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SEC Banter: Georgia can make a statement to all of college football against Alabama
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Georgia running back Sony Michel (1) looks for running room in the first half of a game against South Carolina on Sept. 19 in Athens. - photo by John Bazemore | Associated Press

It’s right there for Georgia’s taking. So close that Georgia can taste it; almost reach out and grab it with Bulldog paws.

Will Georgia seize it?

It’s a spicy chicken sandwich deluxe from Chick-fil-A, of course. The tender, juicy chicken breast. The melted pepper jack cheese. The sandwich’s heat offset by cool, crisp lettuce and tomato.

Don’t forget waffle fries dipped in honey mustard or Chick-fil-A sauce. The sauce – good heavens, the sauce!

In addition, Saturday afternoon’s contest against No. 13 Alabama Crimson Tide (3-1, 0-1 SEC) provides Georgia the opportunity to achieve elite status. To elevate itself to true national prominence.

Will eighth-ranked Georgia (4-0, 2-0) seize the moment?

We’ll find out when toe meets leather between the hedges of Sanford Stadium at 3:30 pm, with the game televised nationally by CBS. Good ole’ Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson will call the action from the booth, with Allie LaForce on the sideline.

This is fall football in the South.

This is October’s first Saturday in one of the country’s best college towns. This is cool breezes, cold beverages, good people and good times.

This is SEC football at its finest, which means by definition, it is college football at its finest. It promises, by any account, to be one hell of a day in Athens.

Will Georgia seize the moment?

The Bulldogs and their fans sure do want it bad. They want not only to avenge the horrific 2008 ‘black out” loss to Alabama in 2008. They want not only to avenge the heartbreaking defeat to the Tide in the 2012 SEC Championship Game, when the Bulldogs were literally at the door to play for the national championship.

No, the Bulldogs and their fans pine for more. They so desperately seek a permanent place among the nation’s elite college football programs. To be in the mix perennially. Legitimate national title contenders – year after year.

Georgia, in other words, aspires to be Alabama, and those aspirations are well justified.

Both schools are storied, traditional SEC programs, but Alabama has a deep, rich history of what matters most: winning national championships. Three in just the last six years, and fifteen overall.

Georgia won its lone national championship in 1980 and its last conference title came 10 years ago.

Alabama is in the national championship conversation every year. More often than not, the Tide legitimizes that conversation through winning.

Georgia is picked here and there as a national title contender, sometimes even billed as a winner, but more often than not, the Bulldogs’ season ends in disappointment.

Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban has guided Alabama to three national championships and as many SEC championships in just eight years at the program’s helm.

During Mark Richt’s tenure, a span of 14 years, Georgia has two conference titles and no national title game appearances.

Alabama commands the utmost respect. When the Crimson Tide takes the field, they do so with the confidence of a team that knows how to dominate. Alabama has the ‘it’ factor.

Georgia, while respected, lacks that certain swagger found in champions. Georgia fans know their beloved team is prone to inexplicable losses, such as the Florida game last year.

The harsh reality is that Georgia is on the outside looking in, its fanbase conditioned for heartbreak.

And that’s why this Saturday in Sanford Stadium, it’s all there for Georgia’s taking. The chance to turn the corner and join the ranks of college football’s true elite.

Will Georgia seize the moment?

As I said above, the Bulldogs and their fans so desperately want this win.

Call me crazy, but I bet Georgia wants it more than Eddie Money wanted to be taken home in his 1986 hit, ‘Take Me Home Tonight.’ That says a lot, because Eddie Money really wanted to be taken home that night, as he declared, “I feel a hunger, it’s a hunger that tries to keep a man awake at night ...”

This is heresy to hardcore Eddie Money fans, but the Bulldogs may want it more than Eddie wanted to ‘pack his bags and leave tonight’ in his 1978 smash, ‘Two Tickets to Paradise.’

Many pundits pick Georgia to win. Some predict this contest as an end to Alabama’s dynasty. The Crimson Tide is an underdog entering Athens – the first time Alabama has been an underdog in the last 73 games.

The crowd in Sanford Stadium will be beyond fired up. Alabama is down by its own standards and Georgia is seemingly on the rise. It has all the makings for one of those historic days in Athens, the kind you tell your kids about.

That’s why Banter is calling for Alabama to pull the upset. Nick Saban hasn’t lost back-to-back conference games since 2010. While the game’s importance is difficult to overstate for Georgia, it’s just another big game for Alabama. And Georgia quarterback Greyson Lambert hasn’t seen a defense like Alabama’s. Not even close.

The moment will prove too large for Georgia to seize: Alabama 17, Georgia 16

If I’m wrong, Bulldogs fans will have me pack my bags and leave tonight, and it won’t be to Eddie Money’s ‘Paradise.’

Think I can convince them to honcho me a spicy chicken sandwich deluxe from Chick-fil-A?

Ben Prevost writes SEC Banter for The Times. It appears on Thursday during college football season.

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