Pasquali’s Pix: Bulldogs to stop the Tide, prevent CFP chaos

Alabama Athletics photo by Kent Gidley / Georgia football coach Kirby Smart and Alabama counterpart Nick Saban talk before the 2021 Southeastern Conference championship game won by the Crimson Tide.
Alabama Athletics photo by Kent Gidley / Georgia football coach Kirby Smart and Alabama counterpart Nick Saban talk before the 2021 Southeastern Conference championship game won by the Crimson Tide.

Georgia football coach Kirby Smart wins 100% of his games, 40% of his games and 20% of his games.

It just depends on the perspective.

Deep into his eighth season at his alma mater, Smart is well past the proving point of his career, which is reflected by that 100% figure. Georgia has prevailed in each of its last 29 contests, setting a new standard for consecutive victories by a Southeastern Conference member and winning the 2021 and 2022 national championships along the way.

Should Georgia defeat Alabama this Saturday afternoon (4 on CBS) at the SEC championship game in Atlanta and win twice in the College Football Playoff's final four-team spectacle, the Bulldogs would become the first program to win three consecutive Associated Press national titles.

Yet this is obviously when the road becomes more treacherous, with the 40% figure echoing Smart's record through his first five SEC title game appearances.

"We don't control who goes into this game we play," Smart said earlier this week. "We had a chance to beat LSU (in 2019) and didn't. Then we had a chance to beat LSU (last year) and we did. We had a chance to beat Auburn (in 2017) and we did. We had a chance to beat Alabama (in 2018 and in 2021) and we haven't.

"When you're playing in this game, you're going to play a really good team."

And Alabama under Nick Saban has produced really good teams since 2008, and there are six national championship trophies in Tuscaloosa to prove it.

Saban and Smart have experienced five encounters since Smart left his role as Saban's defensive coordinator following the Crimson Tide's 2015 national title. Alabama won the first four of those pairings, which included the national championship game of the 2017 season and the aforementioned SEC title matchups, but the Bulldogs responded from their 2021 league loss in Atlanta by rallying past the Tide 33-18 in Indianapolis for the national crown.

That upped Smart's success rate against his former mentor from 0% to 20%, with Saturday already providing Smart a sixth crack.

"It's not an extra motivating factor for me," Smart said. "I'm not looking for checkmarks or checking boxes or certain tick marks to try to get on your belt. That's not what I got in this for.

"For me, it's about giving our kids a chance to do something special and represent this university. That's what we want to go do. We want to go play our best."

***

Redshirt junior receiver and former North Murray High School standout Ladd McConkey essentially competed in half of Georgia's 12 regular-season games, sitting out the first four contests with back issues and the last two with an ankle injury. McConkey tweaked his ankle in the 10th game against Ole Miss and tried to go the following week at Tennessee but played only a few snaps.

The 6-foot, 185-pounder tallied scoring receptions in each of the past two SEC championship games but is very questionable this week.

"I think he gets frustrated with it," Smart said this week. "A lot of it is beyond his control. He's done everything he can from a rehab standpoint to get back, and he's filled his role as a leader and is an energy guy on the sideline and a supporter of the other guys.

"That's all you can ask him to do."

McConkey briefly became Carson Beck's favorite target, combining on 17 receptions for 311 yards and two touchdowns during a three-game stretch against Florida, Missouri and Ole Miss.

"Obviously the chemistry we have together whenever he is out on the field is really good," Beck said. "For him to be injured and out -- I know he's frustrated as all get-out, because he is a competitor and wants to be out there on the field. Obviously things happen. It's a contact sport. It's football.

"There are injuries, and he's going to try to get back and healthy as soon as possible."

Despite his limited play this season, McConkey was named this week along with Michigan running back Blake Corum and Notre Dame linebacker JD Bertrand as a finalist for the Wuerffel Trophy, which recognizes college football's most impactful community service leaders. The Wuerffel Trophy winner will be revealed Dec. 8 on ESPN during the Home Depot College Football Awards Show.


Pasquali's Pix

Liberty vs. New Mexico State: The team once coached by Hugh Freeze takes on the team that just embarrassed Hugh Freeze. Flames 27, Aggies 24.

Washington vs. Oregon: The Ducks could punch their CFP ticket and potentially cement the Heisman Trophy for quarterback Bo Nix. Ducks 38, Huskies 27.

Texas vs. Oklahoma State: The Longhorns couldn't beat Oklahoma while the Cowboys could, but there is also the matter of Texas prevailing by 10 in Tuscaloosa and OSU losing by 42 at UCF. Longhorns 38, Cowboys 33.

SMU vs. Tulane: Ole Miss arguably had the biggest nonconference win for the SEC during the regular season with its road triumph against the 11-1 Green Wave. Green Wave 26, Mustangs 24.

UTC at Furman: The Mocs have picked a wonderful time to assemble a five-game road winning streak against FCS foes. Mocs 20, Paladins 17.

Alabama vs. Georgia: After multiple years of sitting atop the CFP rankings entering this weekend, the Tide can now cause the most chaos. Bulldogs 31, Tide 24.

Florida State vs. Louisville: The best Florida has to offer takes on the second-best Kentucky has to offer. Seminoles 20, Cardinals 16.

Michigan vs. Iowa: How a football team can go 10-2 with an offense that averages 246.3 yards per game is simply stunning. Wolverines 27, Hawkeyes 3.

Last week:

Winners — 22

UT-Vandy fights — 3

Pasquali is 264-61 overall (81.2%) this season.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com.

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