthew Stafford of Georgia and John Parker Wilson of Alabama are both seasoned and should be able to handle whatever looks are thrown at them. That leaves the running backs. The Tide is deep with freshman speedster Mark Ingram leading a stable of good runners. However, Georgia has the best player on the field in Knowshon Moreno. Advantage Georgia.

3. Kicking Game: Georgia better be careful with kick coverage. The Dogs have struggled and cannot afford to give away field position to dangerous Tide return men like Javier Arenas and Julio Jones. Georgia may have a slight edge in field goal kicking because freshman Blair Walsh has a big leg. He knocked one off the upright from 54 yards against ASU. He won’t miss that kick in this game. No advantage.

For some reason, I have a gut feeling that this game will not come down to the last seconds and that one of the teams will win by about a touchdown to ten points.

The winner remains a serious national title contender. The loser will need some help, but is not eliminated.

These occasional rivals should provide us new memories this weekend.

Game Ball: Georgia

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