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STUDENT ATHLETES

Alabama vs. Georgia: Inside the 2021 SEC Championship Game

The Crimson Tide and Bulldogs did not meet in the regular season, but will play Saturday to determine the SEC champion and maybe who gets into the College Football Playoff.

The Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs will meet on Saturday in Atlanta to determine the SEC champion as both teams eye a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Both teams have been ranked in the top 5 since the beginning of the season but it’s Georgia that holds the No. 1 spot. Since keeping Clemson to three points in Week 1, the Bulldogs remain undefeated and the rest of the competition hasn’t been close. Per a tweet from ESPN writer Bill Connelly, Georgia has only has six total second-half drives on defense where the point differential on the scoreboard was under 14 — and five of those drives were in that opening Clemson game.

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Their defense is far-and-away the best in the country, and it’s led by defensive tackle Jordan Davis and linebacker Nakobe Dean. Steadied on offense by quarterback Stetson Bennett IV, Georgia deserves to be the favorite heading into this game.

While Alabama is not quite the same dominant force it was even last season, the Tide are still more than formidable. Their only loss is to conference foe Texas A&M, and they have experience blowing teams out or leaning on the magic of sophomore quarterback and Heisman hopeful Bryce Young to secure victory. Just last week in the Iron Bowl against Auburn, Young led a last-minute drive to tie the game in the fourth quarter to awaken a stagnant Alabama offense. Though Georgia’s defense is stifling, Alabama’s is ranked seventh in the country. The two did not play in the regular season and this could be the Bulldogs’ biggest test.

History

These are two of the more storied programs in college football and they have been conference rivals for decades. Combining for 20 national championships and half of the past 20 SEC championships, both schools have enjoyed more than their share of football dominance. There have been 70 total meetings between the two schools, with Alabama holding a sizable 45-24 advantage in victories. In their most recent matchup, Alabama overcame a halftime deficit led by Jalen Hurts to defeat Georgia for the 2018 National Championship.

Alabama has won five championships since 2011, firmly establishing itself as college football’s dynastic entity. Georgia, however, has gone four decades without a title — something Bulldogs supporters would view as a void in their otherwise proud history. This year feels different for Georgia and it’s only fitting that Alabama stands in the way of a dream season.

Alabama national hampionships: 18
Georgia national championships: 6

All-time meetings: 70 (Alabama leads 45-21-4, including six straight dating back to 2008)

Money

Both schools invest a lot of money in athletics, particularly in their football programs. Nick Saban will make $8.7 million this year for Alabama, with a $400k increase each season. Or, that’s what his contract said at the start of the season. He has a clause that states he must always be the highest-paid head coach in college football. Should another coach — for example newly named LSU head coach Brian Kelly — ink a contract that surpasses Saban’s yearly total, Alabama must raise his number to reclaim the top spot. Saban will now make $10.6 million starting next season, according to ESPN. Saban’s football program certainly generates its share of income for the athletic department, ranking 7th nationally at $134.1 million in 2021.

Georgia also has a deep football budget. Head coach Kirby Smart is slated to make $7.13 million in 2021 — impressive, but only fifth among head coaches in the SEC. A strong intake in 2021 allowed Georgia to announce a 2022 athletics budget of over $150 million. Georgia football nearly matches that number in revenue, allowing for more resources to go towards coaching travel and facilities.

Georgia athletic department budget: $f50.3 million (for 2022)
Alabama athletic department budget: $185.3 million (as of Jan. 2021)

Georgia football revenue: $134 million (as of Feb 2021)
Alabama football revenue: $164.1 million (as of Jan. 2021)

Recruiting

The key to a good team is good players, and these programs routinely bring in strong recruiting classes. According to 247sports, Alabama and Georgia have alternated having the top-ranked recruiting class since 2017, and the team that isn’t No. 1 in a particular year is firmly entrenched in the top five. The SEC is the best conference because most of the top talent flocks there, and Alabama and Georgia are two of the bigger gathering places. Both teams netted four 5-star and more than 10 4-star recruits in 2020 and 2021, with 2022 trending the same way for both programs.

Alabama 2020 recruiting rank: 2nd
Georgia 2020 recruiting rank: 1st

Alabama 2021 recruiting rank: 1st
Georgia 2021 rank: 4th

NFL Players

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Alabama leads all other schools with 54 former players on NFL rosters. This includes three starting quarterbacks who all shared the same quarterback room in 2018 — Jalen Hurts, Mac Jones and Tua Tagovailoa. Five former Crimson Tide players were voted into the 2020 Pro Bowl (the last time the game was played on-field), including 2020 NFL Offensive Player of he Year, running back Derrick Henry. Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper is the highest-paid Crimson Tide player in the NFL, with a $22 million 2021 cap number. Second to him is Washington Football Team safety Landon Collins, making just under $17 million this year.

Georgia is fourth in the NFL with 36 players on rosters across the league, including three Pro Bowlers. Former Bulldogs thrive especially at running back, with the Cleveland Browns’ Nick Chubb, the Detroit Lions’ Deandre Swift, and Los Angeles Rams’ Sony Michel all coming from Athens. Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is by far the highest-paid former Bulldog, making $20 million in 2021. The second-highest paid player from Georgia is New York Giants tackle Andrew Thomas, coming in at $7 million this year.

2021 NFL Draftees, Georgia: 9 (highest: CB Eric Stokes, #29 overall)
2021 NFL Draftees, Alabama: 10 (highest: WR Jaylen Waddle, #6 overall)

Combined 2021 NFL salary, Alabama players: $169,825,377
Combined 2021 NFL salary, Georgia players: $93,476,570

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