“And how do we stay here? Do we embrace all the things denied?”
In last year’s College Football Playoff final, I couldn’t win no matter the outcome. This year, I was hoping for my first untarnished University of Alabama national championship to relish in as an alumnus. Once again, I fell short, and it was at the paws of a fresh bitter rival.
First and foremost, the University of Georgia deserves all the credit for constructing a near-flawless season and winning its first title since 1980. Their relentlessness on defense, scheming on offense and adaption to avenge their only blemish on their schedule was beyond impressive. They were the best team in college football in 2021-22 since the first snap. Congratulations to head coach Kirby Smart, his exceptional players and staff and the entire Bulldog nation.
I can reach that level of civility because I haven’t bled crimson (well, I guess everyone kind of does) my whole life, just of recent. I think it’s fair; I provided them with tens of thousands of dollars and they provided me with a great graduate program and a fancy piece of paper to frame and place on my wall. I can’t help to think this is my fault, though.
Since the (my) Beginning
I officially started my master’s program on Jan. 9, 2019, two days after the Crimson Tide lost to the University of Clemson in the national championship. Considering I had already decided to attend Alabama, I thought I would thank the admissions department for taking a chance on me by at least siding with the Tide over the Tigers. My support wasn’t enough as Clemson won 44-16, which is tied for the largest point differential in the playoff’s eight-year history.
Later that year during the 2019-20 season, I got to watch my first Alabama-Louisiana State University matchup with my friend who attended LSU. The Tigers (so many Tigers—I was also accepted into Memphis on that note), led by Joe Burrow in what may have been the best college football season by any team in history, went on to win the national championship.
Last year, Alabama was back in the title game, but it was against my first love, the Ohio State University Buckeyes. Hence, I couldn’t win. Some could claim I couldn’t lose, but the pint was half-empty that night. Both teams win most of the time, so seeing one of them lose has more of an emotional impact than watching another victory. I cheered for the Buckeyes. They lost 52-24, which is tied for the largest point differential in the playoff’s eight-year history (not to sound repetitive). Sorry, OSU.
I would be lying if I said it wasn’t at least bittersweet, but the personal asterisk held back any sort of celebration. It felt wrong. However, I knew there would be another chance, and it came very soon. Monday night marked the sixth national championship game Alabama has been in (they’ve reached seven of the eight playoffs) since the playoff’s inception. Yes, it’s annoying for others, but it’s not like they lift the trophy every year. They’re 3-3.
The Tide had defeated the Bulldogs in the SEC championship game back on Dec. 4, and in convincing fashion. Their 41-24 victory should have been the first sign that if a rematch happened, it wouldn’t be as welcomed by Alabama as it was Georgia. Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young was surgical against the Bulldogs’ defense, which was one of the best in college football history, going 26 for 44 for 421 yards and three touchdowns. Monday was more of what fans probably expected would happen last month. Young went 35 for 57 for 369 yards and one touchdown and two interceptions.
For a while, it was looking like a kicker would be named the MVP of the game as the teams exchanged field goals and punts the entire first half. Will Reichard went 4 for 5 on the game for Alabama and Jack Podlesny went 2 for 2 for the Bulldogs. The Tide’s James Burnip averaged 37 yards on four punts and Georgia’s Jake Camarda averaged 44.6 on five—both had two land inside the 20-yard line.
I thought I would at least give the kickers some sort of recognition.
Now, for the things most football fans care about. The first touchdown of the game didn’t happen until Georgia’s Zamir White pounded in a run from the 1-yard line with 1:20 remaining in the third quarter. Alabama scored their first touchdown with 10:14 left in the game after Young found Cameron Latu for a 3-yard pass. This came after a strange and questionable fumble by Bulldog quarterback Stetson Bennett. The offensive MVP of the game didn’t make a mistake from that point on, finishing 17 for 26 for 224 yards and two touchdowns.
The next three scores were Georgia touchdowns in route to a 33-18 victory.
Sorry, Crimson family. Roll Tide!
I’m not cursed; Georgia was the better team in that game and that’s why they won. So I guess Alabama doesn’t “always” win after all.
Then again, I do question my power to take down even the strongest of empires in the sports world. I thought my sports frustrations and supernatural hindrances during various postseasons were consolidated into a package that only affected the teams I love the most. The last three years have proven that my weeds can spread across acres and acres of four-leaf clover patches.
For example, since I was born, back to my real beginning, my favorite major professional franchises have won five titles in 156 collective seasons. That still sounds nice, but reaching utter happiness for just 3% of my sports life doesn’t sound as good, and two of said titles I was too young to even process. Sorry, everybody.
Man, ’83 would have been a great year if I had more cognitive development. There’s always 2022. Maybe not, says the realist.
Before people start their annual complaining about how Alabama gets all the great players through recruiting and the transfer portal, seven Crimson Tide players have entered said transfer portal, so they also lose some, and if they got all the great players, wouldn’t they win the national championship every year? If you want more parity, point your proverbial finger at conference boards and the selection committee.
On that note, I would like to give a shout-out to the University of Cincinnati Bearcats for making the playoff. The committee had no excuse not to let a Group of Five school into the semifinals this season for the first time, and though they lost 27-6 to Alabama, it’s still a win.
Keep in mind that perennial Big-12 powerhouse University of Oklahoma is 0-4 in the playoff with an average point differential of 18. Notre Dame is 0-2 and has lost by an average of 22. Cincinnati competed with the top dogs just as well as other top dogs, as can other Group of Five schools, so this year’s semifinal result shouldn’t deter any future “surprise” invitations. Lastly, if we’re keeping track, Group of Five schools are 3-5 against Power Five programs in major bowl games, so it’s not as lopsided as one would think.
Cheers to a good season!