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Mark Wiedmer

Georgia is going to beat Alabama in the Southeastern Conference football championship game Saturday in Atlanta.

I wouldn't have written such bold, bordering-on-blasphemous words three weeks ago. But then Georgia followed up a 27-10 victory over Auburn with a 66-27 thumping of Massachusetts and a 45-21 beatdown of Georgia Tech this past Saturday, and, well, as Bulldogs running back D'Andre Swift said after the Tech game, "We're starting to peak at the right time."

Then there's top-ranked Bama, 12-0 this season, with each of those wins won by at least 22 points. No team that overpowering should probably be considered anything but invincible, and the Crimson Tide have been viewed as that for most of the season. But the last two of those wins — 50-17 against The Citadel and 52-21 against Auburn — have revealed at least a few signs of vulnerability.

Or as Bama boss Nick Saban noted Sunday regarding those efforts, no doubt referencing the 10-10 halftime tie with The Citadel and the 17-14 halftime lead over Auburn: "I have not been pleased with the way we've played in the first half of the last two games on either side of the ball."

Exactly what that will mean at 4 p.m. Saturday inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium is yet unknown. Maybe Saban will clean up whatever inconsistencies have crept into Bama's attack, and the Tide will roll undefeated into the College Football Playoff.

Or maybe, just maybe, Georgia will avenge last year's overtime loss to Alabama in the national championship game inside that same Mercedes-Benz Stadium, throwing the CFP committee into the biggest mess seen yet in its fifth season of determining college football's national champion.

Merely consider what the committee members must weigh should Alabama lose to Georgia while both Ohio State and Oklahoma are winning their conference title games against Northwestern and Texas, respectively.

As untouchable as the Tide looked winning 29-0 at then-No. 3 LSU early this month, Ohio State may have looked even more impressive routing then-No. 4 Michigan at home on Saturday. And should Oklahoma dominate the same Texas squad it lost earlier this season, 48-45, which 12-1 record would look better come Sunday: Bama's, Ohio State's or Oklahoma's?

That's assuming Georgia's 12-1 record would be a lock due to toppling the Tide, and there's also the remote possibility No. 2 Clemson (12-0) falls to Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game.

At this point, independent Notre Dame — its 12-0 regular season concluded with no conference title game ahead — is the only certain selection for the four-team CFP bracket, even though reasonable men might argue the Fighting Irish are actually the weakest of the bunch.

In fact, had Central Florida not lost quarterback McKenzie Milton to a horrific leg injury over the weekend, I'm not entirely certain the Knights couldn't have toppled the Irish on a neutral field, and no one was ever going to let the American Athletic Conference program into the playoff.

All of which leads us back to what happens if Bama falls to Georgia. Assuming Clemson wins, that would leave an undefeated Tigers bunch to go with Notre Dame. Georgia would seemingly lock up the third spot.

Now you'd theoretically have Bama, Ohio State and Oklahoma battling for the final opening. There's certainly an argument for each. Oklahoma, for instance, would have avenged its lone loss to Texas. Ohio State played well when it needed to most, though the Buckeyes do have a very ugly 49-20 loss at Purdue.

Given all that, the victory margin in a Georgia shocker might ultimately determine whether Bama moves on or out. Lose by a touchdown or less and the Tide probably hangs on at No. 4. Lose by more than that and a spot in the Sugar Bowl is the consolation prize.

There is some history from another sport involving another SEC dynasty to consider here. In 2015, Kentucky entered the Final Four with a 38-0 record and viewed as the prohibitive favorite to win its ninth NCAA men's basketball title. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, waiting for them there was Wisconsin, which Kentucky had stunned in the previous year's Final Four on a game-winning 3-pointer.

For basically a year, Wisconsin's players hoped for a second shot at the Wildcats. When they got it, they beat Big Blue before losing to Duke in the national championship game.

Every Georgia fan, coach and player has similarly hoped for another crack at Bama after last year's overtime heartbreaker. Now is their chance.

During Sunday's SEC title game teleconference, Saban said of the Tide's seemingly small flaws: "When you play better teams, the little things that you don't do correctly, they don't get you till they get you. So we need to get those things fixed."

Having worked under Saban for a decade, Georgia coach Kirby Smart will recognize those little things better than most. A small but possibly telling stat: Good as Bama's defense is, Smart's Dawgs held both Tennessee (12 to 21) and Auburn (10 to 21) to fewer points than the Tide.

And unlike last year, when Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm was more a game manager than the game changer he has become as a sophomore, Smart may now have the signal caller who can exploit Bama's few defensive deficiencies.

Said Fromm after Georgia crushed Tech: "We're hitting our stride at the right time."

Exactly. Which is why come Saturday evening, the final score from the SEC title game will be Georgia 31, Alabama 28.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

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Georgia sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm (11) will play in the SEC championship game for a second time when the Bulldogs face Alabama on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Georgia beat Auburn to win last year's SEC title.
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