SCARBROUGH'S TAKE

Georgia / Alabama … Probably, But Don’t Bet on That Just Yet

Lyn Scarbrough

October 16, 2023 at 12:36 pm.

Alabama’s Will Anderson (31) pressures Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett IV (13) in the 2021 SEC Championship game. Alabama and Georgia appear to be on a collision course to face one another in Atlanta, yet again.

It’s only mid-October, but the options in each Southeastern Conference football division are starting to become more clear.

If Georgia (7-0, 4-0) and Alabama (6-1, 4-0) win the rest of their regular season games, nothing else matters. The Dawgs will face the Crimson Tide in Atlanta on Dec. 3 to determine the conference champion. But, it’s far from a certainty that will happen.

There are still a lot of possibilities, probably more than you realize.

Georgia, the two-time defending national champion, winner of 24 consecutive games, is the best team in the SEC, but it isn’t unbeatable.

In mid-September, South Carolina gave the Dawgs a scare before losing, 24-14. The Gamecocks are 2-4 and blew a fourth-quarter double-digit lead to Florida on Saturday.

Then two weeks ago, Auburn led much of the game over Georgia before its superhuman tight end Brock Bowers took over the game in the fourth quarter and the Dawgs pulled out a 27-20 squeaker with just three minutes remaining. As seen in Baton Rouge on Saturday night, Auburn is nowhere near being a 2023 title contender.

What’s ahead for Georgia?

After an off week, not one of its next four games is a slam dunk.

That is now even more challenging after the Monday morning announcement that Bowers, the reigning Mackey Award winner as the nation’s best tight end, and the best player on the best team in the country, will be out 4-6 weeks due to undergoing tightrope surgery to repair the ankle injured against Vanderbilt on Saturday. He’ll likely miss all of those next four match-ups.

The Dawg’s next game is against surprising Florida (5-2, 3-1) in Jacksonville. If the Gators win that one and sweep the rest their league games, they would have the head-to-head advantage over the defending champs. (Florida’s other remaining SEC games – Arkansas, at LSU, at Missouri.)

Next up is even more surprising Missouri (6-1, 2-1) in Athens. Same scenario for the Tigers. Beat Georgia and win the rest and they would also hold the head-to-head. (Missouri’s other remaining SEC games – South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida at home, plus at Arkansas.)

The third conference game is against West Division contender Ole Miss (5-1, 2-1), a contest which could be critical for both teams’ postseason chances.

Tennessee (5-1, 2-1), after its win over Texas A&M, is in the same situation as Florida and Missouri. If it wins the rest of its conference games, including beating Georgia in Knoxville in late November, it would represent the East Division, but the remaining league games are a challenge. (At Alabama, at Kentucky, at Missouri, Vanderbilt at home.)

Over in the West, Alabama finds itself in a similar situation as Georgia … except for the Dawgs’ unbeaten record.

In addition to its performance against Texas, other Tide games have been less than impressive.

On Saturday, Alabama had a commanding lead over Arkansas (2-5) at home before the Razorbacks make an impressive comeback, losing by only a field goal, 24-21.

A few weeks earlier, South Florida pushed Bama well into the fourth quarter before the Tide finally prevailed. Since then, the Bulls have lost to UAB, 56-35, and Florida Atlantic, 56-14.

Alabama’s upcoming SEC schedule – Tennessee in Tuscaloosa, LSU in Tuscaloosa, and at Auburn. The Volunteers and the Bayou Tigers both only have one conference loss. If LSU wins the rest of its league games, it will represent the West in Atlanta. (LSU’s other remaining SEC games – Florida and Texas A&M, both in Baton Rouge.)

Kentucky and Auburn aren’t in the championship picture this season, but both would like nothing better than to derail Alabama’s chances. The Tide plays both of those on the road and since Nick Saban came to Tuscaloosa, no team has beaten them more times than Auburn (2007, 2010, 2013, 2017, 2019).

So, what’s going to happen?

Georgia and Alabama will probably play each other in Atlanta. If you had to bet on the game, that looks like the place to put your money.

But, I recommend keeping it in your wallet, at least for now, and probably for good.

There are still a lot of possibilities.