INDIANAPOLIS – No. 1 Alabama is a 3-point underdog to No. 3 Georgia heading into the college football championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium on Monday. Crimson Tide defeated the Bulldogs 41-24 in the SEC championship game on December 4.
Alabama coach Nick Saban isn’t bothered by those narratives heading for another national championship shot. After all, this is Crimson Tide’s sixth CFP championship game in eight seasons.
“A lot of outsiders talk about things like that,” Saban said Sunday. “I think internally we talk a lot about ‘What do you have to do technically in the game in order to be successful in terms of your ability to execute, probably against the best player you played all year against?’
“This is how you have to prepare and this is how you have to focus. That is what you have to worry about.”
Alabama’s star players are following that example. All-American linebacker Will Anderson Jr. made headlines before the Cotton Bowl Classic showdown against No. 4 Cincinnati when he said Crimson Tide, a two-touchdown favorite, was the underdog. Alabama won 27-6. Anderson clarified those comments Saturday.
“I was speaking in general when I said that over the course of the season, but we are the underdogs, we are not respected and people say we were not an elite team,” Anderson said Saturday. “It’s going to be the same with the end of the season, which is coming up.”
Alabama is the underdog for the third time against Georgia since October 31, 2015. Crimson Tide beat Georgia 38-10 in that 2015 matchup and 41-24 in the 2021 SEC championship game. Saban even referenced the “rat poison” after that last victory.
This marks the first rematch in a championship setting since Alabama shut out LSU 21-0 in the 2012 BCS championship game, a No. 1-vs.-No rematch. 2 matches in the regular season. This is the first rematch on the national championship stage since then, but Crimson Tide safety Jordan Battle said that’s not a factor, either.
“Nothing different that you have to prepare for,” said Battle. “You just go in the same way every week. We prepare like we should prepare to beat a team. That’s fully getting into a game. It’s up to us.”
How does the Heisman Trophy winner feel about it?
Bryce Young is in line to become Heisman’s third consecutive winner to lead his team to a national championship. Alabama’s DeVonta Smith (2020) and LSU’s Joe Burrow (2019) dominated this leg for the past two seasons. Derrick Henry (2015) and Mark Ingram (2009) of Alabama also won the Heisman and the national title in the same season.
“Our mentality is just about the game,” Young said. “Obviously, this is what you work for all season. I know that’s our goal always. So we understand this is a business trip.”
That’s the most prevalent approach Alabama has used to win all six of its national championships since 2009. It’s a “get there, done” mentality emanating from Saban, and those team leaders repeated the usual talking points about “The Process.” in a virtual meeting. media day on Saturday.
Saban reiterated that Sunday.
“I think once the game starts, five minutes after the game,” Saban said. “I don’t know if anyone is thinking about all these things that they talk about. They are trying to win their box. They are trying to do what they can to help their team on both sides of the ball. We expect that, and that is what our players need to focus on. “
“What we do each week is what will determine the outcome of the game,” added Battle. “So if we get in the game, if we get in the game and we’re not on the same page, that’s when we give up on the big plays.”
So there is bulletin board material available. It’s not about the underdog, the rematch, or the Heisman winner, even if those are the easiest narratives to click before Monday’s game. It’s an established standard, one that future NFL stars like Anderson adhere to every season. Saban said the definition of a successful season is for each player to maximize their value.
Anderson is one of those players, but his definition takes another step further.
“A successful season for me is winning the national championship, making sure we are on that stage – all my siblings, coaches, families, everyone,” Anderson said. “We are celebrating all the hard work that we put in this entire season. That is what a successful season means to me.”